Some 53 days after the Red Sox won the AL East, they made it official. With a back-and-forth 11-6 win at Yankee Stadium, Boston put the finishing touches on a regular season that’s all but assured to end with the most wins in franchise history.
Somewhat surprisingly, this was the first time the Red Sox have ever clinched the division with a win over the Yankees, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The celebration was relatively staid; high-fives and hugs on the field, some champagne and dancing in the clubhouse, and then a quick exit. The Red Sox didn’t party hard not because they didn’t want to, but because they had a plane to catch to Cleveland.
The celebration wasn’t confined to the Bronx, or even New England. Manager Alex Cora, meeting with reporters in his office, noticed his phone just would not stop buzzing. It was the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Maria striking Cora’s native Puerto Rico, and it was on Cora’s mind.
“My phone is going nuts,” Cora said. “I had a lot of friends in the stands today, and I know this means a lot to them. Every time we win, someone is happy back home. I’m proud of that.”
These Red Sox are good. They spent all but 11 days in first place, and never trailed by more than two games. Led by MVP candidate Mookie Betts, who was 4-for-5 with 5 RBI, Boston now has 104 wins, and need only go 2-7 the rest of the season to pass the 1912 Red Sox for most in team history. That much winning can make a season just fly by.
“We’ve only got nine more games left,” J.D. Martinez said. “That’s crazy. We were talking about that. Why do I feel like the season went by so fast? It’s usually not like that. Usually you hit August and it’s kind of like dragging on. But you look back now and it’s like, ‘Wow, that’s a quick season.’”
Of course, with their third straight AL East crown, Boston’s real hopes and expectations have barely even started being met. “We haven’t won what we want to win yet,” admitted Betts. And it’s probably not going to be as easy as Boston made the regular season look.
The AL is absolutely loaded, with the winner of a Yankees-A’s wild card game awaiting the Red Sox in the divisional series, and then, if they survive that, the winner of Houston-Cleveland. There’s not a team among the five that would feel out of place winning the pennant, just as there’s not one without its flaws. Boston’s current worries include its middle relief and a late-season dip in home runs. That’s relatively minor as far as flaws go, but both are things that tend to matter in October.
But that can wait a couple of weeks. Part of the perks of running away with a division is getting to spend the end of the season resting and taking a relaxed, boozy victory lap. I bet the Red Sox had the most fun anyone’s ever had on a flight to Cleveland.