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 playoffs, and extended their winning streak to 10 -- the longest for Boston since April 2009. That the team clinched wasn't played up in the Red Sox's clubhouse on Saturday after their 6-4 win over Tampa Bay -- no one even seemed to know, since the magic number is still at one.

"I haven't heard," manager John Farrell said, before repeating himself. "We're here tomorrow, playing again."

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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 berth

Red Sox win 10th straight, clinch playoff berth

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.

Sox's push continues in Papi's Trop finale

Sox's push continues in Papi's Trop finale

Playoff fever continues to permeate Tropicana Field as the contending Red Sox meet the Rays for their final meeting of the 2016 season, Sunday afternoon.

Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez (3-7, 4.84 ERA) will make his 19th start for the Red Sox, hoping to build on his last outing, when he held the Orioles to two runs on four hits in 6 1/3 innings to earn his third win of the season.

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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.

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.

Benintendi continues to thrill in big leagues

Prospect breaks game open with huge three-run homer

Benintendi continues to thrill in big leagues

BALTIMORE -- Andrew Benintendi's left knee will be in a brace for as long as the Red Sox are playing this season, but that won't restrict him from big hits or even -- yes, Michael Jackson dance moves.

Benintendi put both those things on display while lifting the sizzling Red Sox to a 5-1 victory over the Orioles on Wednesday night.

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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.

Thriller! Benintendi channels Michael Jackson

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Thriller! Benintendi channels Michael Jackson

Following the Red Sox's 5-1 victory against the Orioles on Wednesday -- when the outfielder helped put the game out of reach with a three-run home run -- he unveiled his Michael Jackson routine. During Boston's usual postgame celebration, he dropped a little of the King of Pop on everyone. 

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Wright could pitch off mound this weekend

Knuckleballer working out at club's Spring Training base

Wright could pitch off mound this weekend

BALTIMORE -- The Red Sox hope that knuckleballer Steven Wright can throw off a mound by this weekend at Tropicana Field, which would set him up for a possible return in the postseason.

Wright has started just two games for Boston since his complete-game shutout at Dodger Stadium on Aug. 5 due to bursitis in his right shoulder.

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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.

Vote: Big Papi up for Best Hitter

Balloting open until Nov. 11 to reward game's elite

Vote: Big Papi up for Best Hitter

Babe Ruth once said of hitting, "All I can tell them is pick a good one and sock it."

Following that advice most impressively in 2016 are Jose Altuve of the Astros, Kris Bryant of the Cubs, Daniel Murphy of the Nationals, David Ortiz of the Red Sox and Mike Trout of the Angels. They have socked it so often, so hard, so productively and so memorably, that they are your five choices for Best Hitter in the Esurance MLB Awards.

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Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com community blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Papi's blast lowers Sox's magic number

Papi's blast lowers Sox's magic number

BALTIMORE -- David Ortiz is making his last series in Baltimore something special.

Ortiz, who addressed the media about his final visit to Camden Yards prior to Tuesday's game, homered for the second time in as many games to propel the first-place Red Sox to a 5-2 victory 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.

Fond farewell: Ortiz sets homer record

Sox slugger has most long balls by player in final season

Fond farewell: Ortiz sets homer record

BALTIMORE -- After another milestone moment on Tuesday night, David Ortiz made a statement.

"Forty is the new 20," Ortiz chuckled on a night his three-run homer was the difference in the Red Sox's 5-2 win over the Orioles.

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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.

Betts joins elite company with 200th hit

Betts joins elite company with 200th hit

BALTIMORE -- One night, Mookie Betts is batting cleanup and hitting yet another home run at Camden Yards. The next night, he is back in the leadoff spot that used to be customary while reaching a most impressive milestone for any player -- let alone one who is 23 years old.

Welcome to the multifaceted season of dominance by Betts, who joined the 200-hit club with a three-hit performance that led the surging Red Sox to a 5-2 victory over the Orioles on Tuesday.

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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

Ortiz: Being enshrined in Hall is 'important'

Slugger waxes poetic about his monumental final season

Ortiz: Being enshrined in Hall is 'important'

BALTIMORE -- With each day that passes, the end comes more sharply into focus. The Red Sox have 11 regular-season games remaining, which means that's how many David Ortiz has left in his exemplary career.

Then there's the postseason and then Ortiz will retire. It seemed so abstract when he announced 10 months ago this would be his last go-round. In the heat of a pennant race, it was easy to set aside. Now it's getting pushed to the forefront.

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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.

Papi tells fan he just missed homer, then goes deep

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Papi tells fan he just missed homer, then goes deep

David Ortiz has hit a lot of homers in his 20-year career: opposite-field homers, mammoth homers, clutch homers, even selfie homers -- 538 of them in all entering play on Tuesday. After that many dingers, it's safe to say he has a pretty good idea when he's got all of one -- and when he's just missed.

Alas, his third at-bat during Boston's 5-2 win in Baltimore was in the latter category. Ortiz got underneath a Kevin Gausman offering and lifted a harmless fly ball to right field. As he was walking back to the dugout, though, he decided to make sure the crowd at Camden Yards knew: He was close. Very close. It was only a matter of time.

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