Red Sox beat Astros, clinch back-to-back AL East titles - and ALDS matchup with Houston

BOSTON, Massachusetts (USA TODAY Sports) -- It took the Boston Red Sox until the second-to-last day of the regular season to clinch the American League East championship. 
 
The New York Yankees put pressure on their division rival up until Saturday. Finally, with one game remaining in the regular season, the Red Sox clinched the division after defeating the Houston Astros 6-3 in front of their home crowd at Fenway Park.
 
The Red Sox and Astros will open the AL Division Series on Thursday at Houston. The Boston victory also ensures that the Cleveland Indians will have home-field advantage throughout the AL playoffs, and take on the winner of the Yankees-Minnesota Twins wild card game in their ALDS.
“This is a good team across the way. We’re a good team. We’re both division champions,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said to The Associated Press after the game. “We’ll obviously see a lot of each other over the next 10 days.”
 
“This is a good team across the way. We’re a good team. We’re both division champions,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said to The Associated Press after the game. “We’ll obviously see a lot of each other over the next 10 days.”
 
Saturday, it was lefty Drew Pomeranz calming the Red Sox nerves by taking a shutout into the seventh inning, giving up four hits and lowering his ERA to 3.32. After three scoreless innings, Hanley Ramirez broke the tension with a ground-ball single for a 1-0 Red Sox lead, and rookie Rafael Devers followed with an RBI double to make it 2-0. Mitch Moreland provided significant breathing room with a two-run double in the fifth.
 
After Pomeranz and reliever Carson Smith failed to record an out in the seventh, newly converted reliever David Price entered with a 5-2 lead and the tying run at the plate. He recorded a pair of strikeouts, including George Springer with the bases loaded, to end the threat. 
 
And the Red Sox needed the win: The Yankees beat the Toronto Blue Jays again Saturday. Boston now can rest ace Chris Sale on Sunday rather than use him to win the division title.
 
“That was important: Just get it done today,” Ramirez said to the AP after the game.
 
“We get a chance to get a couple of days rest,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said to the AP. “Chris is deserving of a couple of extra days to just get some rest.”
 
It's the first time Boston won consecutive division titles and their ninth since 1969. And Farrell became the first Red Sox manager to win three division titles, having also guided them to the 2013 East crown and, eventually, a World Series championship.
 
The Red Sox had a stranglehold on first place for 188 days this season. On Aug. 1,  Boston moved into first and never looked back, going 36-20 down the stretch.

 

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