EditorsNote: Update 4: changes Betts to three runs scored
Red Sox top Astros to clinch AL East title
BOSTON — American League East championships are not exactly new for the Boston Red Sox.
But that doesn’t make their latest any less sweet.
The Red Sox clinched their second consecutive AL East division title with a 6-3 win against the Houston Astros on Saturday afternoon at Fenway Park.
“It’s a good feeling, but at the same time we’ve been in this position before last year,” Boston’s Hanley Ramirez said. “So we’re looking forward to the last one. That’s the biggest one.”
Boston (93-68) needed a win or a New York Yankees loss to clinch. The Yankees beat Toronto 2-1, so Boston needed a win.
It marks the first time since division play began in 1969 that the Red Sox have won back-to-back AL East crowns.
Before that, Boston had finished last in the division in consecutive seasons.
“What’s different (about this AL East title) is that we spent too much time recently going between first and last (place). So to win back-to-back is really gratifying,” Red Sox owner John Henry said.
Last season, the Red Sox backed into their division championship after a walk-off loss to the rival Yankees, but the Baltimore Orioles beat the Toronto Blue Jays to eliminate New York.
“This year we won and we’re at home. It’s just a different year,” Boston’s Mookie Betts said. “I think we’re just going to enjoy today but get back to work tomorrow.”
John Farrell also became the first manager in Red Sox history to guide the team to three division championships. Boston has won the AL East in three of Farrell’s five seasons.
“First and foremost it’s the players. I will always say that — it is the players,” Farrell said. “This game is always about the players and the tireless work that our staff does.”
The Red Sox have won nine division titles in franchise history, four of which have come since 2007.
AL West champion Houston (100-61) will finish with the second-best record in the league behind the Cleveland Indians and is set to face the Red Sox in the AL Division Series.
Game 1 of the series is Thursday in Houston.
“It’s going to be fun,” Houston’s Carlos Correa said. “Obviously they have a great team, they have a lot of talent in that clubhouse. The three games we’ve played so far have been a lot of fun. We’re expecting a fun series, we just can’t wait.”
Mitch Moreland had a pair of RBIs, Betts hit a solo home run, his 24th of the season, and Ramirez, Rafael Devers and Andrew Benintendi each drove in one run for the Red Sox.
Benintendi, who hit his 20th homer of the season Friday, stole third base on a double steal in the fifth inning to become only the third Red Sox rookie with a 20-20 season.
He is the youngest left fielder to have at least 20 homers and 20 steals in a season since home run king Barry Bonds in 1987.
Betts also scored three runs to give him his second straight 100-run, 100-RBI season. He and Ted Williams are the only players in Red Sox history to have multiple such seasons before turning 25.
Boston’s Drew Pomeranz (17-6) bounced back from a short start last Monday to toss six-plus innings, allowing one run, striking out three and giving up two hits and two walks.
Pomeranz tied fellow ace left-hander Chris Sale for the Red Sox’s team lead in victories. His first out of the fourth inning allowed him to surpass his previous career high of 170 2/3 innings.
Brian McCann launched a solo home run, his 18th, and Evan Gattis and Yuli Gurriel each knocked RBI singles for the Astros, who had their five-game winning streak stopped.
Astros starter Lance McCullers (7-4) hung three zeroes before giving up five runs in the fourth and fifth innings. He departed after 4 1/3 innings, allowing six hits and two walks with six strikeouts.
“It’s weird, interesting. I don’t think I could’ve had much better stuff,” McCullers said. “It’s probably the best I’ve felt physically just like being able to put my pitches where I want to since probably the sixth of June.”
McCullers last won June 24 and is winless in his last seven starts.
After being blanked by McCullers, the Red Sox scored twice in the fourth and tacked on three runs in the fifth.
Houston scored two runs in the seventh and loaded the bases with two outs against reliever David Price, who logged the first two outs of the inning.
Price got George Springer to strike out looking on three pitches.
Betts led off the bottom of the seventh with his solo homer onto the Green Monster seats in left field.
McCann homered off Boston closer Craig Kimbrel with one out in the ninth, sending a pitch into the right-field seats.
NOTES: Boston 2B Dustin Pedroia, who has been dealing with a chronic left knee injury, was a late scratch from the lineup because of wet conditions on the field. ... Houston RF Josh Reddick (sore back) missed his third straight game and is still in Houston being evaluated. ... Astros LHP Dallas Keuchel will throw a simulated game Sunday on his scheduled day to start, but will not pitch until the ALDS. ... If the Red Sox had not clinched the AL East on Saturday, LHP Chris Sale (17-8, 2.90 ERA) would have started Sunday’s regular-season finale. RHP Hector Velazquez (3-1, 3.48) will start in his place. RHP Collin McHugh (4-2, 3.45) will start for the Astros.