NEW YORK -- Mark Teixeira was the one mobbed by his teammates at home plate, hitting a walk-off grand slam off Joe Kelly in the ninth inning to lift the Yankees to a 5-3 victory, but the Red Sox still celebrated their clinching of the American League East title on Wednesday evening at Yankee Stadium.
"So crazy," said Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz. "I wanted to celebrate on that field so bad, but it is what it is. We end up being the first-place team in the American League [East] and we're going to celebrate anyway."
Teixeira cleared the bases with a drive into the right-field bullpen following an ineffective relief appearance by Craig Kimbrel, keeping the Red Sox from holding an on-field celebration of their first division championship since 2013. Boston was crowned AL East champs by virtue of the Blue Jays' 3-2 loss to the Orioles at Toronto.
"That was fun. That's as good as it gets right there," Teixeira said. "I guess if you hit one to win the World Series, it might be just as much fun, but for the kind of season we've had -- we've been fighting all year. To come back from three runs down against one of the best closers in baseball, it shows a lot about our team."
It was the first time a team has clinched the division on the same day as a walk-off loss since the 2000 White Sox on Sept. 24, 2000, against the Twins.
Kimbrel was assigned to protect a three-run lead after the Yankees had been limited to one hit over the first eight innings, but he threw 28 pitches without recording an out. Brian McCann worked a bases-loaded walk off Kimbrel before Kelly was tagged with a blown save.
"It's pretty easy to put that one behind me after this," said Kimbrel in a champagne-soaked clubhouse. "Like John Farrell said, 'Don't get one game get in the way of the pleasure of what we did this year.' Personally, it was frustrating, but it will be easy to put it behind me."
The Yankees clinched their 24th consecutive winning season, and though they remain on the brink of elimination, were spared having to watch the Red Sox dance on their turf. New York is four games back of the second AL Wild Card spot and is either an O's win or Yanks loss from being officially eliminated.
"I don't think any time teams want to see players celebrate on your home field, no matter what the situation is," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "It's difficult, because it means in a sense that you didn't win your division or you didn't win your playoff round. No matter who it is, it's hard to watch, so it's nice."
Boston put the bubbly on ice with Mookie Betts' two-run, eighth-inning double off Adam Warren, awaiting its first celebration of any sort in the Bronx since the 2004 AL Championship Series. Betts' hit came on a chopper that darted down the left-field line following a Starlin Castro error, Dustin Pedroia's ground-rule double and an intentional walk to Ortiz.
One batter later, Big Papi dashed home with Boston's third run as a passed ball squirted by catcher Gary Sanchez. Boston's Clay Buchholz limited the Yankees to just Brett Gardner's fourth-inning infield single over six scoreless frames, while right-hander Bryan Mitchell held the most potent offense in the Majors to two singles over seven scoreless innings.
The Red Sox's opponent for the AL Division Series is still unsettled as they are battling with the Rangers and Indians for the best record in the AL. The team with the best record will play the winner of the AL Wild Card Game, and the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds will face each other.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED She's real fine, my 409: Teixeira cradled his 409th home run ball at his locker, stained with Gatorade but otherwise looking no worse for wear after its Statcast-projected 413-foot journey into the Yankees' bullpen. It was Teixeira's first regular-season walk-off home run and just the second of his career, joining his 11th-inning blast in Game 2 of the 2009 ALDS. Teixeira said he recognizes the very real possibility that the homer could be his last.
"You don't want a wall-scraper in a 8-0 game to be your last one; you want a walk-off grand slam against the Red Sox," Teixeira said. "I'll still be trying to hit the next four games, but if it just happens to be my last one, that'll be pretty special." More >
Pick your poison: With runners on second and third and one out in the eighth, and Ortiz looming, Girardi elected to give the lefty slugger -- 0-for-8 in the series -- an intentional walk. This, even with another Most Valuable Player Award candidate up next in Betts. The strategy backfired, as Betts chopped a two-run double just fair down the third-base line to give the Red Sox a 2-0 lead and put them on the verge of the division title. According to Statcast™, the double by Betts had a launch angle of minus-45 degrees, which is the lowest of the season on a ball that resulted in an extra-base hit. Ortiz reached a top speed of 18.3 mph when scoring on that passed ball, which is a season high for him on the bases.
Buchholz stays hot: Buchholz's late-season surge continues to be impressive, and increasingly important now that Drew Pomeranz is out of the equation for the postseason rotation. In his last seven starts, Buchholz is 4-0 with a 2.64 ERA.
"There's been a lot going on this whole year for me personally. It's definitely a special thing to be a part of," said Buchholz. "Hopefully this feeling we have in our mouth and doing all this tonight is going to push us through."
Life of Bryan: Mitchell had been 0-2 with a 6.23 ERA in his last three starts, including a no-decision against the Red Sox on Sept. 17, but the right-hander stepped up with his best outing of his abbreviated season as the Yanks tried in vain to keep Boston from celebrating at their home ballpark. Mitchell walked five and struck out two in a 94-pitch effort.
"I thought he pitched his best game of the year," Girardi said. "It was the first night I thought we saw the curveball that we saw at the end of Spring Training. I think it just took a while for him to get comfortable and to get going again, so it is a good note [to end on]."
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
This was the eighth division title in Red Sox history and it marked the second time Boston has clinched the division away from Fenway. The other occasion was in 1988 at Cleveland.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
The Red Sox challenged a call at second base in the fifth inning after Hanley Ramirez was caught stealing by Sanchez. After a review of two minutes and three seconds, the ruling on the field was confirmed.
WHAT'S NEXT Red Sox: Left-hander Henry Owens will make a spot start Thursday night in place of Pomeranz, who was scratched due to soreness in his left forearm. Owens has made just four starts for the Red Sox this season, and this is his first since Aug. 21. At Triple-A Pawtucket this season, he went 10-7 with a 3.53 ERA in 24 starts. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. ET, and the Yankees will honor Ortiz prior to the game with ceremony. It will be Ortiz's final rivalry game.
Yankees: Left-hander CC Sabathia will make his final start of the regular season on Thursday as the Yankees complete their three-game series with the Red Sox. Sabathia fired seven scoreless innings of four-hit ball in his last start on Sept. 24 at Toronto, but he settled for a no-decision. Sabathia is on a six-start winless streak, having last picked up a victory on Aug. 23 at Seattle.