Published 1:01 AM EDT Sep 21, 2018
NEW YORK — It took them three attempts, but ultimately there was no postponing the inevitable: The Boston Red Sox nailed down the American League East title - once again at Yankee Stadium, and powered by the league's likely MVP.
With an 11-6 victory Thursday night in the Bronx, the Red Sox won a third consecutive AL East title for the first time in franchise history. And they're on their way to perhaps the greatest season in franchise history — at 104-49, they have drawn even with the 1946 Sox for second-most wins ever.
Two more in their final nine games, and first-year manager Joey Cora's squad will top the 105-win 1912 Red Sox for the franchise record.
That team won the World Series, and these Sox realistically harbor similar dreams.
A wrap was put on this championship in the top of the eighth inning, when MVP candidate Mookie Betts registered his fourth hit of the night, a towering three-run home run off Aroldis Chapman that pushed the Red Sox's lead from two to five runs. It was Betts' 30th home run of the season and upped his batting average to an AL-best .339; his five runs driven in gave him 77 on the year.
Winning the East was a mere formality the Red Sox, who held a 9½ game lead over the Yankees heading into Thursday's finale of a three-game series. Nonetheless, it took them three tries in the Bronx to put the division away, finally prevailing in a slugfest.
It looked like the clincher would have to come in Cleveland after Giancarlo Stanton greeted reliever Heath Hembree with a grand slam to give New York a 6-4 lead after four innings. But the Red Sox — who lead the AL in runs, batting average and OPS — tied the score on solo home runs by Brock Holt and Jackie Bradley Jr., the latter kick-starting a three-run seventh inning off Yankee relievers Chad Green and Dellin Betances.
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Knuckleballer Steven Wright pitched three scoreless, and fellow relievers Ryan Brasier and Craig Kimbrel closed it out, inducing the inevitable but nonetheless joyous celebration.
The Sox took sole possession of first place in the AL East on July 2 and haven't looked back, going on a 48-20 run since then.
The Red Sox were nine outs away from celebrating on Tuesday, but a bullpen collapse surrendered the lead and a Neil Walker home run led to a 3-2 victory for the Yankees. New York then rolled to a 10-1 win Wednesday night.
The Red Sox are slated to play the survivor of the Yankees-Oakland Athletics wild-card game in the AL Division Series. Boston has succumbed in the ALDS each of the past two seasons, to Cleveland in 2016 and Houston in 2017.