Game 156: Blue Jays at Red Sox - With East behind them, Sox focus on home-field

Ben Whitehead
Contributing Writer

Say it with me on the count of three.


OK, now that’s over with, time to focus on the next goal, which is clinch home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

The AL East Champion Boston Red Sox sit just two games up in the loss column with seven to go for the best record in the American League. Boston (94-61) is the first team to win a division in the AL and second overall (Dodgers clinched NL West a day earlier). The other two division leaders, Detroit in the Central and Oakland in the West, each could clinch within the next day or so. Oakland (91-63) has a Magic Number of 2 and is the team just two games back in the loss column of the Sox for the best record in the league. Detroit’s Magic Number is 3 and the Tigers are three games back at 90-64 – technically 3.5 games, but we’re just counting the loss column here.

It was a wild postgame party in the Red Sox clubhouse, on the field and perhaps, who knows, deeper into the night elsewhere. So forgive Boston if the team looks a little sluggish today. Typically, MLB teams of the past have given most of their starters a rest day after clinching. With a two-game lead for the best record, it wouldn’t surprise many to see a lot of younger, less-bearded faces today on the Fenway Park field. It’s very much evident in the starting lineup. Don't look too much into all of this. It's a chance for experimentation on the Red Sox part.

On the mound, however, will be Clay Buchholz, who looks to remain perfect. Buchholz is 11-0 with a 1.51 ERA. In two games since returning from the DL, Buchholz has pitched 11 innings and given up one run (none earned) on just five hits with nine strikeouts and five walks. It appears he is set up to be the No. 2 starter in the postseason after Jon Lester.

Here is the lineup for the Red Sox tonight (first pitch – 7:10 pm EDT):

1. Drew, SS
2. Victorino, CF
3. Ortiz, DH
4. Gomes, LF
5. Nava, RF
6. Middlebrooks, 1B
7. Bogaerts, 3B
8. Ross, C
9. McDonald, 2B

Buchholz, P

The AL East Champs will be facing one of the Toronto Blue Jays (70-83) best pitchers this season in Mark Buehrle. The lefty is 11-9 with a 4.17 ERA, but has lost each of his last two starts, giving up 10 earned runs on 18 hits in just nine innings.

This and that
The Red Sox also clinched a winning record against the Blue Jays. Boston is 10-7 against Toronto this season and has now won season series against three of the other four AL East teams. The only team Boston has a losing record against is Baltimore, trailing the series 7-9 with three games to play, in Baltimore to close out the season…Boston has 25 more wins than a season ago, the most for a Red Sox team since 1946. That team won 33 more games than the 1945 team.

What’s next?
We already mentioned the Red Sox have some work to do to ensure they will receive home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. If they do remain at the top and earn that right, they will be scoreboard watching for the Wild Card winners. Remember, two teams will earn a Wild Card spot and square off in a winner-take-all playoff game. The winner advances to the Division Series to face the team with the best record – in this case, the Red Sox.

Right now, there are six teams within 3.0 games of the top two spots. If the season ended after all the games Friday, the two teams facing off would be Cleveland and Tampa Bay. The Rays would host the Indians as the top Wild Card team with the winner traveling to Boston for the ALDS. Many scenarios could play out between now and next Sunday, so here are the standings for your viewing pleasure (Standings as of 5 pm EDT today):

Wild Card         W       L       GB
Tampa Bay        85      69     +1.0
Cleveland          84      70        -
Texas                  83      70      0.5
Kansas City        81      72      2.5
New York          82       73     2.5
Baltimore            81      73      3.0

Let us know what you think about tonight’s game by commenting below.

Like what you read? See more from Ben here.
Have a question or comment for Ben? Give him a shout on Twitter: @thebenwhitehead