Red Sox

Had 'em all the way: Red Sox finally wrap up A.L. East

Had 'em all the way: Red Sox finally wrap up A.L. East

BOSTON — Only with gray skies and uncomfortable intrigue did the Red Sox finally close out their second straight American League East title, an appropriate backdrop for a season that was sometimes stormy but ultimately rewarding.

The Sox on Saturday simultaneously ensured their division crown and their Division Series match-up against the Astros, who fell 6-3 to the Sox at Fenway Park in the clincher. An improved Drew Pomeranz and huge seventh-inning outs from David Price ended the Astros’ chances of catching the Indians for home-field advantage in the American League, thereby finalizing the Sox as their first-round opponent.

This is the ninth division title for the Sox since the AL East was formed in 1969, and their first time doing so in back-to-back years.

The Division Series starts in Houston on Thursday, before returning to Fenway Park for at least one game on Oct. 8, a week from Sunday. The Sox have one more game to play in regular season, one game to actually breathe easy, on Sunday.

A loss for the Sox would have forced them to pitch Chris Sale on Sunday, because the Yankees won their game Saturday afternoon, 2-1 over the Blue Jays. Had the Sox lost on Saturday, the lead in the division would have been down to just one game going into the final game of the regular season. Using Sale would have meant he wouldn’t be ready for Game 1 of any Division Series, and worse.

Drama — and potential crisis — averted.

Facing one of the Astros’ expected postseason starters, righty Lance McCullers, the Sox struck first in the fourth inning for two runs, capitalizing on consecutive one-out walks to Mookie Betts and Mitch Moreland. Hanley Ramirez struck right away for an RBI single, and Rafael Devers’ double made it 2-0.

The Sox, for once, appeared comfortable in the fifth inning, knocking out McCullers as they pulled out to a 5-0 advantage. The action came again with one out, when Xander Bogaerts got things going with a double and a pair of singles followed, one from Andrew Benintendi to make it 3-0 and another from Mookie Betts that put two men on.

After a double steal, a double from Moreland — who gave the Sox much more than they could have hoped for at the plate — grew the lead to 5-0.

Pomeranz, who showed improved velocity after an uncomfortable dip in September, allowed just three hits and two walks in his six innings.

Price, pitching on back-to-back days for the first time with the Sox, got three key outs in the seventh after the Astros had scored twice against Pomeranz and Carson Smith.  Mookie Betts hit his 24th homer in the seventh and Craig Kimbrel allowed a home run to his old former Braves catcher Brian McCann before getting the final outs for the save. 

Report: Ex-Red Sox reliever Reed gets deal with Twins

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Report: Ex-Red Sox reliever Reed gets deal with Twins

He was dubbed "Closer B" by Red Sox manager John Farrell when acquired at the trade deadline last summer, now Addison Reed is "Closer B Gone"...to the Twins.

The right-handed reliever, 29, has agreed to a two-year, $16.75 million free-agent deal with Minnesota, pending a physical, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports and TheAthletic.com reports. 

Reed began last season with the Mets and had 19 saves and a 2.57 ERA before being traded to the Red Sox, where he had a 3.33 ERA in 29 games (27 innings) without a save as a setup man for Craig Kimbrell.  
 

Red Sox, Mookie Betts far apart on salary and heading toward arbitration

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Red Sox, Mookie Betts far apart on salary and heading toward arbitration

The Red Sox and star right fielder Mookie Betts intend to go to an arbitration hearing in February, and there were signs this was coming even a year ago.

Betts was the only arbitration-eligible player on the Red Sox who did not settle on a contract with the team on Friday, when a deadline arrived for all teams and arbitration-eligible players to exchange 2018 salary figures. Jackie Bradley Jr., Xander Bogaerts and Drew Pomeranz were the biggest names to avoid hearings.

Betts filed for a $10.5 million salary and the Red Sox filed at $7.5 million.  Betts and the Red Sox agreed previously that if no figure could be settled on by the Friday deadline, they would proceed to a hearing, assistant general manager Brian O'Halloran said. 

A three-person panel of arbitrators therefore is set to determine what Betts makes in 2018: either the $7.5 million figure the Sox filed or the $10.5 million figure Betts' camp submitted. The arbitrators won't settle on a midpoint for the parties. 

O'Halloran noted to the Globe there are no hard feelings involved.

Nonetheless, such a large gap would seem to provide incentive to settle. The parties technically could still decide to do so, but that would take a change of course from the present plan. The idea was to settle any time before Friday, and they did not. 

Betts is asking for near-record money for a first-year arbitration eligible player. Kris Bryant set the record Friday with a $10.85 million settlement.

The hearings can be difficult for player-team relations because teams have to make the case in front of the player that he is worth less money than he wants.

Betts, 25, hit .264, with 24 homers, 102 RBI, 25 stolen bases and a .803 OPS in 2017, numbers that fell from his American League MVP runner-up performance in 2016, but were nonetheless very strong and coupled with first-rate defense.

This offseason is Betts' first of arbitration eligibility. In the first three years of service time in a players' career, there's no recourse if you don't like the salary a team is offering. Teams can pay players anything at league minimum or above. 

The only option a player has in those first three years is to make a stand on principle: you can force the team to technically "renew" your salary, which notes to everyone that you did not agree to the salary. Betts and his agents did that in 2017 when the Sox paid him $950,000, a very high amount relative to most contract renewals.

Some of the standard thinking behind forcing a team to renew a contract is that if an arbitration case comes up down the road — and one now looms for Betts — it's supposed to show the arbitrators that the player felt even in seasons past, he was underpaid.

Still, the Sox may have effectively combatted that perception by paying Betts almost $1 million on a renewal. Per USA Today, that $950,000 agreement in 2017 was "the second-highest one-year deal ever for a non-arbitration-eligible player with two-plus years of big league service." Mike Trout got $1 million in 2014.