The Red Sox win their first division crown since 2013 after a late Blue Jays meltdown
An impressive second half, including a magical September, paved the way
The Red Sox clinched the American League East on Wednesday after the Blue Jays blew a late lead to the Orioles to fall 3-2 (box score), locking up the Red Sox's first division title since 2013. The outcome was a fait accompli, as Boston entered the night six games up with six to play.
The Red Sox looked as if they'd take care of business themselves against the Yankees on Wednesday after giving up just one hit through eight scoreless innings, but after a bases-loaded walk brought home the Yankees' first run in the bottom of the ninth, a Mark Teixeira grand slam capped off a blown save for Craig Kimbrel and a rare September loss (box score) for the Red Sox.
Nonetheless, the Red Sox deserve credit for staging an impressive late-season run. These past few weeks have served as an effective cleaning agent, erasing any and all memories of Boston's relatively dismal march into August -- remember, they entered the penultimate month in third place, having dropped seven of their previous 10 games. Once the calendar flipped to September, however, the Red Sox achieved peak performance.
The Red Sox won 11 straight before dropping the series opener on Tuesday. Even with Wednesday's loss, Boston is 19-7 in the month. Consider that stretch significant for reasons beyond the obvious -- i.e., it created much-needed separation within the division -- since it doubles as the main argument for crowning Boston as baseball's best second-half team.
The Red Sox's post-break record (now 35-20) represents the best in the AL by a wide margin -- they've won more than 63 percent of their games; no other team is over 60 percent. Likewise, underlying metrics support the narrative. Boston's Pythagorean record -- an estimate based solely on runs scored and allowed -- had them down for an expected winning percentage of better than 70 percent. The second-best team by that measure, the Cubs, checked in at 68.4 percent.
A hot September enabled the Red Sox to capture their first division title since 2013, but they probably aren't satisfied. The last two times the Red Sox won the division, they went on to win the World Series. There's no reason to think that pattern is predictive on its own -- lest anyone fall too deep into lizard-mind thinking -- yet there is a good argument to be made that these Red Sox are a legitimate pennant threat. Boston has an impressive lineup, a capable bullpen, and a rotation led by David Price and Rick Porcello -- each of whom is likely to garner Cy Young voting consideration.
In other words, these Red Sox are a World Series threat. They're also division champs.
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