Red Sox win 3rd AL East title in 10 seasons

After two straight last-place finishes, club back on top

Red Sox win 3rd AL East title in 10 seasons

NEW YORK -- The joy was in all corners of the visitors' clubhouse on Wednesday night at Yankee Stadium, and it had everything to do with the journeys -- both individual and collective.

The Red Sox were American League East champions after two consecutive last-place finishes.

"This never gets old," said Red Sox owner John Henry. "We've got to stop doing this worst-to-first thing. It's a roller coaster."

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This year, the roller coaster went in the direction of thrilling. The division title was official once the Orioles came back to beat the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. At that point, the Red Sox were still on the field and leading by three against the Yankees.

Red Sox celebrate clinching East

If you thought the celebration would be subdued because it came after a 5-3 walk-off loss to the Yankees, it would be to lose sight of all it took for Boston to get to this point.

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The Red Sox's 22-game winner encapsulated the struggles several of his teammates went through to get to this point. On July 1, 2015, Rick Porcello had a 6.08 ERA.

How They Got There: Red Sox

But that was far from his mind on this night.

"It just feels good," Porcello said. "Baseball is a tough game. You go through a lot of ups and downs. At one moment you're extremely confident, another moment you're questioning yourself. It's part of the game and it's part of what you go through. You can't take it personally. You can't let emotion come into it too much, but it sure as hell feels good."

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Clay Buchholz could relate. The third-longest tenured player on the team behind David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia, the righty lost his spot in the rotation three different times this season. But he finished the regular season with a brilliant run and a lock to be in the postseason rotation. On clinch night, Buchholz fired six shutout innings against the Yankees.

"There's been a lot going on this whole year for me personally," said Buchholz. "It's definitely a special thing to be a part of. Hopefully this feeling we have in our mouth and doing all this tonight is going to push us through."

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The champagne tasted equally sweet to Hanley Ramirez. He was a profound disappointment at the plate in 2015 while playing out of position in left field. The right-handed hitter bounced back with a strong season at the plate and another new position he played well in first base.

"He's the best," infield instructor Brian Butterfield said of Ramirez. "He's respectful. He cares about winning. He's done a fantastic job for us. He's been fantastic in the clubhouse. He plays the game right."

Ramirez watched the team's young core of Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr. enjoy the division title and wondered what could have been if he had spent his entire career with the Red Sox rather than getting traded to the Marlins in 2005.

"Unbelievable," said Ramirez. "I'm really happy for the young guys. When I got here in '05 and got my first callup, they told me it's all about winning in Boston."

This October, Ramirez hopes to get a better sense of what that's like. Ramirez's respect for Ortiz and Pedroia and the tone they set in October is so deep that he is confident he'll be playing for a while this fall.

"They've done it before and it's a very, very good team in the playoffs," Ramirez said. "After what we've been through last year, I'm really, really happy to be here and be part of this."

For Pedroia and Ortiz, so loyal to the Red Sox for so long, the last two years were painful. But the payoff started on Wednesday.

"This is unbelievable," said Ortiz, having a monster final season at the age of 40. "You saw how the season ended last year and being able to be in the playoffs right now is something very special."

It is uncertain who the Sox will play in the AL Division Series, as they are still jockeying for position with the Indians and Rangers for best record in the AL. The Red Sox currently trail Texas by 1 1/2 games and lead Cleveland by a game. If the season ended now, Boston would play the Indians and Texas would play the winner of the AL Wild Card Game.

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To get to this point, the Red Sox ripped off an 11-game winning streak that ended on Monday.

"I feel pretty good," said Henry. "Let's put it this way: Where we are now, I wouldn't want to play us going into the playoffs, because this is a really talented team and really tough."

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.