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.
With a 6-1 win over the Twins in Sunday’s season finale, the Royals clinched the best record in the American League, which nets them home field advantage in the ALDS and ALCS. The Royals stand at 95-67 while the Blue Jays, who lost on Sunday, finish at 93-69.
95-67 is the Royals’ best record since finishing 97-65 in 1980, when they lost the World Series to the Phillies. Their division title is their first since 1985.
In the ALDS, which starts on Thursday, the Royals will host the winner of the AL Wild Card game between the Astros and Yankees. They are looking to avenge last year’s World Series loss, in seven games, to the Giants. The Blue Jays will host the Rangers in the other ALDS series.
Both the Astros’ and the Yankees’ fates were decided before their own games had completed on Sunday. The Rangers defeated the Angels, which clinched a Wild Card spot for the Astros. Then the Astros dropped Sunday’s season finale to the Diamondbacks, which clinched the first AL Wild Card slot for the Yankees. The Yankees are on their way to a loss against the Orioles as of this writing, but that will not affect anything now.
The Astros were in a 3-3 tie with the Diamondbacks in the seventh inning, but reliever Chad Qualls served up a two-run home run to Paul Goldschmidt. That would prove to be the deciding factor in a 5-3 loss.
The Yankees are losing 7-4 to the Orioles behind a subpar start by Michael Pineda and a shaky performance by the bullpen.
The MLB postseason opens up with the Yankees hosting the Astros on Tuesday in the AL Wild Card game. The winner moves on to face the Royals in Kansas City in the ALDS.