After slipping to third in the division the previous season, the Tampa Bay Rays captured their second A.L. East title in three years in 2010, finishing the regular season with a record of 96-66, just one game ahead of the runner-up New York Yankees. The Yankees held onto first place for most of the year, but the Rays mounted a late-season surge that enabled them to edge out the defending world-champions for the division crown. New York entered the postseason tournament as the junior circuit’s wild-card representative.
Lack of pitching depth ended up relegating the Yankees to a close second-place finish in the American League’s most competitive division. Staff ace C.C. Sabathia finished 21-7, to lead all A.L. hurlers in victories. He also placed among the leaders with a 3.18 ERA and 238 innings pitched. Phil Hughes gave New York another solid starter, concluding the campaign with a record of 18-8. However, after Andy Pettitte went down with an elbow injury at midseason, no one else on the staff stepped up to assume the role of the third starter. Meanwhile, only Mariano Rivera pitched well in relief, compiling a 1.80 ERA and saving 33 games.
With New York finishing just seventh in the league with a team ERA of 4.06, it became imperative for the Yankee lineup to carry the team for most of the year. New York’s potent offense ended up leading the American League with 859 runs scored, even though an aging Derek Jeter had the worst year of his career. Although Jeter scored 111 runs, he batted just .270, hit only 10 home runs, and drove in just 67 runs. Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, Nick Swisher, and Robinson Cano helped pick up some of the slack. Teixeira hit 33 home runs, knocked in 108 runs, and scored 113 others. Despite playing with a sore hip much of the time, Rodriguez hit 30 homers and placed among the league leaders with 125 runs batted in. Swisher had the finest season of his career, hitting 29 homers, driving in 89 runs, scoring 91 times, and batting .288. Cano established himself as the team’s best player over the course of the season, earning a third-place finish in the A.L. MVP voting by hitting 29 home runs, knocking in 109 runs, scoring 103 others, batting .319, and collecting 200 hits.
Although Tampa Bay’s lineup didn’t feature as many All-Stars as New York’s, the Rays had a pretty fair offense as well, finishing third in the league with 802 runs scored. Carlos Pena, Evan Longoria, and Carl Crawford served as their primary offensive threats. Despite batting just .196, Pena hit 28 homers and drove in 84 runs. Longoria batted .294, hit 22 home runs, knocked in 104 runs, and scored 96 others. Crawford homered 19 times, drove in 90 runs, led the team with a .307 batting average, 110 runs scored, and 47 stolen bases, and topped the circuit with 13 triples.
The Rays also boasted a deep starting rotation that included five pitchers who posted double-digit win-totals. David Price served as the ace of the staff, compiling a record of 19-6 and an outstanding 2.72 ERA. Matt Garza also pitched extremely well, finishing second on the club with 15 victories and a 3.91 ERA. Meanwhile, closer Rafael Soriano led the league with 45 saves and compiled an ERA of 1.73.
While the Rays replaced the Yankees atop the A.L. East standings, the Texas Rangers ended the three-year reign of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim as Western Division champions. Texas finished the regular season with a record of 90-72, nine games ahead of the runner-up Oakland A’s, and 10 games in front of the Angels, who slipped to third in the division.
Although the Seattle Mariners finished last in the West, 29 games behind the first-place Rangers, they featured two of the league’s top performers in Ichiro Suzuki and Felix Hernandez. Ichiro batted .315, stole 42 bases, topped the circuit with 214 hits, and won his 10th straight Gold Glove for his outstanding defensive play in the outfield. By collecting 214 hits, Ichiro extended his own major league record by surpassing the 200-hit mark for the 10th consecutive time. Despite posting a record of only 13-12 for the 61-win Mariners, Hernandez earned A.L. Cy Young honors by striking out 232 batters and leading the league with a 2.27 ERA and 250 innings pitched.
Texas rivaled Tampa Bay as the American League’s most well-balanced team, finishing fourth in the circuit with 787 runs scored and placing third in the league rankings with a team ERA of 3.93. C.J. Wilson and Tommy Hunter served as the club’s top two starters, posting 15 and 13 victories, respectively. The Ranger staff also received a huge lift when the team acquired Cliff Lee during the season’s second half. A.L. Rookie of the Year Neftali Feliz helped solidify the bullpen, placing among the league leaders with 40 saves.
The trio of Michael Young, Vladimir Guerrero, and Josh Hamilton paced the Rangers on offense. Young batted .284, hit 21 homers, drove in 91 runs, and scored 99 others. Off-season free-agent acquisition Guerrero paid huge dividends, hitting 29 home runs, knocking in 115 runs, and batting .300. Hamilton was arguably the league’s most dynamic offensive performer, earning A.L. MVP honors by hitting 32 home runs, driving in 100 runs, scoring 95 others, and topping the circuit with a .359 batting average and a .633 slugging percentage.
While each of the league’s other two divisions experienced a shift in the balance of power, the Minnesota Twins repeated as A.L. Central champions, finishing the season with a record of 94-68, six games ahead of the second-place Chicago White Sox. Even though they lacked a true staff ace, the Twins had a solid starting rotation that included five hurlers who posted double-digit win totals. Carl Pavano led the staff with 17 victories, while Francisco Liriano posted 14 victories and a team-leading 3.62 ERA and 201 strikeouts.
Joe Mauer continued to lead Minnesota on offense, placing third in the league with a .327 batting average and a .402 on-base percentage. Before suffering a season-ending injury midway through the campaign, Justin Morneau slugged 18 homers and batted .345. Veteran DH Jim Thome hit 25 homers and drove in 59 runs, in only 276 official at-bats. Delmon Young batted .298, hit 21 home runs, and led the team with 112 runs batted in.
Despite the Twins’ strong showing over the course of the regular season, the Yankees again made quick work of them in the ALDS, sweeping them in three straight games. The Rangers had a far more difficult time getting past the Rays in the other Division Series, finally defeating them in five games, after earlier jumping out to a two-games-to-none lead. Cliff Lee proved to be the difference in the Series, posting two of the Rangers’ three victories and allowing the Rays just two runs in 16 innings of work.
Although it subsequently took Texas six games to dispose of New York in the ALCS, the Rangers badly outplayed the Yankees over the course of the Series, outscoring them by a combined margin of 38-19. The triumph gave the Rangers the first league championship in franchise history. However, the celebration proved to be short-lived, as the San Francisco Giants handled the Rangers rather easily in the World Series, defeating them in five games and outscoring them by a combined margin of 29-12.
Other notable events from around the league and players who distinguished themselves over the course of the season included:
• The Minnesota Twins opened Target Field, drawing 3.2 million fans to their new home.
• Toronto’s Jose Bautista knocked in 124 runs, scored 109 others, and led the league with 54 home runs and 351 total bases.
• Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera earned a second-place finish in the A.L. MVP voting by hitting 38 homers, scoring 111 runs, batting .328, and topping the circuit with 126 runs batted in and a .420 on-base percentage.
• May 9 – Oakland’s Dallas Braden threw a perfect game against the Tampa Bay Rays, defeating them by a final score of 4-0.
• June 2 - Ken Griffey Jr. announced his retirement, leaving the game with 633 career home runs.
• July 26 – Tampa Bay’s Matt Garza tossed a 5-0 no-hitter against the Detroit Tigers.
• August 4 – Alex Rodriguez hit his 600th career home run, becoming just the seventh player to reach the milestone, and the youngest at age 35.
• August 11 - Mariano Rivera recorded his 550th career save against the Texas Rangers, making him just the second player to reach that mark.
• Jim Thome moved into eighth place on the all-time home run list over the course of the season, passing Harmon Killebrew, Mark McGwire, and Frank Robinson. He concluded the campaign with 589 round-trippers.
• Legendary Detroit Tigers broadcaster Ernie Harwell died at the age of 92 on May 4.
• Hall of Fame pitcher Robin Roberts passed away at the age of 83 on May 6.
• Longtime Yankees public address announcer Bob Sheppard passed away at the age of 99 on July 11.
• Controversial New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner passed away on July 13 at the age of 80.
• Former Yankee, Tiger, and Red Sox manager Ralph Houk died at the age of 90 on July 21.
• Bobby Thomson, who hit the “Shot Heard ‘Round The World,” died at the age of 86 on August 16.
• Hall of Fame manager Sparky Anderson died at the age of 76 on November 4.
- 2010 ALCS, 2010 ALDS1, 2010 ALDS2, 2010 World Series, Alex Rodriguez, American League, Andy Pettitte, C.C. Sabathia, C.J. Wilson, Carl Crawford, Carl Pavano, Carlos Pena, Cliff Lee, Dallas Braden, David Price, Delmon Young, Derek Jeter, Ernie Harwell, Evan Longoria, Felix Hernandez, Francisco Liriano, George Steinbrenner, Ichiro Suzuki, Jim Thome, Joe Mauer, Jose Bautista, Josh Hamilton, Justin Morneau, Ken Griffey, Jr., Mariano Rivera, Mark Teixeira, Matt Garza, Michael Young, Miguel Cabrera, Minnesota Twins, Neftali Feliz, New York Yankees, Nick Swisher, Philip Hughes, Rafael Soriano, Robinson Cano, Tampa Bay Rays, Texas Rangers, Tommy Hunter, Vladimir Guerrero