The Boston Red Sox clinched their third consecutive AL East crown in tonight's 11-6 victory over the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium. AL MVP candidate Mookie Betts was 4/5 with a pair of doubles and two RBI, plus a three-run homer. Jackie Bradley Jr.'s game-tying home run to lead off the seventh inning set things in motion for the Sawx, who added two more runs on Xander Bogaerts' sac fly and center fielder Aaron Hicks' subsequent error.
A heated game
The Red Sox needed just one victory in The Bronx to clinch the division, while the Yankees were looking for the clean sweep to stay alive in the AL East race. With New York winning 10-1 last night and righty Masahiro Tanaka on the mound, the odds appeared in the Bronx Bombers' favor. Boy, how wrong people were about that.
Boston made contact off Tanaka all night as the Japanese right-hander allowed five runs on eight hits in just four innings of work. Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez also struggled, allowing five runs on four hits and walking seven in 3.2 innings of work. Still, that didn't get his team down.
Boston led 3-0 going into the bottom of the second inning, but first baseman Luke Voit's two-run shot and tenth dinger of the season got New York right back in the game. Brock Holt's solo shot gave Boston a 4-2 lead in the third, but Giancarlo Stanton's opposite-field grand slam put the Yankees up 6-4 as dreams of a sweep moved closer. The lead was cut to 6-5 as Betts scored on JD Martinez's groundball double play in the fifth, but New York still held the lead.
That all changed in the seventh, when Bradley's home run off of Chad Green landed in the second deck in right field. Christian Vazquez followed with a single before Betts struck out, but Andrew Benintendi's double moved Vazquez over to third before Martinez was intentionally walked. Bogaerts then hit his sac fly to Hicks, whose hard throw to third tipped off the heel of third baseman Miguel Andujar's glove before skipping into the stands and allowing Benintendi to score behind pinch-runner Tzu-Wei Lin's go-ahead run.
Aroldis Chapman took over in the eighth inning in his first appearance back from injury, and the rust showed as he struggled with fastball command. He allowed a single to Rafael Devers, got Steve Pearce to line out, walked Bradley, and struck out Sandy Leon before serving up the home run to Betts. The rest of the game went exactly as planned for Boston. Craig Kimbrel worked around Andrew McCutchen's leadoff triple in the ninth before getting three quick outs, ending the game on a strikeout of Stanton.
The Red Sox will face the winner of the AL Wild Card Game in the American League Division Series, and there's a very good chance their opponent will be the Yankees. New York will likely face the Oakland Athletics in the play-in game, but the question is if the game will be at Yankee Stadium or at Oakland Coliseum. Naturally, New York would prefer to play at home and will look to enter that game with momentum. All that remains for the Bronx Bombers are three games at home against the last-place Baltimore Orioles, followed by four against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field before wrapping up with a three-game set at Fenway Park against the Red Sox. The team's magic number for a playoff spot is three, which is doable barring a major collapse.
And while New York will have its regular starters in the lineup until that postseason berth is clinched, Boston can rest easy. The Red Sox have a three-game set against the AL Central champion Cleveland Indians at Progressive field before coming home for a pair of three-game series against the Orioles and Yankees. Fans can still expect Boston to play competitively, but definitely expect manager Alex Cora to give the regulars a rest.
EIther way, one thing is certain. Both teams are hungry for a deep playoff run, so fans should prepare for an exciting October!