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Closing Time: Red Sox lose to Yankees, but clinch American League East anyway when Blue Jays lose 09.28.16 at 10:49 pm ET
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Red Sox first baseman Hanley Ramirez is doused with champagne by Eduardo Rodriguez on Wednesday after the Red Sox clinched the AL East. (Brad Penner/USA Today Sports)

Red Sox first baseman Hanley Ramirez is doused with champagne by Eduardo Rodriguez on Wednesday after the Red Sox clinched the AL East. (Brad Penner/USA Today Sports)

The Red Sox filed into the visiting clubhouse at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday unsure of how to act.

They had just blown a 3-0 lead in the ninth inning against the Yankees, getting walked off on Mark Teixeira’s grand slam. At the same time, they had just clinched the American League East with Toronto’s loss to Baltimore.

Manager John Farrell faced his team in a scene captured by NESN’s cameras and told them “not to let one inning” ruin the accomplishment of outlasting maybe the toughest division in baseball.

The pressure valve released, the wary clubhouse exploded.

The champagne celebration that followed officially completed another worst-to-first transformation. The Red Sox may have dropped a 5-3 decision to the Yankees, but they still punched their ticket to the division series on Wednesday night in about the strangest way imaginable.

“Honestly the journey’s incomplete,” Farrell told reporters. “We continue on. I couldn’t be more proud, and I told them after the game: don’t let one inning take away from that they’ve done for seven full months. They’re AL East champions, we’re AL East champions and we’ve got a lot of work left ahead of us. But one inning should not take away from the fact that we’re champions.”

The Red Sox return to the postseason as division champs for the first time since 2013, when they also went worst-to-first before winning the World Series.

They could afford to lose in shocking fashion, because the Blue Jays blew a 2-1 lead in the ninth and dropped a 3-2 decision to the Orioles.

While that game went final, closer Craig Kimbrel took the mound in the ninth. He allowed a single before walking three and throwing a wild pitch. Joe Kelly relieved him and retired two batters before Teixeira drilled a 99 mph fastball over the center field fence for the strangest clincher maybe ever.

The hero on Wednesday should’ve been MVP candidate Mookie Betts, who chopped a two-run double into left field to break a scoreless tie in the eighth.

“I think we can be really dangerous,” Betts said. “I think we showed today how we grind through games — yesterday, even, too. We’re not going to be easy to beat.”

Before Betts’ heroics, the star was right-hander Clay Buchholz, who made a strong bid for the third spot in the postseason rotation by tossing six dominant one-hit innings. He did not allow a run, keeping the ball down and spending the night on the corners. He struck out six, walked two, and allowed just one hit — an infield single to Brett Gardner leading off the fourth.

The problem for the Red Sox was that Yankees starter Bryan Mitchell matched him with seven shutout innings, allowing just two hits. Mitchell did walk five — including the bases loaded in the fifth — but the Red Sox didn’t break through until the eighth, against the Yankees bullpen.

Catcher Sandy Leon reached on an error by second baseman Starlin Castro leading off and pinch runner Marco Hernandez took third on Dustin Pedroia’s ground-rule double. After Xander Bogaerts lined out to third and David Ortiz was intentionally walked, Betts chopped one in front of home plate that bounded high over third baseman Chase Headley and into left field for a two-run double.

Ortiz then scored aggressively on a wild pitch to give the Red Sox breathing room. He’ll get one final shot at October in his farewell season.

“It was crazy,” Ortiz said. “I wanted to celebrate on that field so bad. But it is what it is – at the end, being the first place team in the American League East, we’re going to celebrate anyway.”

Closing Time note

The Red Sox won the division for the fourth time in 22 years. Their last two division titles (2007, 2013) resulted in World Series titles.

(Rob Bradford contributed to this report.)

Read More: MLB Playoffs, Red Sox, Yankees,
Red Sox clinch American League East title when Orioles rally to defeat Blue Jays at 10:34 pm ET
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It turns out the Red Sox didn’t need to beat the Yankees after all.

The Red Sox clinched the American League East on Wednesday when the Orioles rallied from a 2-1 deficit in the ninth inning to beat the Blue Jays, 3-2, in Toronto.

It returns the Sox to the postseason as division champs for the first time since 2013, when they also went worst-to-first before winning the World Series.

The Orioles trailed 2-0 in the eighth in 2-1 in the ninth, but a pinch-hit two-run homer from Hyun Soo Kim off of Jays closer Roberto Osuna made the Orioles 3-2 winners. The game went final with the Red Sox still in the ninth inning against the Yankees.

Read More: Blue Jays, playoffs, Red Sox,
Stunned Red Sox players react to death of Jose Fernandez 09.25.16 at 12:39 pm ET
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The shocking death of Marlins ace Jose Fernandez in a boating accident on Sunday morning swept across baseball, with Red Sox players among the hundreds of players, coaches, and media offering their condolences.

Here’s a sampling of Red Sox reaction, gathered from social media.

Read More: David Price, Jose Fernandez, Jose Fernandez death, Marlins
Mookie Betts explains why he chose to perform ‘The Carlton,’ solicits more input on Twitter 09.23.16 at 11:40 pm ET
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With Red Sox teammates Brock Holt (left) and Jackie Bradley (center) looking on, Mookie Betts breaks out The Carlton on Friday. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

With Red Sox teammates Brock Holt (left) and Jackie Bradley (center) looking on, Mookie Betts breaks out The Carlton on Friday. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Mookie Betts let Twitter inspire him, and Friday night’s outfield dance might’ve been the group’s most zeitgeisty yet — The Carlton.

For those unfortunate enough not to have been born/paying attention in the early ’90s, The Carlton was the eponymous manic dance performed by actor Alfonso Ribeiro, whose character loved lusty 60s lounge singer Tom Jones. In real life, Ribeiro went on to win Dancing With the Stars in 2014.

After Friday’s 2-1 victory over the Rays, in which Betts went 3-for-4, the MVP candidate busted out the dance’s signature right-to-left “white man” grooves, as Eddie Murphy called them in Delirious.
Speaking to reporters in Tampa, Betts explained his process.

“I saw a couple of Twitter requests for The Carlton,” he said. “I want to switch it up each time. I may ask Twitter what the next dance should be.”

That said, Betts didn’t make the call until late in the game.

“No, that was on the spot,” he said. “In the eighth inning, I said. ‘Imma do the Carlton.’ That was on the spot.”

This obviously opens a world of possibilities.

“There are so many out there,” Betts said. “I need to know the night before so I can YouTube how to do it, and then go from there.”

After watching fellow outfielder Andrew Benintendi earn plaudits for his Michael Jackson homage on consecutive nights, and Jackie Bradley get rave reviews for his ski jumper, Betts wants to keep viewers on their toes.

“I feel like we’ve been escalating,” he said. “I want to do something different each time. They can do the same thing. It’s just your personal preference.”

Read More: mookie betts, Red Sox, The Carlton, Win dance repeat
Closing Time: David Ortiz homers again, bullpen makes it stand in 2-1 victory over Rays at 10:03 pm ET
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Red Sox slugger David Ortiz (right) hugs Hanley Ramirez after slamming a two-run homer on Friday in Tampa. (Kim Klement-USA Today Sports)

Red Sox slugger David Ortiz (right) hugs Hanley Ramirez after slamming a two-run homer Friday. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

The David Ortiz Show keeps getting better and better.

On a night when the Red Sox offense didn’t do much with Rays starter Chris Archer or the Tampa Bay bullpen, Ortiz gave the Red Sox all the runs they would need with a mammoth two-run homer in the first that proved decisive in a 2-1 victory.

The Red Sox won their season-high ninth straight game and lowered their magic number to clinch the division title to four. They maintained a 5 1/2-game lead over the Blue Jays, who beat the Yankees.

Ortiz, who will retire at the end of the season, is going out with a bang. He added a single that originally was a double before replay changed it, and finished the game hitting .319 with 37 homers and 124 RBIs, numbers that will be sure to earn him MVP consideration.

All in a night’s work for the ageless slugger, who remains the most feared bat in the Red Sox lineup.

Ortiz’s homer made a winner of left-hander Drew Pomeranz, who allowed four hits and a solo homer in five innings. Pomeranz, who hadn’t won in five starts since beating the Tigers on Aug. 20, was lifted after 78 pitches.

The bullpen took over from there. Joe Kelly, Robbie Ross, Matt Barnes, and Robby Scott combined to get the Red Sox to the ninth inning. With Koji Uehara and closer Craig Kimbrel unavailable, right-hander Brad Ziegler nailed down his fourth save with the Red Sox, stranding the tying run at second after a leadoff double.

Offensively, the other star of the game was MVP candidate Mookie Betts, who went 3-for-4 with a walk.

Closing Time note

Scott continues to impress. The rookie left-hander retired the only man he faced to end the eighth with the tying run on base. He now has started his career with five straight scoreless outings.

Read More: David Ortiz, Drew Pomeranz, Rays, Red Sox
Story behind Andrew Benintendi’s Michael Jackson dance 09.21.16 at 11:12 pm ET
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BALTIMORE — Andrew Benintendi wanted to be prepared.

So while waiting for his opportunity to star in the Red Sox’ outfielders’ celebratory victory dance, Benintendi did his due diligence.

“Oh, yeah. All the time,” said Benintendi when asked if he practiced his moves. “I’m always practicing.”

It paid off.

After hitting Wednesday night’s decisive three-run homer in a 5-1 win over the Orioles, all eyes — and fake movie cameras — turned to Benintendi after the final out. With Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. “rolling,” the rookie broke out a solid rendition of Michael Jackson’s strut, kick, and tippy-toes dance made famous by the video for “Billie Jean.”

“I grew up watching him on YouTube, his dances,” Benintendi said. “I thought it would be quick enough to do out there. Just wanted to add a little fun to that.”

Even though the maneuver had to follow up what has become Bradley Jr.’s popular ski jump, Benintendi’s execution seemed to be on point.

How would he grade himself?

“I’ll have to watch the video,” he said with a laugh.

Read More: Andrew Benintendi, Michael Jackson, Red Sox, Win dance repeat
Closing Time: Andrew Benintendi homers, Red Sox capitalize on error in win over Orioles at 10:15 pm ET
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Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia (15) soars over Baltimore's Jonathan Schoop (on Wednesday. (Evan Habeeb/USA Today Sports)

Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia (15) soars over Baltimore’s Jonathan Schoop (on Wednesday. (Evan Habeeb/USA Today Sports)

Suddenly, the Magic Number is six. Can anyone stop the Red Sox?

Saving their best baseball for the absolute right time of the year, the Red Sox capitalized on a huge error by Orioles first baseman Chris Davis to score five runs in the sixth, erase a 1-0 deficit, and cruise to a 5-1 victory.

The team’s seventh straight win left it on the cusp of completing its second straight four-game sweep, coming on the heels of four wins over the Yankees at Fenway Park. The seven-game winning streak is a season-high.

This one was in the balance until the sixth, when Sandy Leon grounded to Davis with the bases loaded and two outs. Instead of under-handing to pitcher Brad Brach covering, Davis threw a seed that eluded the pitcher, allowing two runs to score.

One pitch later, rookie Andrew Benintendi drilled a three-run homer over the right field fence to give the Red Sox a comfortable lead they would not relinquish.

Right-hander Clay Buchholz, making a bid for the final spot in the postseason rotation, stymied the O’s for seven innings, allowing three hits and one run, striking out four. The only Orioles run came on an Adam Jones sacrifice fly in the third. Otherwise, Buchholz cruised while improving to 8-10 and lowering his ERA to 5.00.

Coupled with Toronto’s loss in Seattle, the Red Sox opened a five-game lead over the Blue Jays and six games over the Orioles in the AL East. Their magic number now stands at six with 10 games to play, which should allow manager John Farrell to rest regulars down the stretch.

The Red Sox will try to complete the sweep on Thursday.

Closing Time note

The Red Sox have won Clay Buchholz’s last five starts. He’s 4-0 with a 3.09 ERA in his last six.

Read More: Andrew Benintendi, Clay Buchholz, Orioles, Red Sox
Closing Time: Hanley Ramirez (2 HRs) continues torrid September by lifting Red Sox to sweep of Yankees 09.18.16 at 11:42 pm ET
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Red Sox first baseman Hanley Ramirez (13) watches his three run home run during the fifth inning against the Yankees. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Red Sox first baseman Hanley Ramirez (13) watches his three run home run during the fifth inning against the Yankees. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Hanley Ramirez is not of this world. At the very least, no ballpark can contain him.

Ramirez continued one of the most torrid stretches of his career on Sunday against the Yankees by smashing two home runs, including the go-ahead shot in the seventh, to lift the Red Sox to a 5-4 victory and four-game sweep that might just deal a death blow to the Yankees’ playoff hopes.

Ramirez, who began the series with a dramatic game-winning three-run homer, ended it with a three-run homer in the fifth and then the solo shot over everything in left in the seventh to send the Red Sox to Baltimore for a four-game showdown with the second-place Orioles.

“I just was just listening from the dugout, ‘Make him pay, make him pay, make him pay,'” Ramirez said of the first homer, which got the Red Sox back in the game.

The Red Sox needed Ramirez’s heroics, because left-hander Drew Pomeranz once again struggled with his command, allowing seven hits and four runs in 3 2/3 innings, as well as another homer his 12th in 13 games.

Pomeranz got in trouble right off the top, allowing Brett Gardner to lead off the game with a double. He scored on a two-out single by Didi Gregorius.

The Yankees added another run in the third on the 16th homer of the season from catcher Gary Sanchez before chasing Pomeranz in the fourth. An infield single, double, and a walk loaded the bases, and the Yankees plated two runs with fielder’s choices before Farrell summoned right-hander Heath Hembree for the final out.

“Got in a few jams that I didn’t get myself out of,” Pomeranz said. “It’s kind of frustrating, a few balls that don’t leave the infield, but that’s baseball. They put them in the right spot and they did a good job. Most importantly, we won the game. This team’s amazing. It seems like we’re never out of reach. They really picked me up tonight. It’s really fun to watch.”

The Red Sox finally got to Yankees starter CC Sabathia in the fifth. Bryan Holaday led off with a double before Xander Bogaerts worked a one-out walk. Both runners advanced on Sabathia’s error after he caught Mookie Betts’ liner, but Ramirez rendered their respective choice of bases irrelevant with a line drive home run to left that made it 4-3.

“Everything, like I say, everything’s coming together,” Ramirez said. “When we need a big play, you know, it’s come. When we need a big rally, we’ve been doing it. Everything’s coming together at the right time.”

The Red Sox tied the game in the sixth after singles by Travis Shaw, Aaron Hill, and Jackie Bradley Jr. plated a run. David Ortiz pinch hit to a standing ovation, but struck out. The Red Sox failed to score.

No matter. Ramirez took care of everything in the seventh against reliever Tyler Clippard by unloading on an off-speed pitch and blasting deep into the night to give the Red Sox their four-game sweep and a two-game lead in the division.

MVP candidate Mookie Betts helped the Red Sox hang on with a pair of brilliant diving catches, including one on Gardner leading off the ninth.

Closing Time note

Reliever Koji Uehara closed it out in the ninth for his seventh save. His last three saves have come against the Yankees, including two in July before he suffered the pectoral injury that nearly ended his season.

Read More: Drew Pomeranz, hanley ramirez, Red Sox, Yankees
Red Sox lineup: Doubles machine David Ortiz gets night off as Sox look to complete sweep of Yankees at 6:42 pm ET
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David Ortiz

David Ortiz

David Ortiz has earned a night off.

The Red Sox DH, originally penciled in for the entire Yankees series, will skip Sunday’s finale to rest up for a four-game series with the Orioles that starts on Monday. He served as honorary captain at the Patriots-Dolphins game in Foxboro on Sunday afternoon.

“When I talked with David after Friday night’s game, in large part because of the number of times he was on base and the extent to which he ran, with a quick turnaround on Saturday, we talked about the upcoming two days — yesterday and today,” manager John Farrell said. “With the late-night arrival, likely four right-handed starters in Baltimore, felt like this was the day to give him down.”

Ortiz leads the league in doubles with 47, a feat Farrell considers even more impressive than his 34 homers.

“I would say, yes,” Farrell said. “Fortunately here, I don’t know how many have been ground-rule where he’s jogging into second base, but it was before the All-Star break where you look up and he’s already in the low 30s, and at that point you look up and it’s a little bit of a head-scratcher. To see that number of doubles hit in this, what would be his last year, that’s a crazy amount if you ask me. A crazy amount. He’s got a chance to have 50-plus doubles, 35-plus home runs. That’s a career for a lot of guys.”

Here’s the Red Sox lineup, with Drew Pomeranz facing Yankees lefty CC Sabathia.

Pedroia 2B
Bogaerts SS
Betts RF
Ramirez DH
Young LF
Shaw 1B
Hill 3B
Bradley Jr. CF
Holaday C

Read More: David Ortiz, Red Sox,
David Ortiz second-guessing decision to announce retirement before season 09.17.16 at 3:45 pm ET
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A winter jacket from the Blue Jays was one of the many gifts bestowed upon David Ortiz this season. (John E. Sokolowski/USA Today Sports)

A winter jacket from the Blue Jays was one of the many gifts bestowed upon David Ortiz this season. (John E. Sokolowski/USA Today Sports)

The 34 home runs. Not going on the disabled list all year. Simply having perhaps the best season ever by a retiring player. All impressive.

But what has been truly mind-blowing is David Ortiz’s ability to handle the requests of all those wanting one final piece of David Ortiz. It started on the first day of spring training, kicked up steam during Fort Myers’ golf cart presentation, and hasn’t stopped for a minute.

Gifts. Interviews. Public appearances. You name it. With just a couple of weeks left in the regular season, Ortiz can reflect on a sometimes uncomfortable challenge for his final season.

“No clue,” Ortiz told WEEI.com when asked if he had any idea the demands would be like this prior to the season. “But if I knew I would have probably announced it after the season. But it’s all good. At least we’ve been able to give the fans what matters the most, the opportunity to watch me play for the last time.”

“No, I haven’t, which I think is totally related to how well he’s performed this year, and also how accommodating he’s been to the media,” said Red Sox media relations director Kevin Gregg when asked if he has seen anything like the amount of requests given to Ortiz this season. “The thing with him is that it’s not just local media. It’s local, national and international. It’s been a ton.”

The last week or so has offered a microcosm of what Ortiz has had to deal with. In each of the Red Sox’ last three road stops — Oakland, San Diego and Toronto — the demands for the designated hitter’s time was non-stop. And being the last visits to those places, it only made it worse.

So by the time the Red Sox faced off with the Yankees this weekend, Ortiz knew enough to lay as low as possible.

“He knows when to shut down,” Gregg said. “He knows the media has a job to do and he does the best to help. Sometimes he needs to balance the preparation for baseball over what he’s doing for the media.”

“We’ve all come to know David, he’s a got an uncanny ability to, I don’t know whether you want to say compartmentalize,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell. “It’s almost like he operates best when there’s so many different things going on. He’s got a lot going on. He’s earned it. To watch him be able to focus in to get four or five at-bats, individual events, it’s pretty remarkable. On night games, he walks in at 12:30 in the afternoon and there’s a lot going on with him with some of the other things as it relates to his career, the final season, a number of personal things that he has going on. But he finds a way to balance it all and has not skipped a beat when it comes to the bottom-line numbers.”

Or, as Ortiz explained it, “There has been a lot. When I’m locked in playing the game I don’t worry about anything but playing the game.”

Ortiz has found a way to prioritize, which has been evident in the ability to stay health and produce on the field. But he also admits that it hasn’t been easy, a reality that, on Sept. 17, only becomes more evident. It’s another reason why those hoping for another season shouldn’t hold their breath.

“I don’t know how I’ve done it, but I have,” Ortiz explained. “I just don’t think I could put up with this again. I just can’t wait for this to be over because I’m pretty tired. Everybody wants a piece of you. But it’s all good.”

Read More: David Ortiz, Red Sox,
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