Jon Lester struck out eight in seven innings and Koji Uehara picked up a five-out save Friday as the Red Sox beat the Blue Jays 6-3 on Friday and clinched the AL East title.
Lester allowed just one run in seven innings to improve to 5-1 in his last seven starts. He’s turned in nine straight quality starts, allowing one run or fewer in five of them.
After Junichi Tazawa gave up a two-run homer and a single in the eighth, Uehara was called on to get five outs and did so for his 20th save. He did give up two singles along the way; it’s the first time since July 6 that he’s given up two hits in an appearances. It was the fourth time in the last month that he’s pitched over an inning for a save. The only reliever with more than four such saves this season is the Angels’ Ernesto Frieri with seven.
For the Red Sox, the win culminates a worst-to-first season that’s seen them go from 69-93 to 94-61 and counting. It’s their first AL East title since 2007 and just their since since 1995. They currently have the best record in baseball, setting them up to have home-field advantage throughout the postseason. That’s pretty big considering that they’re 52-27 at Fenway Park this year. The Red Sox haven’t won a postseason series since 2008, when they beat the Angels in the ALDS before losing to the Rays. They were swept by the Angels in the 2009 ALDS and they missed the postseason the following three seasons.
Cardinals shortstop Aledmys Diaz was childhood friends with Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez, so it was expected when Diaz took time away from the team on Monday to visit Fernandez’s family in Miami. They grew up on the same street in Cuba and played for the same youth baseball team and both would ultimately wind up playing Major League Baseball in the United States.
In the bottom of the fourth inning of Tuesday night’s game against the Reds, Diaz hit a 2-1 Robert Stephenson fastball out to left-center field for a no-doubt grand slam. Teammate Yadier Molina gave Diaz a tight hug as he crossed home plate.
Before Tuesday’s game, Diaz said that the best way to honor Fernandez was to play with his passion, as MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch reports. Diaz said, “I only play for [Fernandez’s] family right now.”
Here’s the video.
The Red Sox would have clinched the AL East if one of two things happened on Tuesday night: the Red Sox themselves beat the Yankees, or the Orioles defeated the Blue Jays. Neither happened.
The Jays soundly took down the Orioles 5-1 behind six strong innings from Aaron Sanchez. Josh Donaldson went 2-for-2 with a two-run home run and a pair of walks and leadoff batter Ezequiel Carrera went 2-for-3 with a solo homer, an RBI single, a walk, and three runs scored.
Meanwhile, at Yankee Stadium, the Yankees outlasted the Red Sox for a 6-4 win, responding to both two-run innings the Sox had in the sixth and seventh with a run in the sixth and two in the seventh. Gary Sanchez hit his 20th homer of the season. Didi Gregorius and Tyler Austin also contributed dingers. Starter Luis Cessa pitched well, limiting the Sox to two runs over six innings on five hits and a walk with two strikeouts. Red Sox starter David Price struggled, yielding six runs in 6 1/3 innings. Yankees reliever Tyler Clippard got into trouble in the ninth inning but was able to wiggle out of trouble to finish out the game.
Once again, the Red Sox will be able to clinch the AL East on Wednesday with a win over the Yankees or a Blue Jays loss to the Orioles.