Red Sox

Red Sox fail again to clinch AL East, fall to Astros, 3-2

Red Sox fail again to clinch AL East, fall to Astros, 3-2

BOSTON — The Boston Red Sox are running out of chances to wrap up the A.L. East title.

Boston once again failed to clinch the division crown, losing to the Houston Astros 3-2 Friday night as Alex Bregman homered and drove in three runs.

The Red Sox magic number remained at one to close out the New York Yankees, who beat Toronto 4-0. Boston leads the Yankees by two games — both teams have two games left and they're each assured playoff spots.

After going 8-1 in their final road trip of the season, the Red Sox have slumped at home, losing two in a row and falling to 1-4 on their homestand. But Mookie Betts said no one is panicking inside the clubhouse.

"It's just go win one game," the star outfielder said. "Nobody said it's going to be easy. If it was easy, it wouldn't be fun  . . . We just got to go win one game."

If Boston and New York wind up even, they will play a one-game tiebreaker Monday at Yankee Stadium for the division crown. The loser would go to the wild-card game.

Hanley Ramirez doubled with two outs in the Boston ninth. But with the Fenway Park crowd rooting for a rally, Rafael Devers grounded out to end it, with Ken Giles getting his 34th save.

The A.L. West champion Astros won their fifth straight game and posted their 100th victory of the season. They are one game behind AL Central champion Cleveland for the best record in the league and home-field advantage in the A.L. playoffs.

"It's a big number and it takes six months to get there. I'm proud of our guys, obviously. We've got a couple games left. We'd like 102, plus 11 in October," Houston manager A.J. Hinch said.

Charlie Morton (14-7) retired the first 13 Red Sox batters before Mitch Moreland doubled with one out in the fifth inning.

Morton allowed four hits in 5 1/3 innings. Four relievers combined to blank Boston on one hit.

A day after the Astros routed Boston 12-2, they took a 1-0 lead in the third on Bregman's RBI single off Doug Fister (5-9). Bregman, who had three hits, had a two-run homer in the fifth.

"The obvious thing is to go out and put together a solid game and win," Boston manager John Farrell said. "Our destiny is controlled by us, particularly as it relates to the final two days in the division. We've got to go out and win a game."

CLOSE CALLS

Boston pulled within 3-2 and had the bases loaded in the sixth, but Ramirez grounded out. Dustin Pedroia got aboard with a walk in the eighth, but pinch-runner Brock Holt was caught trying to advance on a curveball in the dirt by Chris Devenski. The play was challenged by Boston and held up after review.

Holt said he got exactly the scenario he hoped he would.

"I was looking for him to bounce one, and he bounced one. The catcher made a perfect play."

ASCENDING ASTROS

Houston has won 13 of 15. The Astros reached 100 wins for the second time in team history, having won 102 in 1998.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Red Sox: INF/OF Eduardo Nunez (knee) took groundballs and ran sprints, but manager John Farrell said he is "still not game ready."

UP NEXT

Astros: RHP Lance McCullers Jr. (7-3, 4.01 ERA) has battled injuries in the second half, limiting him to just five starts since the break.

Red Sox: LHP Drew Pomeranz (16-6, 3.38) is 3 1/3 innings shy of setting a new career high for innings (170 2/3 in 2016)

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Martinez tells Red Sox he would DH, but others want him as outfielder

Martinez tells Red Sox he would DH, but others want him as outfielder

Free agent slugger J.D. Martinez has told the Red Sox he would DH and play the outfield for them, a baseball source said Friday.  The flipside: teams are offering Martinez a full-time outfield job, and he enjoys playing the outfield.

Martinez, the best bat available via free agency, visited with teams at the winter meetings this week.

Michael Silverman of the Herald wrote Friday that Martinez has been telling teams he prefers to play the outfield, and suggested the Sox will have to pay a bit more to land Martinez.

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“Martinez remains open to being a DH so his preference to play defense regularly does not eliminate the Red Sox from signing Martinez,” Silverman wrote. “It does, however, put them in a position of having to make an aggressive offer that would distance themselves from competing offers where teams can present a corner outfield position. 

“Just what defines aggressive is something only Martinez and his agent Scott Boras will ultimately determine.”

The market could start to move a bit now, although that doesn’t mean anything is necessarily imminent. Another baseball source on Friday night noted that the market has started to thaw with Carlos Santana off the board. He agreed to a three-year, $60 million deal with the Phillies.

The Red Sox made an offer for Santana, but the offer made clear that Santana was not their primary choice. In other words, it wasn't close to what Santana ended up with.

A scenario in which Jackie Bradley Jr. is traded to make room for Martinez in the outfield seems reasonable, even if the Red Sox and Boras, who represents Bradley, have both downplayed that possibility.

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Scratch another Red Sox' target - Santana goes to Phillies

Scratch another Red Sox' target - Santana goes to Phillies

The Red Sox options for a power bat grew fewer and likely more expensive Friday when former Cleveland Indians first baseman Carlos Santana agreed to a three-year, $60 million contract with the Philadelphia Phillies. 

Jon Heyman of FanRagSports.com and MLB Network was first to report the Santana deal, which comes as somewhat as a surprise with the rebuilding Phillies making a free-agent splash.  

The Red Sox reportedly met with Santana earlier this offseason. Alex Speier of the Boston Globe reported that the Sox offered a three-year deal to Santana that wasn't in the range of the Phillies. 

He doesn't hit for a high average (.249 career), but his combination of power and walks gives him a career OPS of .810. Last season he hit .259 with 23 homers and 79 RBI and an .818 OPS, and over his career, he has averaged 25 home runs and 85 RBI over 162 games. 

That Santana was able to command a $20-million-a-year deal from the Phillies likely raises the price of the other power bats the Sox had reportedly targeted, J.D. Martinez and Eric Hosmer.