By: Andrew Tashian
The Boston Red Sox are American League East Champions, in back-to-back seasons, for the first time in franchise history! Beating the Houston Astros this afternoon, the Red Sox won their 93rd game of the season. It is just the ninth division crown for Boston -- out of the previous eight seasons, the Sox made it to the World Series four times, winning it all twice -- 2007 & 2013.
Drew Pomeranz (16-6 3.38 ERA) has been the Red Sox stopper this season. Boston is 8-2 when Pomeranz pitches the game following a Boston loss. He was masterful today using all of his pitches, battling an inconsistent umpire and remaining poised when he found himself in uncomfortable situations. Against a potent offense, Drew had the best outing of any Sox starter -- it came at the most crucial of times. With the Yankees hot on their tail, the Red Sox needed a big outing from Big Smooth and he delivered.
The Red Sox offense scored runs today! Scoring only 4 runs in the previous two games against Houston, the Red Sox scored 5 of them between the 4th & 5th innings. Hanley drove in a run in the 4th & rookie Rafael Devers drove Hanley home on a wall-ball double for a 2-0 Boston lead -- their first of the series.
More damage was done in the 5th. Andrew Benintendi singled home a run, was involved in a double steal with Mookie Betts, giving him a 20 home run 20 stolen base season. His first of many, I'm sure. Mitch Moreland had the big blow of the inning when he doubled home Betts & Benny giving the Sox a 5-0 lead.
Pomeranz, who was sailing, took the hill to begin the 7th and walked MVP candidate Jose Altuve. Farrell made the change bringing reliever Carson Smith into the game. Carson had a rough outing allowing an inherited runner to score, charged to Pomeranz, while giving up a run of his own. Smith exited the game without recording a single out.
Pomeranz's final line: 6 IP - 3 H - 1 R - 2 BB - 3 K. Pomeranz lowered his ERA to 3.32, matching his 2016 mark. He is slated to be Boston's ALDS Game 2 starter.
Red Sox pitcher David Price came into the 7th to clean up the mess, Houston cutting the lead to 5-2. Price got the first batter to ground out to the right side of the infield where Brock Holt would make an amazing play to get the out.
With two runners now in scoring position, Price was able to strike out the next hitter before walking the following and loading the bases. In a weird moment, John Farrell came out to have a mound visit with Price and Addison Reed came trotting out of the bullpen. Farrell shook his head repeatedly signaling he didn't want a pitching change so Reed made a u-turn and headed back to the bullpen.
David Price struck out Bergman with the bases loaded killing Houston's rally. David Price is now Boston's not-so-secret-weapon, compiling phenomenal numbers since his return from the disabled list: 8.2 IP - 3 H - 0 R - 2 BB - 13 K.
Mookie added his 24th HR of the season in the 7th inning and the passion he showed when he hit should fire each and every single one of you up. It would push Boston's lead to 6-2.
A scoreless 8th inning from Addison Reed led to a non-save situation for Craig Kimbrel in the 9th. Boston's flame-throwing closer would strikeout Gurriel on a 98 MPH fastball up near Gurriel's neck. But what's a Red Sox game without a little drama?
Houston catcher, Brian McCann, who used to catch Kimbrel when they played in Atlanta together, would take Kimbrel deep to right-field cutting the Astros' deficit to 3. Cameron Maybin would follow that with a double off the Green Monster. Kimbrel would strikeout Derek Fisher for the second out of the inning, bringing George Springer to the plate with a runner on second.
Kimbrel would strike him out and clinch the division for the Boston Red Sox! He has now struck out over 49% of the batters he's faced which is currently the best mark in MLB history.
Now that an American League Divison Series involving the Red Sox is 100% official, manager John Farrell will have toassemble his 25 man ALDS roster. Many questions are in need of answers. Will Rick Porcello have a role in the post-season? Will Eduardo Nunez be able to contribute despite his injury? Who starts game three? Difficult inquisitions, I know, but ones that need to be answered very soon. Game 1 of the ALDS is scheduled for Thursday, October 5th.
Boston, currently involved in a season-finale four-game series with Houston, will travel to Texas to play the first two games of the ALDS. The series creates an unusual situation where two teams have the opportunity to play each other, potentially, nine games in a row. After a tumultuous week of bad starting pitching and untimely injuries, the Red Sox are backing into the playoffs once again. A sight Red Sox fans are getting used to seeing.
We all hope the Red Sox will have a much better post-season than they had in 2016. With a revamped starting rotation and a top-of-the-league caliber bullpen, I'm leaning toward the optimistic side of thought. The last week of play for the club has been troubling and down-right difficult to watch, but I don't believe it'll carry over to the playoffs. The 2017 Boston Red Sox are a resilient bunch there's been in recent memory & if any team can look like crap one week and champions the next, it's this team.
FINAL SCORE: RED SOX 6 -- ASTROS 3
Photo Credit - Newsday