BOSTON —The hard chopper bounced off first baseman Mitch Moreland's glove and high into the air. Second baseman Brock Holt jumped to glove the ball and flipped it to first, where David Price was covering.
When the Boston Red Sox needed him, Price was there.
The one-time ace came out of the bullpen in relief of Drew Pomeranz and squelched a dangerous seventh-inning rally on Saturday, helping the Red Sox beat the Houston Astros 6-3 and clinch the first back-to-back AL East titles in franchise history.
With the win, the Red Sox avoided a possible tiebreaker against the rival New York Yankees.
"That was important: Just get it done today," outfielder Hanley Ramirez said afterward in the Red Sox clubhouse, where music blared, the lockers were covered in plastic and players wore goggles to protect their eyes from the spray of beer and domestic sparkling wine.
With the Boston win, the Yankees were left with a wild-card spot and a one-game matchup against the Minnesota Twins for the right to play Cleveland in the best-of-five AL Division Series. The Astros' loss meant the Indians, with the tiebreaker over Houston and 101 wins entering Saturday, clinched the best record in the AL (see full recap).
Rockies clinch postseason berth with Brewers loss
DENVER — The Colorado Rockies sprayed soda around the clubhouse and even did a bit of dancing after clinching their first postseason berth since 2009.
Then, they had to go play a game - pressure free, of course.
Colorado sewed up the second NL wild-card spot courtesy of St. Louis' 7-6 win over Milwaukee on Saturday afternoon. Former Rockies pitcher Juan Nicasio recorded the final out for the Cardinals.
The Rockies will face Arizona in the NL wild-card game Wednesday night.
Colorado fans trickling into Coors Field before the game against Los Angeles let out a roar after the final out. The Cardinals-Brewers game was shown on the scoreboard.
In the clubhouse, the Rockies wildly celebrated after gathering in front of a TV. Ian Desmond showered his teammates with soda, Jonathan Lucroy raised his hands in triumph, Nolan Arenado let out a scream and Carlos Gonzalez broke into a dance (see full recap).
Nationals ace Scherzer exits with apparent leg injury
WASHINGTON — Nationals ace Max Scherzer has been pulled from his start against Pittsburgh because of an apparent injury to his right leg.
The NL East champions didn't provide immediate word on the extent of Scherzer's condition Saturday night.
Scherzer stumbled on a 2-2 pitch to Josh Bell in the fourth inning. Scherzer then began to throw a full-count pitch, but abruptly stopped when time was called.
Washington manager Dusty Baker, pitching coach Mike Maddux and team trainers visited the mound and quickly took out Scherzer.
This was Scherzer's final tuneup before the Nationals play the Chicago Cubs in the Division Series beginning Friday.
Scherzer leads the National League with 268 strikeouts. He is 16-6 with a 2.51 ERA.
The two-time Cy Young winner had given up one hit and struck out five in 3 1/3 scoreless innings when he was hurt.
Yankees get AL wild card; Judge hits 52nd HR
NEW YORK — In a way, manager Joe Girardi figures, Aaron Judge and some of the young New York Yankees without any postseason experience already have gotten the feel of playoff pressure.
The Yankees wound up with an AL wild-card spot Saturday, beating Toronto 2-1 on Judge's 52nd home run shortly before Boston clinched the AL East crown.
New York needed two wins and two losses by Boston to force a tiebreaker Monday at Yankee Stadium. Instead, the Yankees will host Minnesota in the wild-card game Tuesday.
"I started thinking about that the last couple of days where in a sense they're elimination games for us," Girardi said. "We were five down coming home from the road trip and our guys just continued to play well. They continued to play loose. They continued to make pitches, grind out at-bats and that was encouraging to me because it's not like we've had a chance to turn it off and I like that."
The wild-card winner will face Cleveland in the best-of-five AL Division Series. Boston, which beat Houston about 20 minutes after the Yankees won, is set to take on the Astros in the playoffs (see full recap).