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That’s not exactly how you draw up clinching the division.
With the Boston Red Sox leading the New York Yankees 3-0 in the eighth inning, the Baltimore Orioles came back to beat the Toronto Blue Jays 3-2 and clinch the American League East division title for the Red Sox, win or lose against the Yankees.
The Red Sox chose the losing route. Needing just three outs to kick off the celebration with a win, Craig Kimbrel threw 28 more pitches than I did in recording the same number of outs (that would be zero). He gave up a single, walked three, and threw a wild pitch.
On came Joe Kelly with the bases loaded and a two-run lead. He managed to record two outs to nearly salvage the situation, but Mark Teixeira seemed to take issue with David Ortiz’s spotlight stealing retirement tour and unloaded on a 99 mile per hour fastball for a walk-off grand slam.
The Red Sox celebrated anyway, and deservedly so. It has been three years since the Red Sox last made a postseason appearance, having also made the worst-to-first leap in 2013. (Shhhh…)
But more importantly than the warm, fuzzy feeling of spraying champagne after a win, the Red Sox missed an opportunity to keep pace in the race for home field advantage in the AL. Entering Wednesday, the Texas Rangers, Cleveland Indians, and Red Sox were separated by all of two games total for the best AL record and homefield advantage throughout the postseason (thanks, Eric Hosmer and the All-Star Game!).
The Indians lost a rain shortened contest to the Detroit Tigers and remained one game behind Boston, but the Rangers stormed back to beat the Brewers and gain a 1.5-game cushion for the best record with four left to play.
Home field advantage is somewhat of a misnomer in baseball, as health, rest and avoiding the wild card crapshoot take precedence for postseason-bound teams in the waning days of the regular season. This isn’t football (why oh why couldn’t the New England Patriots have secured home field advantage for last year’s AFC Championship?!) or basketball (non-LeBron division).
Home field advantage in baseball is more like a remote car starter in winter – sure, you can get by well enough without it, but isn’t it nice?
Now the Red Sox have themselves a little more scraping to do before the end of the season just to secure home field for the ALDS, let alone the ALCS.
But that’s the gravy on the playoff mashed potatoes. After the Red Sox suffered two straight last place finishes, Dave Dombrowski’s imperative this season was to get Ortiz to meaningful October baseball.
It may have come after one of the worst losses of the season, but however it came to pass, the Red Sox are once again – finally – AL East champions. Mission accomplished.