Bob Nightengale got this one from Elias:
Meanwhile, the Yankees and the Orioles have been winning and losing practically in tandem. They haven’t been separated by more than one game in the standings since Sept. 3. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that’s the longest such streak in September or later since 1889 .
That’s cool, and I like that two teams are in a fight for the division title and that it matters.
There are other factoids in that piece, mostly surrounding the scramble for the wild card. I think that’s all fun, but in reality, most of the these sorts of things — team comes from the farthest back! — are the product of expanded playoffs and the notion that it is now the case that even the mildly-above-average will have a legit shot until the final week almost every year.
It’s excitement of a type, but it’s a function of the process, not a function of baseball teams doing anything different than they ever have before.
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.