Red Sox magic number for AL East title now 1

Red Sox magic number for AL East title now 1

The Red Sox got one step closer to an American League East title Monday as the Blue Jays lost, 7-5, to the Yankees at Rogers Centre. Toronto's defeat lowered Boston's magic number to one, meaning the Red Sox can finish no worse than a tie for first place in the division.

The Red Sox have already secured a playoff berth and can now claim the East as soon as Tuesday with one more win or another Blue Jays loss.

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Chad Thornburg is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Sox eyeing AL East title behind Price in Bronx

Sox eyeing AL East title behind Price in Bronx

Rick Porcello might be the Red Sox's primary American League Cy Young Award candidate, but David Price has enjoyed a resurgent second half to help spur the club's dominant run. He'll look to pick up his 18th win when the Red Sox travel to the Bronx for a three-game series against the Yankees beginning Tuesday. Boston, which has already clinched a playoff spot, is looking to wrap up the AL East title (with a magic number of one) and make strides toward gaining home-field advantage in the postseason.

Since Aug. 17, Price has a 2.78 ERA and an 0.85 WHIP in eight starts. Before that, he had a 4.29 ERA and a 1.28 WHIP in 25 starts. After Tuesday, Price will be on track to start the final game of the regular season, but with different clinch scenarios still in play, little is set in stone.

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Sam Blum is a reporter for MLB.com based in St. Petersburg. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Ortiz discusses fear of iguanas on 'Late Night'

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Ortiz discusses fear of iguanas on 'Late Night'

David Ortiz was in New York City on Monday night, getting ready for his final series against the Yankees, and he found some time to stop by "Late Night with Seth Meyers."

As you can see, he looked pretty sharp. 

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Papi pens letter to Yankees fans before his final Bronx series

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Papi pens letter to Yankees fans before his final Bronx series

Say the name "David Ortiz" to a Yankees fan and the reaction you'll get will likely be akin to saying "Voldemort" in the Harry Potter novels. Fear will fill their eyes, they'll look down at the ground -- unable to meet your eyes -- and whisper "Just call him the DH that should not be named." 

After all, Ortiz has a career .970 OPS with 53 home runs against the Yankees, including, you know, that one, so it makes sense that Yankees fans would be a little upset to hear his name. He's also been an important part of the rivalry between the two teams, just as Derek Jeter was a player Red Sox fans loved to hate. 

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Inbox: Will Sox rest players if they clinch East?

Beat reporter Ian Browne fields questions from Boston fans

Inbox: Will Sox rest players if they clinch East?

If the Red Sox clinch the American League East, will they rest people? Or would they try to surpass the Rangers to get the No. 1 seed?
-- @RobPurzycki

Don't forget that the Red Sox will have three days without a game between the regular-season finale and Game 1 of the Division Series. For that reason, I don't think getting guys rest will be that big a deal. In 2013, the Red Sox went for home-field advantage, and they got it, and I think it was an important factor for them in the AL Championship Series against the Tigers.

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Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Red Sox K record 11 straight, win 11th in row

Red Sox K record 11 straight, win 11th in row

ST. PETERSBURG -- Rays catcher Luke Maile had three chances to tag Dustin Pedroia at plate in the 10th inning, but the Red Sox second baseman avoided the tag twice -- despite being beaten by more than 15 feet on a relay throw from the outfield.

On the third try, Maile tagged Pedroia, but the ball came loose. And David Ortiz's last hit at Tropicana Field will go down as a game-winning double as Boston beat the Rays, 3-2, in 10 innings on Sunday afternoon. It's the 11th win in a row for the Red Sox, who set a Major League record by striking out 11 straight batters at one point in the game.

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Sam Blum is a reporter for MLB.com based in St. Petersburg.

Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2005.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Hal Bodley

Sox poised for another fairy tale in Papi's last year

Boston has potential to clinch AL East at Yankee Stadium this week

Sox poised for another fairy tale in Papi's last year

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Red Sox, fired up by the momentum of a late-season 11-game winning streak, will invade the Evil Empire's Yankee Stadium on Tuesday night, poised to clinch their first American League East title since 2013. 

With visions of making 2016 another last-to-first chapter in their rich history, a fourth World Series championship in the past 13 seasons is the ultimate goal.

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Hal Bodley, dean of American baseball writers, is the senior correspondent for MLB.com. Follow him @halbodley on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Red Sox hurlers enjoy history-making K-day

Red Sox hurlers enjoy history-making K-day

ST. PETERSBURG -- There are many ways to measure the pitching dominance of the Red Sox in Sunday's 3-2, 10-inning win over the Rays at Tropicana Field.

The 23 strikeouts recorded, a club record. The 21 recorded in the first nine innings, which would have been a Major League record for a nine-inning game. The 11 straight strikeouts recorded in 11 consecutive plate appearances, a Major League record. The fact that 17 consecutive outs were recorded via strikeout. The astonishing two-hour and 11-minute drought in between balls put in play.

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Sam Blum is a reporter for MLB.com based in St. Petersburg. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Pedroia plays Twister at plate for go-ahead run

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Pedroia plays Twister at plate for go-ahead run

Do you remember playing Twister as a kid? Maybe, if you were really good, you thought that one day being able to put your left hand on red without touching anyone else would somehow help you in your adult life. Well, you were wrong …

… Unless you were Dustin Pedroia. In that case, you were totally right. 

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Ortiz cancels ceremony; honors friend Fernandez

Ortiz cancels ceremony; honors friend Fernandez

ST. PETERSBURG -- David Ortiz played his final game at Tropicana Field on Sunday. Throughout his farewell tour, a final game at a stadium has been met with a ceremony and a gift.

Out of respect to his friend Jose Fernandez, who died in a boating accident on Sunday morning, Ortiz asked that the pregame ceremony be cancelled. The Rays had a video tribute to Ortiz before the second inning.

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Sam Blum is a reporter for MLB.com based in St. Petersburg. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Red Sox guaranteed at least Wild Card berth

Boston, with sights still on division crown, make playoffs for first time since 2013

Red Sox guaranteed at least Wild Card berth

ST. PETERSBURG -- Dustin Pedroia's dramatic seventh-inning grand slam pushed the Red Sox into the postseason and extended their winning streak to 10 -- the longest for Boston since April 2009. That is certainly good news, but there's still something bigger in the Sox's sights as they continue to close on in the American League East championship.

So the fact that the team clinched wasn't played up in the clubhouse on Saturday after their 6-4 win over Tampa Bay -- plenty of people didn't even seem to know, since the magic number is still at one.

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Sam Blum is a reporter for MLB.com based in St. Petersburg. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Red Sox win 10th straight, clinch playoff spot

Red Sox win 10th straight, clinch playoff spot

ST. PETERSBURG -- Danny Farquhar was one strike away from getting out of a bases-loaded jam. Dustin Pedroia was one walk, bloop, or blast away from bringing in a run to tie it, and maybe getting the Red Sox the lead.

On a 2-2 count, he crushed one over the wall -- a blast that turned a one-run deficit into a three-run lead and clinched a postseason berth for the Red Sox. It was the blow Boston would need in a 6-4 win over Tampa Bay.

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Sam Blum is a reporter for MLB.com and covered the Red Sox on Saturday.

Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2005.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Farrell 'not ruling out' 2016 return for Panda

Third baseman ahead of schedule in rehab from shoulder surgery

Farrell 'not ruling out' 2016 return for Panda

ST. PETERSBURG -- It's been an accepted reality that Pablo Sandoval, injured after six at-bats this season, would not be returning at all this year. His return was always spoken about in the context of 2017 -- the rehab for surgery on his left shoulder required it.

That was until manager John Farrell harmlessly and almost deceptively hinted that an October return could be in the cards, if the right situation presented itself. Sandoval was with the Red Sox in Tampa Bay for a temporary check-in, but it could become more permanent down the line.

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Sam Blum is a reporter for MLB.com based in St. Petersburg. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Surging Sox ride Papi's HR to cusp of berth

Surging Sox ride Papi's HR to cusp of berth

ST. PETERSBURG -- Time and again over the past decade-plus, the Red Sox have leaned on David Ortiz in the biggest moments. On Friday at Tropicana Field, one of those moments ended up being the first inning, with Ortiz's two-run moonshot proving sufficient as the Red Sox edged the Rays, 2-1, for their ninth straight win. With the Orioles' win over the D-backs, the Red Sox's magic number to clinch a playoff berth stands at two.

Boston had its bullpen warming as early as the fourth inning when Drew Pomeranz found himself in a first-and-third, one-out pickle. But the southpaw induced a 6-4-3 double play and allowed only one run in five innings before the 'pen helped the Red Sox hold on. Both Pomeranz and Chris Archer allowed one home run each, and that was all. Pomeranz gave up a solo shot to Mikie Mahtook in the second inning, while Archer watched as Ortiz crushed his homer to right field in the first.

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Sam Blum is a reporter for MLB.com based in St. Petersburg.

Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2005.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Kimbrel lights-out since returning from injury

Kimbrel lights-out since returning from injury

ST. PETERSBURG -- Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel entered Friday's opener vs. the Rays having closed three games in three days. Since returning from a knee injury that sidelined him for most of July, he has posted a 0.53 ERA while locking down all 12 of his save opportunities. He was on the mound at the end of five of Boston's first eight wins during the club's current nine-game win streak.

"It's pretty remarkable that he's on the field to begin with," manager John Farrell said. "He's been arguably more consistent since coming back from the surgery. The save opportunities, the performance in those are off the charts."

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Sam Blum is a reporter for MLB.com based in St. Petersburg. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Teammates in awe of Ortiz's moonshot

Teammates in awe of Ortiz's moonshot

ST. PETERSBURG -- It was a line that was on repeat in the Red Sox clubhouse even without rehearsal. David Ortiz had hit the longest home run that they'd ever seen. A 97-mph fastball turned into a moonshot that hit the D-Ring catwalk at Tropicana Field.

A two-run home run that Statcast™ projected at 411 feet -- a number made more impressive considering it was pulled down the right-field line -- was all Boston would need in a 2-1 win over the Rays on Friday night to extend its winning streak to nine games.

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Sam Blum is a reporter for MLB.com based in St. Petersburg. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Improvements vs. lefties push Porcello into AL Cy race

Rghty's 21.6 percent K rate against left-handed hitters is career best

Improvements vs. lefties push Porcello into AL Cy race

On Monday night in Baltimore, Rick Porcello allowed two earned runs in a complete-game 5-2 victory, striking out seven without a walk. That outing lowered his season ERA to 3.08, second in the American League only to Masahiro Tanaka. It raised Porcello's innings total to 210 2/3, putting him among only five AL pitchers with 200 innings, and he'll get the chance to increase that Saturday evening against Tampa Bay. It improved his record to 21-4 -- which, I don't need to tell you how poor of an evaluating tool a win-loss record is, and a big part of that is Porcello getting an absurd 6.7 runs per start of support from Boston's offense, but there's a part of me that refuses not to be at least a little impressed by 21-4.

Porcello, over the past month or so, has gone from fringe AL Cy Young Award candidate to a legitimate possibility, perhaps even the front-runner. The argument is right there if you want to make it. Sure, you could probably make the argument that Porcello's ERA is more a product of good fortune than performance by pointing to his .260 Batting Average On Balls In Play, which is 42 points lower than his career mark. But then also you've got to consider that his career mark is probably unfairly inflated by his being a ground-ball pitcher in front of Detroit's usually below-average infield defense for so many years, and that the BABIPs of his strongest AL Cy Young Award competitors are similarly depressed.

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MLB.com Columnist

Mike Petriello

Race for AL home-field advantage still burning

Rangers, Indians and Red Sox within one game

Race for AL home-field advantage still burning

While the three American League divisional races seem to be more or less settled -- Texas won the AL West on Friday, while Boston and Cleveland each have leads of at least 5 1/2 games -- that doesn't mean that those clubs no longer have anything to play for. Since all three teams have either 63 or 64 losses, the race for home-field advantage in the playoffs is still on.

Perhaps as importantly, there's still a big open question about which two of those division leaders have to play one another, and which gets to welcome the winner of the AL Wild Card Game. Depending on how the final week of the season plays out, it could be only a series of tiebreakers that determines who goes on the road to face the No. 2 seed and who stays home to face the fourth or fifth best team in the league.

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Mike Petriello is an analyst for MLB.com and the host of the Statcast podcast. He has previously written for ESPN Insider and FanGraphs. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Red Sox win 8th straight, cut magic number to 5

Red Sox win 8th straight, cut magic number to 5

BALTIMORE -- The Red Sox's playoff push is looking more and more like a steamroll.

Backed by seven strong innings by ace David Price, Boston picked up its second consecutive four-game sweep, beating Baltimore, 5-3, on Thursday night to complete an absolutely dominant series.

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Brittany Ghiroli has covered the Orioles for MLB.com since 2010. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli, and listen to her podcast.

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Ice Bucket Challenge leads to ALS breakthrough

Frates' creation helps researchers move closer to a cure

Ice Bucket Challenge leads to ALS breakthrough

Pete Frates and the Ice Bucket Challenge are helping researchers move closer to finding a cure for ALS.

Frates, who was diagnosed with ALS in 2012, created the Ice Bucket Challenge two years ago, and it grew into one of the most famous viral sensations of all-time during the Summer of '14.

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Austin Laymance is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Papi's O's parting gifts: Dugout phone, donation

Papi's O's parting gifts: Dugout phone, donation

BALTIMORE -- Just prior to playing his final regular-season game at one of his favorite road haunts, David Ortiz was honored in a ceremony at Camden Yards that contained humor and sincerity.

O's announcer Jim Hunter served as master of ceremonies and announced to Ortiz and the crowd to watch some video highlights that everyone could enjoy before Thursday night's 5-3 Red Sox win.

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Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Pitching propelling Majors' top hitting team

Pitching propelling Majors' top hitting team

BALTIMORE -- Here come the Red Sox, not only roaring down the stretch, but doing so with the type of pitching that looks poised to take them deep into October.

Remember those days in May and June when Boston seemed to routinely win by football scores, but there was concern that the pitching wouldn't be deep enough or successful enough when it mattered most?

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Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Paul Hagen

What a difference a week makes in AL East

What a difference a week makes in AL East

BALTIMORE -- When the Orioles departed from Fenway Park late on the evening of Sept. 14 and boarded the buses that would take them to the airport for their charter flight home, they were a team moving in the right direction in every possible way.

The O's had taken the last two games against the first-place Red Sox to pull within one game of the lead in the American League East. They had gotten terrific starting pitching from Kevin Gausman, eight shutout innings, in the getaway game. Baltimore had won nine of its last 13. The Orioles were on a roll.

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Paul Hagen is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Red Sox hot-corner battle heats up down the stretch

Red Sox hot-corner battle heats up down the stretch

BALTIMORE -- Though the Red Sox have just 10 games left in the regular season, third base is a position still up for grabs as the postseason nears.

Travis Shaw, the starter for Thursday night's series finale with the Orioles, leads the team with 97 starts at the hot corner.

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Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Wild sixth puts Sox's magic number at 6

Wild sixth puts Sox's magic number at 6

BALTIMORE -- The Red Sox are running away with the American League East.

After coming away empty-handed in two earlier bases-loaded opportunities, the Sox made the third time the charm on Wednesday night, as they scored five unearned runs during the sixth inning and posted a 5-1 win over the Orioles.

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Brittany Ghiroli has covered the Orioles for MLB.com since 2010. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli, and listen to her podcast.

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Stretch run: Buchholz rounding into form

By ditching windup, righty finds ball gets to batter quicker

Stretch run: Buchholz rounding into form

BALTIMORE -- Clay Buchholz was searching for something that could turn his miserable summer into something better, so he was open to suggestions. One day in late July, hitting coach Chili Davis casually suggested to the right-hander that he might want to try working exclusively out of the stretch.

Six weeks later, Buchholz is all stretch all the time, leading to a stretch run few would have imagined.

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Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Mike Petriello

Healthy Red Sox bullpen peaking at right time

Boston's 0.86 ERA in September is best of any team in any month

Healthy Red Sox bullpen peaking at right time

As the Red Sox pull away in the American League East, there's plenty of credit to go around, and most of it is landing in expected places. Just think about Mookie Betts, who has inserted himself squarely into the AL Most Valuable Player Award conversation; Rick Porcello, who has done the same with the AL Cy Young Award; Hanley Ramirez, who has been one of the best hitters in baseball for months; and, of course, the continuing heroics of the retiring David Ortiz.

All four -- and others like Sandy Leon and David Price -- deserve all the praise they're getting and then some. But perhaps we're overlooking a much-maligned unit that's become an increasingly big part of Boston's success. "Hey," you might be wise to point out ... "what about that outstanding bullpen?"

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Mike Petriello is an analyst for MLB.com and the host of the Statcast podcast. He has previously written for ESPN Insider and FanGraphs. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.