Jacoby Ellsbury nearly ready for rehab assignment

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From Gordon Edes of ESPN Boston comes word that Red Sox outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury is set to begin a minor league rehab assignment on Friday.

Ellsbury will start his rehab by serving as the designated hitter in simulated games at extended spring training in Fort Myers, Florida. If that goes smoothly, he will eventually be allowed to report to one of the organization’s minor league affilliates.

The 28-year-old center fielder has been on the disabled list since April 14 with a dislocated right shoulder. He registered a spectacular .321/.376/.552 batting line with 32 home runs, 105 RBI and 39 stolen bases across a league-leading 732 plate appearances last season and should provide a big spark for the Boston offense when he returns to major league action shortly after the All-Star break.

Red Sox beat Yankees 11-6 to clinch AL East for third consecutive season

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The Red Sox have clinched the AL East for a third consecutive season, beating the Yankees 11-6 in the Bronx on Thursday night. It’s the third consecutive season in which the Red Sox have won the division, the first time that’s ever been done in club history. In fact, the only other times the Red Sox won the division in back-to-back years were 1903-04 and 1915-16.

AL MVP candidate Mookie Betts went 4-for-5 with a two-run single in the second inning off of Masahiro Tanaka and a three-run homer in the eighth against Aroldis Chapman to put the game out of reach. Jackie Bradley and Brock Holt also hit homers. Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez was on the hook for five runs in 3 2/3 innings, but three of them scored when Heath Hembree inherited a bases-loaded situation, then served up a grand slam to Giancarlo Stanton in the fourth. The rest of the bullpen combined to fire five scoreless innings. Steven Wright had three of them followed by zeroes from Ryan Brasier and Craig Kimbrel.

With the loss, the Yankees’ lead over the Athletics for the first Wild Card slot shrinks to 1.5 games. Meanwhile, the Red Sox will try to clinch home field advantage throughout the playoffs. With a 104-49 record, their closest competitor is the 95-57 Astros. With nine games remaining in the regular season for the Red Sox, they would have to lose every game remaining in the regular season and the Astros would have to win their 10 remaining games in order to fail to claim home field advantage.