What looked like an easy win for the Red Sox suddenly got tense Tuesday, after Jonathan Papelbon came into a 3-0 game and gave up a two-run homer to Jose Bautista with none out in the ninth.
Papelbon went on to surrender a single to Edwin Encarnacion with one out, a walk to J.A. Arencibia with two outs and then a John McDonald single to left that seemed poised to tie the game. The reason it didn’t is because Jason Varitek threw his left foot in front of home plate, blocking Encarnacion’s path to the base.
Sure enough, Varitek blocked Encarnacion’s left foot from the plate. However, Encarnacion’s right foot, trailing the left, clearly touched home before Varitek could apply the tag. Umpire Brian Knight called him out anyway, giving the Red Sox a 3-2 victory.
Despite losing Jon Lester to a strained lat after four innings, the Red Sox took a no-hitter into the sixth, when Bautista singled to break it up. The Jays had just two hits through eight before collecting four against Papelbon in the ninth.
It was the first time this season that Papelbon had given up four hits in an appearance, and he allowed his first runs since June 4. He’s 18-for-19 saving games this season despite a rather bloated 4.02 ERA.
Dustin Pedroia homered for Boston.
CC Sabathia‘s contract with the Yankees expires after the 2017 season but the lefty feels that he has enough left in the tank to pitch in 2018 and beyond, Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News reports.
Sabathia said, “I just know myself. I know I feel like it’s not my time yet. Barring any crazy injuries I know I can pitch past next year. I feel like this is just the beginning of what I’m trying to do. I feel like there’s a lot more still to learn and a lot better to get. It’s exciting.”
The 36-year-old lefty currently holds a 4.02 ERA and a 144/63 K/BB ratio in 172 1/3 innings. It’s his best and healthiest season since 2012. He battled a knee injury last season and checked into rehab for alcohol addiction last October. Sabathia said that being treated for his addiction put him “in a good spot.”
Sabathia is owed $25 million through a vesting option for the 2017 season.
The Red Sox can thank the Orioles for not having to fight to clinch the division on Thursday or later. The Orioles came from behind to defeat the Blue Jays 3-2 on Wednesday evening, clinching the AL East for the Red Sox.
A few minutes after that game went final, the Red Sox squandered a 3-0 lead taken in the eighth inning, culminating in a walk-off grand slam by Mark Teixeira in the bottom of the ninth inning. Closer Craig Kimbrel started the ninth, but didn’t have control over any of his pitches. He allowed a leadoff single followed by three consecutive walks to force in a run. Joe Kelly relieved Kimbrel and seemed to be close to wriggling out of the jam, getting Starlin Castro to strike out looking and Didi Gregorius to pop up. But after starting Teixeira with a first-pitch curve ball for a strike, Teixera clobbered a 99 MPH fastball, sending it over the fence in right-center to end the game.
For the Yankees, the come-from-behind victory was crucial as it staved off Wild Card elimination for one more day.
This is the first time the Red Sox have clinched the AL East since 2013, also the last year they won the World Series.