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Closing Time: Red Sox offense goes cold in David Ortiz’s final game in Yankee Stadium 09.29.16 at 10:26 pm ET
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Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz is greeted by former Yankees closer Mariano Rivera on Thursday. (Anthony Gruppuso/USA Today Sports)

Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz is greeted by former Yankees closer Mariano Rivera on Thursday. (Anthony Gruppuso/USA Today Sports)

On the heels of their second AL East crown in four years, the Red Sox called off the dogs.

With Henry Owens making just his fifth start of the year and a host of regulars resting, the Red Sox dropped a 5-1 decision to the Yankees on Thursday that completed New York’s sweep.

One night after the Red Sox clinched the division, Owens allowed four hits and two runs in 4 2/3 innings, walking two and striking out six. It was a serviceable effort, all things considered, from a pitcher who hadn’t made an appearance in three weeks.

It didn’t take long for the Yankees to jump on the 24-year-old, however, as cleanup hitter Starlin Castro doubled to plate Jacoby Ellsbury in the first inning. In the fifth, Ellsbury smacked an RBI double of his own to put the Yankees back up 2-1.

The Red Sox offense made C.C. Sabathia look like he was in his mid-2000’s form, managing four hits and a run off the lefty over seven innings while striking out eight times. Xander Bogaerts served as one of the few sources of offense, driving his 21st home run of the season in the fourth inning.

David Ortiz struck out and walked in his final game against the Yankees before being replaced by Brock Holt. Ortiz was honored before the game by former opponent Mariano Rivera, as well as with a book full of testimonials from Yankees greats.

Closing Time note

David Ortiz’s eight strikeouts at Yankee Stadium this season are the most of any ballpark outside of Fenway.

WHAT WENT WRONG

— The bullpen didn’t do its part in the game in the sixth. After Heath Hembree allowed a walk and single, Robby Scott loaded the bases and proceeded to walk in a run and let another in on a passed ball.

— The battery of Owens and Ryan Hanigan had trouble catching baserunners, allowing a pair of stolen bases.

— The Red Sox grounded into a pair of double plays.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

— Bogaerts tied the game with a solo shot in the fourth inning. The 21st dinger for the 23-year-old keeps him fifth on the team in home runs.

— After allowing a single to start the inning, Junichi Tazawa shut down the rest of the Yankees batters in the seventh, including a strikeout of slugger Gary Sanchez.

Read More: henry owens, Red Sox, xander bogaerts, Yankees
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,
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
Andrew Benintendi explains how lights got in way of Red Sox win 08.11.16 at 11:13 pm ET
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Andrew Benintendi

Andrew Benintendi

It was just two nights ago when Andrew Benintendi stood in front of the television in the middle of the Red Sox’ clubhouse answering questions after his team’s win. It is the spot usually reserved for players who have had the biggest impact on the game’s outcome, a description that certainly fit the rookie after his three-hit game.

This time, the get-together was under entirely different circumstances.

Benintendi offered 54 seconds of explanations for what was the pivotal play in the Yankees’ 4-2 win over the Red Sox Thursday night in the same very spot he stood 48 hours before.

“It went in the lights, but that’s no excuse,” he said. “I should have caught it.”

What the Red Sox’ left fielder was referencing was the Jacoby Ellsbury line drive hit virtually right at him in the eighth inning, bringing in two runs and giving the visitors a lead they wouldn’t surrender. (To see the play, click here.)

The play came with one out, the bases loaded, the Red Sox leading by a run, and reliever Brad Ziegler on the mound. On a 2-0 pitch, Ellsbury hit a ball that Benintendi had to move slightly to left. But at the last moment, the 22-year-old had the ball skip past his outstretched glove, resulting in what was ruled a double.

“I think it was just one of those things. Not much you can do about it,” Benintendi said. “I tried to put my glove up where I thought it was going to be. It just went right over my glove.”

He added, “I saw it off the bat, but as I made my way to the left the ball is coming back to me and it went into the lights.”

Read More: Andrew Benintendi, Red Sox, Yankees,
Craig Kimbrel on knee after brutal outing: ‘It’s something I’m going to battle with until it’s all gone’ 08.10.16 at 12:30 am ET
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Red Sox manager John Farrell (right) lifts closer Craig Kimbrel (46) in the ninth on Tuesday. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Red Sox manager John Farrell (right) lifts closer Craig Kimbrel (46) in the ninth on Tuesday against the Yankees. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

After one of his worst outings of the season, Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel revealed that his surgically repaired left knee continues to give him trouble.

He certainly didn’t look right in Tuesday’s 5-3 win over the Yankees, walking four to force in a run before being lifted in favor of right-hander Matt Barnes, who nailed down the victory with a strikeout of Mark Teixeira to earn the first save of his career.

“I walked four guys,” Kimbrel said. “I mean, I was out there watching the same game y’all were. I didn’t have my best stuff tonight. In that situation I tried to make pitches to get strikeouts, I didn’t really want them to put the ball in play. Bad day, bad night. But, on the positive side, we still won the game. We put this outing behind us and we go into tomorrow.”

The performance wasn’t as concerning, in some respects, as what Kimbrel said after. He acknowledged that his knee continues to give him trouble, a month after surgery, though he stopped short of blaming it for Tuesday’s woes. He had never walked four batters in less than an inning.

“When you’re sore, does it affect you?” he said. “I wouldn’t say it affected me in my performance, but I definitely, it’s something I’m going to battle with until it’s all gone. I’m still four weeks out of surgery. I’m good enough to pitch, I’m good enough to play, but it’s not going to affect me each and every night.”

Barnes, meanwhile, got the job done, continuing a breakout season as one of manager John Farrell’s most reliable arms.

“With the two left-handers coming, just wanted the power, particularly against Teixeira where we’ve seen that power kind of works as a better matchup,” Farrell said. “And how he [Barnes] has been with men on base this year. He has been outstanding as far as stranding inherited runners. No more important time than tonight.”

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Read More: Craig Kimbrel, John Farrell, matt barnes, Red Sox
Rick Porcello won’t reveal what Chase Headley did to set him off, sparking near-brawl between Red Sox, Yankees at 12:09 am ET
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Rick Porcello won his 100th career game on Tuesday night. He became baseball’s third 15-game winner. He improved to 11-0 at Fenway Park.

But all anyone will want to talk about is the near-brawl he incited by barking at Yankees third baseman Chase Headley in the seventh inning of a 5-3 victory.

Headley led off with a double to center that took a funny hop off the scoreboard and briefly eluded center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr., who recovered to fire an off-balance strike to third with Headley attempting to stretch the play into a triple.

The perfect one-hop throw nailed Headley at the bag and he stayed down on the field, perhaps hoping for a replay challenge. Porcello advanced toward him, pointed toward his eyes and then behind him, the two exchanged words and the dugouts emptied.

So what prompted it?

“I don’t really have anything to comment on that,” Porcello said. “That’s baseball stuff. Happens down on the field, and just going to let it stay there between me and Headley.”

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Read More: brawl, Chase Headley, Red Sox, rick porcello
Closing Time: Andrew Benintendi, Rick Porcello, fracas highlight Red Sox win 08.09.16 at 10:23 pm ET
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Andrew Benintendi notched his second career three-hit game. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Andrew Benintendi notched his second career three-hit game. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Most knew this was probably going to have the feel of an important game.

For the Red Sox, the stakes of their showdown with the Yankees on Tuesday night were obvious. Coming off a 5-6 road trip, with the comfort of six home games staring at them, John Farrell’s team needed to get things going in order to keep pace in the playoff race.

And thanks in part to the electricity supplied by rookie Andrew Benintendi, another lock-down outing from Rick Porcello, and even a bench-clearing fracas in the seventh inning, the atmosphere didn’t disappoint.

The Red Sox kicked off a stretch of 23 games in 23 days with a spirited 5-3 win over the Yankees at Fenway Park, helping the hosts keep pace in the race for both the American League East and Wild Card.

Leading the way was Porcello, who improved to 11-0 at Fenway this season. The righty claimed his 15th win of the season, giving up just two runs on seven hits over eight innings. He also struck out six and walked just one.

It marked the first time in Porcello’s career he has totaled at least eight innings in three straight starts, having come off back-to-back complete games.

“Yeah, he was very strong once again,” manager John Farrell said. “Like many of his starts this season, he gets to that middle portion of the ballgame and really begins to settle in. I thought he had very good feel for his changeup and his curveball once again, sinker in the bottom of the zone. Eight strong innings. Just an outstanding job on his part. Two opportunities for shutdown innings, he continues to execute them very well.”

Spearheading the offense was Benintendi, who claimed his second three-hit game while putting his batting average at .500 (8-for-16) for his brief major league career.

“My job as the guy hitting in the nine-hole was to get on base and to flip the lineup, and that’s what my approach was today, and it worked out,” Benintendi said.

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Read More: Andrew Benintendi, brawl, Craig Kimbrel, Red Sox
Yankees sign former Red Sox reliever Tommy Layne at 10:03 am ET
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Tommy Layne won’t have far to travel to join his new team.

The former Red Sox reliever, designated for assignment and then released last week to make room for fellow lefty Fernando Abad, signed a big-league contract with the Yankees, the team announced, and will be added to the 25-man roster with New York opening a three-game series with the Red Sox on Tuesday.

Layne, 31, went 0-1 with a 3.77 ERA in 34 appearances with the Red Sox. Outstanding against left-handed hitters last year (.148 average, .418 OPS), Layne took a step back in that regard this year (.259, .688), which made him expendable in favor of Abad.

Read More: Red Sox, tommy layne, Yankees,
Report: Yankees could release Alex Rodriguez before end of season 08.02.16 at 1:17 pm ET
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Alex Rodriguez

Alex Rodriguez

The Yankees purged four veterans from their roster in the days leading up to the trade deadline, but they may set their biggest fish free before the end of the season.

According to a report in the New York Daily News, the Yankees are considering releasing controversial slugger Alex Rodriguez, whose playing time has disappeared along with his production.

The 41-year-old A-Rod, who sits four homers shy of 700 for his career, is owed the remainder of his $21 million salary this year, as well as a guaranteed $21 million next year. The Yankees are expected to try to move on from him over the winter, but they may accelerate their timetable. From the story:

While the more likely scenario still seems to be parting ways with A-Rod over the winter, a source familiar with the situation told the Daily News on Monday that there’s a chance releasing the slumping DH “could happen” before the end of this season as part of the team’s ongoing overhaul.

If the Yankees part ways with Rodriguez, it’s possible his career is over. As it stands now, he ranks fourth all-time in homers behind only Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, and Babe Ruth, and third in RBIs (2,084), behind Aaron and Ruth.

Read More: Alex Rodriguez, Yankees,
Indians acquire reliever Andrew Miller from Yankees to fortify bullpen 07.31.16 at 10:23 am ET
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Andrew Miller

Andrew Miller

The road to the World Series might suddenly pass through Cleveland.

The Indians, already in talks to acquire All-Star catcher Jonathan Lucroy from the Brewers, struck aggressively on Sunday morning, announcing that they had landed All-Star left-handed reliever Andrew Miller from the Yankees for four prospects.

The deal reunites Miller with manager Terry Francona, who oversaw the very start of his transformation from middling starter to dominant setup man in 2011 with the Red Sox.

It also makes the Indians, who lead the American League Central by 4 1/2 games, formidable contenders. Cleveland is 59-42, two games behind the Rangers for the best record in the American League.

Miller, 31, is in the midst of his best season. He’s 6-1 with a 1.39 ERA and 77 strikeouts in just 45 1/3 innings. He has matched or set career highs in strikeouts per nine (15.3) and strikeout rate (44.8 percent). He is signed through 2018 at $9 million annually.

Whether he closes or sets up for current closer Cody Allen, Miller gives Francona a dominant option at the end of games, as well as a weapon from the left side on an overwhelmingly right-handed staff.

The price was steep and points to the difficulty of completing deals in this current seller’s market. The Indians parted with outfielder and top-25 overall prospect Clint Frazier, as well as left-hander Justus Sheffield, and right-handers Ben Heller and J.P. Feyeresien.

Sheffield, the 31st pick in the 2014 draft, is considered a top-100 prospect by Baseball America and MLB.com.

Read More: andrew miller, Indians, MLB trade rumors, Red Sox
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