After two tough losses this week, the Red Sox got up off the mat to pound the Yankees on Thursday, 11-6, and secure a third straight American League East division crown.
Thursday’s come-from-behind win was a thriller, particularly after Boston had scored first but fell behind on a humiliating grand slam off the bat of Giancarlo Stanton. As they’ve done throughout the season, the Sox offense clawed back into the game and then broke it open with three runs apiece in the seventh and eighth innings.
Two solid performances stood out for the Red Sox on Thursday.
First, there was Steven Wright, whose knuckleball brought stability after a surprisingly poor outing from Eduardo Rodriguez (five runs with a career-high seven walks over 3.2 stressful innings of work). Wright earned a well-deserved game win after providing literal relief with three innings of no-walk, one-hit baseball against one of the toughest offensive lineups in the game. Wright was followed in the game by run-free innings of work from Ryan Brasier and Craig Kimbrel.
The other standout of the game was Mookie Betts, whose night included four hits, none more important than a three-run, two-out blast in the top of the eighth. It was Betts’ third career four-hit, five-RBI game and his first this season. Boston now has 434 two-out hits this season, the most in the American League and second only to the Braves (452).
Betts has been dynamite against the Bombers in 2018. Among all major leaguers with at least 50 at-bats this season against New York, Betts is tops in batting average (.417), on-base percentage (.500), slugging percentage (.767), and OPS (1.267). Against the Yanks, Betts has more hits (25), doubles (10), walks (11), runs (19) and total bases (46) than any other player in 2018. With his home run on Thursday, the MVP candidate joined Nomar Garciaparra (in 1997) as the only Red Sox leadoff hitter with 30 home runs in a single season.
Betts’ offense was supplemented by no doubt home runs from Jackie Bradley and Brock Holt on Thursday. Over the last ten days Bradley and Holt have batted at .269 and .389, respectively. With two singles, Rafael Devers enjoyed his first multi-hit game since August 8 (16 games ago).
Hilarious stories aside, on Friday morning the Sox hoisted the 2018 AL East Division banner outside Fenway Park. It’s step one of a significant journey ahead with plenty of questions still to be answered about the Sox rotation and bullpen. “We’re obviously happy, but we can tell we’re still hungry,” J.D. Martinez said in the post-game party.
With their 104th win of the season this Red Sox team tied the 1946 crew for the second-most wins in franchise history. Only the 1912 team had more (105). Boston’s magic number for the best record in the majors now stands at two over Houston, meaning that any combination of Red Sox wins and Astros losses totaling two secures home field advantage for the Sox through the postseason.
Thursday’s win moved Manager Alex Cora to No. 2 on the major league list for most wins by a first-year skipper. Only Ralph Houk (109 wins with the 1961 Yankees) had more.
The American League Division Series starts at Fenway Park on October 5.
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