ookie Betts helped Sox clinch the East
(c) Associated Press
Saturday's 6-3 loss to the Red Sox at Fenway cleared up the playoff picture in the American League with one day still remaining in the regular season. Drew Pomeranz pitched the Sox to a division clinching win over the Astros that assures these two teams will play each other in the first round starting next Thursday.
Pomeranz, who figures to be the Red Sox starter for Game 2 on Friday, outdueled Lance McCullers whose status for the playoff roster remains uncertain. Boston's left-hander held the Astros scoreless over the first six innings but ran into trouble in the seventh. McCullers looked sharp through three frames but ended up allowing five runs in 4-1/3 innings pitched.
McCullers has been dealing with injuries for most of the second half of the season and has pitched into the sixth inning only once in his last seven starts. Lance did rack up six strikeouts in the loss and although the Astros appear to have better options for the postseason rotation, he could be a candidate for a bullpen spot.
Lance started to struggle with his control with one out in the fourth inning of a scoreless game. After striking out Andrew Benintendi to start the frame, Lance issued a pair of walks with a wild pitch in between. A ground ball off the bat of Hanley Ramirez eluded Jose Altuve to plate Boston's first run and Rafael Devers followed with a double off the wall to make it 2-0.
Three consecutive hits with one out in the fifth made it 3-0 Red Sox and marked an end to McCullers' day. Tony Sipp was (not surprisingly) unable to strand the runners and Boston took a 5-0 lead to the sixth.
The Astros rallied in the seventh starting with Altuve's leadoff single that knocked Pomeranz out of the game. Carson Smith surrendered three straight hits to make it 5-2 and Sox skipper John Farrell called for David Price out of the bullpen. Two outs later, Tyler White drew a walk to load the bases but Price struck out George Springer to limit the damage.
Luke Gregerson gave up a leadoff homer to Mookie Betts in the bottom of the seventh and then proceeded to strike out the side. Brian McCann's ninth inning homer off Craig Kimbrel kept things interesting but the Sox relief ace would eventually strike out the side to nail down the win and the division title.
The two teams close out the regular season Sunday with a 2:05 CDT affair. Collin McHugh is scheduled to start for the Astros. The Red Sox have yet to announce their starting pitcher.
- Greg Thurston