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Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Updated: July 16, 8:52 AM ET
Grades are in, and Sox surprised us

By Gordon Edes
ESPNBoston.com

The Boston Red Sox showed remarkable resiliency in a first half that could have easily seen the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays pull well ahead in the AL East. This has been the season of the improbables, Darnell McDonald and Daniel Nava and Jeremy Hermida all delivering highlight moments while their All-Star cast of teammates has been riddled with injuries. Here's a quick look at how the first half breaks down:

Hitting

Despite an absurd siege of injuries that deprived them of lineup catalyst Jacoby Ellsbury and placed severe limits on Mike Cameron, then robbed them of Dustin Pedroia and Victor Martinez, the Sox still led the majors in runs. Adrian Beltre far exceeded expectations, while David Ortiz compensated for lots of holes. Kevin Youkilis has been the team's best hitter day in, day out; Pedroia was on fire, and Martinez wasn't far behind. Grade: A

Starting pitching

All-Star performances by Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz have held the rotation together through the extended absence of Josh Beckett. Daisuke Matsuzaka has been erratic and may be hurt; John Lackey has been disappointing, Tim Wakefield up and down. The rotation ranks third in the division. Grade: B-

Bullpen

Big problems here. Hideki Okajima's shelf life as a dependable lefty may be nearing an end, Manny Delcarmen has had ongoing arm issues, and Ramon Ramirez can't be trusted. Daniel Bard has been mostly sensational, and Jonathan Papelbon, despite two major hiccups in New York and Colorado, remains an A-list closer. Grade: C

Defense

Adrian Beltre could lead AL third basemen in errors and still win a Gold Glove; he's that good. Marco Scutaro has been a notch below expectations, but has played hurt most of the season. The absence of Ellsbury and Cameron's abdominal tear have kept the Sox outfield from being what they had expected. After a horrendous start, teams are no longer running wild on Sox catchers. The right side -- Youkilis, Pedroia, Drew -- is among the best in the game. Grade: B-

Manager

Terry Francona has helped foster an attitude that this team competes regardless of who's not available on a given day. He emerged out of tough times with Ortiz with their relationship intact. Francona has won with more than two dozen different OF combinations. He has been the picture of consistency during a season that has been anything but. Grade: A

Gordon Edes is ESPNBoston.com's Red Sox reporter. He has covered the Red Sox for 12 years and has reported on baseball for 25 years. Ask a question for his next mailbag here.