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July 27, 2013

No doubt about it: Rays will be AL East champs

BOSTON — I’ve already made up my mind when it comes to the American League East crown.

The Rays are the better team and will win the American League East.

Yes, you heard it here first. Actually, to be completely honest, yours truly predicted the Toronto Blue Jays to win the AL East at the beginning of the year. But with a little more than two months left, the obvious choice is Tampa Bay. I have no doubts about it.

This week started out as Dustin Pedroia’s big day here at Fenway Park.

Pedroia’s new eight-year deal became official at an on-the-field press conference with all in attendance, including owner John Henry and CEO/President Larry Lucchino.

Pedroia received hugs and handshakes left and right and was visited by Tampa second baseman Ben Zobrist, who walked over to the first base side after all calmed down to congratulate Pedroia. The two became friendly at the All-Star Game.

“I told him ‘You should be in this (Red Sox) uniform,’” Zobrist said.

But what started out as a happy Wednesday for Pedroia and the Red Sox ended with Rays ace David Price stealing the show and Tampa again pulling within a half game of the Boston Red Sox for first place in the AL East.

Pedroia went 0 for 4 with a strikeout. Price tossed a complete game. The Rays won 5-1 over Boston.

Do you hear those giant footsteps behind you, Red Sox? Those belong to Rays who were in last place June 23. Since then, they have gone 22-5 with a major league-best 2.21 ERA.

David Price’s effort Wednesday night — combined with Matt Moore’s complete-game shutout of Boston on Monday, did it for me. It made me realize just how powerful the Rays are and how they will be this division’s champion.

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