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Wild about playoffs, but East title is real deal

Wild about playoffs, but East title is real deal

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Wild about playoffs, but East title is real deal

BOSTON -- After riding a masterpiece by John Lackey to a 3-1 win over the Orioles on Thursday night, the Red Sox clinched their first postseason berth in four years.

However, there was just a standard victory line on the Fenway Park field after the game.

The celebration will occur when the Sox finish their main order of business -- clinching the American League East.

By Friday night, champagne corks could be flying. With a magic number of one to wrap up the division, either a Boston win against the Blue Jays or a Tampa Bay loss to the Orioles will do the trick.

If the Red Sox don't clinch Friday, they still have seven cracks at it.

"We need to go out there and take care of what we need to take care of," said catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. "Tonight was a big win to get a spot, but we want to win the division and we still want to get that 100th win."

Boson is 93-61, meaning a 7-1 finish is necessary to reach triple digits.

A more important goal is the best record in the AL, which would give the Sox home field throughout the postseason.

The Sox lead the Tigers by three in the loss column and the A's by two in the race for best record.

Under the old playoff format, winning the Wild Card was essentially equivalent to winning the division. But in the current system, all the Wild Card gets you is a one-game play-in game against the second Wild Card.

Once the Red Sox wrap the AL East title - which would be their first since 2007 -- they will take a lot of joy in the accomplishment.

"We're all playing hard to the end," said Dustin Pedroia. "It's a step towards accomplishing our goal. We've got to keep it going."

If the Red Sox finish with the best record in the AL, they will play Wild Card winner in the Division Series.

The way things are shaping up right now, Boston would face either the Tigers or the Athletics if they can advance to the ALCS.

The ALDS is a best-of-five series while the ALCS is best-of-seven.

The Red Sox would open the Division Series on October 4 at Fenway Park.

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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