Spot clinched, Red Sox still seek AL East title

Spot clinched, Red Sox still seek AL East title

BALTIMORE -- When the Red Sox clinched their ticket to the postseason early Thursday morning, they had just landed in Cincinnati.

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But even if they had still been at Camden Yards, where they downed the Orioles, 9-0, on Wednesday, you wouldn't have heard any champagne corks pop.

Hours after the Red Sox were done playing, the Indians defeated the Angels, 6-5, on the West Coast, to reduce Boston's magic number to zero for a postseason berth. At a minimum, the Sox will play in the American League Wild Card Game on Tuesday, Oct. 3.

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However, the Red Sox have a clear goal to win the American League East, and at 88-64, they lead the Yankees by three games with 10 left. The magic number for manager John Farrell's team to win the division for the second straight season is eight.

"Certainly it's a stepping stone toward other things that we have our sights set on," Farrell said of clinching a postseason berth. "But we've got a lot of work ahead of us."

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The Sox have led the division since Aug. 1, and they have no plans of relinquishing their spot in the standings. The Yankees have done their best to make it interesting, winning eight of their past 10.

The rivals don't play again this season.

"We can't worry about what they're doing," said Red Sox right fielder Mookie Betts. "We have to take care of our business. Scoreboard watching only gets you in trouble. Yeah, they're a great team, but we have to understand that we're the Red Sox. We have to take care of who our opponent is."

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Speaking of opponents, the Red Sox still aren't sure who they would play if they go on to win the AL East. As of now, they would be the No. 3 seed in the AL, and play the AL Division Series against Astros, who currently hold the AL's second-best record.

The Indians, at 95-57, are currently the top seed. If they hang on, they would play the winner of AL Wild Card Game in the other ALDS. Houston is 93-58.

Boston would have to make up a lot of ground to pass either the Indians or Astros for the No. 2 seed and home-field advantage in the ALDS.

The Red Sox play the Astros for the final four games of the regular season, but manager John Farrell might have to balance keeping his team properly healthy and rested entering the postseason versus trying to get home field at all costs.

Boston hasn't played the Astros since taking two out of three at Minute Maid Park from June 16-18.

The Sox and Indians met in last year's ALDS, with Cleveland pulling off a sweep. The clubs played a riveting season series this year, with the Red Sox taking four of seven.

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.