Up next? Boston awaits ALDS opponent

Red Sox 1 1/2 games back for home-field advantage

Up next? Boston awaits ALDS opponent

NEW YORK -- The American League East champion Red Sox know that they will open their postseason run on Oct. 6 in Game 1 of the AL Division Series. They just don't know where they will play or who it will be against.

With four games left in the regular season, it will take at least a couple of days to sort itself out.

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If the season ended now, the 92-66 Red Sox would play the AL Central champion Indians (91-67) in the ALDS, with Game 1 being played at Fenway Park. If the Tribe vaults over Boston in the coming days, the series would start at Progressive Field.

If Boston and Cleveland finish with the same record, the Red Sox would have home-field advantage by virtue of winning the season series, 4-2.

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But there is another scenario, though not as likely. The Rangers are 94-65, which means the Red Sox could still catch them for the best record in the AL. The team with the best record would have home-field advantage throughout the postseason and play the winner of the AL Wild Card Game in the ALDS. What happens if Boston and Texas tie for the best record? In that case, the Rangers would get the No. 1 seed due to a better winning percentage within their division. The Red Sox and Rangers tied their season series, necessitating that second tiebreaker.

To top Texas, Boston would have to win three of its last four games, while the Rangers would have to lose their last three.

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It could be argued that the Indians would be the best first-round matchup for the Red Sox. Not only is Cleveland without key rotation members Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar due to injury, but ace Corey Kluber is now banged up with a quad strain that could leave him at less than 100 percent.

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However, that series would have a great subplot with Terry Francona, who guided Boston to World Series championships in 2004 and '07, managing against his former club for the first time in postseason play. Francona and Red Sox manager John Farrell are also close friends. Indians slugger Mike Napoli was also a popular figure for the 2013 squad that won the World Series.

The Red Sox play the Yankees one last time on Thursday, and then they will return home this weekend to host the AL Wild Card-leading Blue Jays. The Rangers return to action Friday, when they host the Rays. The Indians play the Tigers on Thursday, then finish out their season with a three-game set against the Royals in Kansas City.

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The ALDS and AL Championship Series will be broadcast on TBS, but start times have yet to be announced.

The Blue Jays and the Orioles are currently in possession of the two AL Wild Card spots, but the Tigers are one game back and the Mariners are in striking distance, with a two-game deficit.

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Boston would feel plenty confident in an ALDS matchup against Baltimore after last week's four-game sweep at Camden Yards. The Red Sox won the season series, 11-8.

Toronto might be the most dangerous potential opponent, with a loaded offense and a strong top of the rotation. The Sox and Blue Jays have played to an 8-8 standoff heading into this weekend's three-game set at Fenway.

The surprising Tigers, whose roster Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski is largely responsible for building, could be dangerous. Detroit has one of the best pure hitters in history in Miguel Cabrera, and ace Justin Verlander is having his best all-around season in a few years. The Tigers pulled off a sweep at Fenway Park from July 25-27 and the clubs split a four-game series at Comerica Park from Aug. 18-21. Rick Porcello, who has emerged into a 22-game winner for Boston this season, was drafted and developed by Detroit and played there from 2009-14.

"This is definitely special," Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia said of winning the division. "It's a special group, and I'm looking forward to the next step."

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.