Sports

Top Boston Sports Stories Of 2013

December 19, 2013 6:20 AM

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(Photos by Rob Carr and Jared Wickerham, /Getty Images)

(Photos by Rob Carr and Jared Wickerham, /Getty Images)

Uehara Dominates

Red Sox closer Koji Uehara celebrates with his teammates after beating the Cardinals in Game 4 of the World Series. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Red Sox closer Koji Uehara celebrates with his teammates after beating the Cardinals in Game 4 of the World Series. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

High fives will never be the same in Boston.

There wasn’t much fanfare when Ben Cherington signed Koji Uehara to a one-year deal back in December. When Cherington traded for closer Joel Hanrahan eight days later, Uehara was thought of as a depth arm behind the likes of Andrew Bailey, Craig Breslow and Junichi Tazawa.

Then Hanrahan kept getting hurt. Bailey tried to handle closing duties, but didn’t have great success and eventually made his yearly trip to the DL. Tazawa also got a shot at the gig, but couldn’t lock it down.

So Uehara spoke up, and despite Boston’s fear of burning out the 38-year-old hurler’s arm, John Farrell started sending him out in the ninth inning on a regular basis.

Dominance followed.

Uehara threw strike after strike, setting down batter after batter, usually on three pitches or less. He didn’t allowed a single earned run in the month of July. Or in the month of August.

Overall, Uehara went 34.1 innings without allowing an earned run. He set down 37 straight batters during the streak, following each of his saves with a high-five line that sometimes extended to downtown Boston.

After giving up two runs to the Angels in a non-save situation on June 9, he allowed just two earned runs over his next 50 innings of work.

The rubber-armed reliever led all major leaguers with a 1.09 ERA and 0.57 WHIP during the regular season, and was just as good in the playoffs. Uehara’s only blip in 13.2 postseason innings was a “what the heck just happened” game-winning solo homer to Tampa’s Jose Lobaton in Game 3 of the ALDS.

Uehara finished the postseason a perfect 7-for-7 in save situations, issuing no walks and striking out 16.

It was truly a dominating run by Uehara, one that electrified the ninth inning for Red Sox fans (at least on nights when the team wasn’t walking off).

Gronkowski’s Injury Saga

When Rob Gronkowski re-broke his right arm in the Patriots’ AFC Divisional round trouncing of the Houston Texans, we were prepared for an off-season or rehab for the Pro Bowl tight end.

But three surgeries?!? That’s just crazy. It’s even crazier that, in all, he underwent five different surgeries in an eight-month span.

Aside from the two surgeries he underwent after breaking the arm, Gronk had to have two additional surgeries; one to remove an infection caused by a plate in his arm, and another to determine if the infection was gone.

But that’s only four, and four wasn’t enough. Gronk also went under the knife to fix a back problem that has plagued him since his college days, making it five different times they cut him open since last November.

After being sawed apart that much, it was known that Gronkowski would miss some time at the start of the 2013 season. But when he hit the field during training camp, and throughout the preseason despite not playing, reporters and fans alike got antsy for his return. But at least we got a few nice Bill Belichick vs. Bert Breer exchanges out of the drama.

Gronkowski wasn’t placed on the PUP list to start the season, which meant a return before Week 6 was possible. Some thought he could be back for Week 3 against the Buccaneers. Then there was a chance for the following weekend when the Patriots were featured on Sunday Night Football against the Atlanta Falcons, but that came and went without Gronk (in his defense, he was probably watching the Breaking Bad finale that night).

But then there were rumbles that there was a discord between the Patriots and the Gronkowski family. The Gronkowskis didn’t want him to undergo surgery in the first place, and would have preferred the arm to heal on its own. It all made for a very interesting soap opera — none of which involved actual football.

Luckily, Gronk was back for action in Week 7 against the Jets. All the bad vibes seemed to disappear, and two weeks later Gronk was back to doing what Gronk does best: catching touchdowns.

Gronkowski had touchdown grabs in four straight weeks, and the Pats offense seemed to be back to normal in early December. That is until Gronk’s knee was shattered by Cleveland’s T.J. Ward in Week 14, and the tight end is back on the shelf with an ACL and MCL tear.

And so the cycle starts again. Gronk won’t be back for awhile, but now we’ll see if he can still perform wrestling moves with a bum leg.

Marathon Tributes

The City of Boston had plenty of support after the tragic events of April 15, and as they often do, the local sports teams were there to help.

The Red Sox showed enormous support, visiting victims in the hospital in the weeks following the attack, and invited them to be part of numerous pregame ceremonies throughout the season. Will Middlebrooks helped popularize the phrase “Boston Strong,” and David Ortiz delivered one inspirational profanity to let anyone that didn’t know who Boston belongs to.

As the team paraded through the streets of Boston to celebrate their World Series title, Jonny Gomes and Jarrod Saltalamacchia stopped their duck boat at the Marathon finish line where they placed the trophy. Gomes covered it with the “617: Boston Strong” Red Sox jersey that was a mainstay in the Boston dugout in honor of all the victims.

The Patriots, Bruins and Celtics each did their part as well, honoring victims ahead of games. The Celtics wore a “Boston Stands As One” patch for their playoff series against the Knicks, and honored victims and survivors at their remaining home games. The Patriots did the same prior to their home opener against the Jets, and the Bruins invited victims to serve as their honorary flag captain throughout their playoff run. The B’s even wore law enforcement hats during their pregame warmups the day after the city was shutdown as authorities searched for the alleged bombers.

Boston Marathon survivors are honored at Gillette Stadium. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

Boston Marathon survivors are honored at Gillette Stadium. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

But one of the most memorable instances of a city coming together came just two days after the attack. In the first major sporting event after the bombing, the Bruins honored first responders and played a video tribute prior to their game against the Buffalo Sabres. Rene Rancourt went to his usual spot on the ice to sing the national anthem after the ceremony, but he only sang the first line before letting a packed TD Garden take over. The Bruins went on to lose in overtime, but the players said that night is one they will never forget.

Despite the heavy security in and around the Garden that night, it was clear that the city had begun the healing process.

The wounds of April 15, 2013 may never fully heal, but Boston’s sports teams helped play a big part in kick-starting the process.

What did we forget? Let us know your favorite Boston sports moments of 2013 in the comments section!

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