Red Sox

Red Sox beat Reds 5-4, reduce A.L. East magic number to three

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Red Sox beat Reds 5-4, reduce A.L. East magic number to three

CINCINNATI -- Mookie Betts wasn't about to stop. Neither are the Red Sox, who are heading home with a chance to win another division title.

Betts doubled with the bases loaded to tie it in the eighth inning and dashed home from second base on an infield single, rallying the Red Sox to a 5-4 victory Sunday that moved them closer to an AL East championship.

By winning 14 of its last 17 games, Boston has left virtually no opening for the second-place New York Yankees to catch up. The Red Sox, already assured a playoff spot, completed an 8-1 road trip that put them in excellent position to win a second consecutive division crown, something they've never done.

Coupled with New York's 9-5 loss in Toronto, the Red Sox reduced their magic number to three. They lead the Yankees by five games with seven to play.

That means Fenway Park can start preparing for a potential celebration. Boston finishes the regular season at home with three games against Toronto and four vs. Houston.

"We're learning a lot about ourselves," said Doug Fister, who pitched into the sixth. "We can put ourselves in a corner early and fight back. If we need a touchdown, the boys can put up a touchdown."

Boston inched closer with more late-game flair. The Red Sox lead the majors with 11 wins when trailing after the seventh inning.

They loaded the bases against Raisel Iglesias (3-3), who had blown only one save chance all season. Betts had fouled a ball off his foot on Friday night and missed one game. His double tied it 5-all, and he sprinted home on the still-sore foot - diving headfirst into the plate - on Rafael Devers' infield single.

"I felt he had a chance to beat it, and with me running it was going to be a tough play at the plate," Betts said.

Robby Scott (2-1) got the win, and Craig Kimbrel pitched the ninth for his 35th save in 39 chances. He hasn't allowed a run in his last 11 appearances.

Billy Hamilton helped the Reds go up 4-1. He tripled home a run and brought the crowd to its feet by scoring after getting caught in a rundown between first and second. Second baseman Dustin Pedroia made a wild throw, and Hamilton kept going when nobody covered home.

"In my whole career, that's one of the best ones, especially since I was in a rundown and just trying to get to second base and then I end up scoring," Hamilton said.

GOT THEIR BACKS

Red Sox and Reds players stood for the national anthem. Boston manager John Farrell said if any of his players decide to follow the example of other athletes and make a statement during the anthem, he'll support them. "We strive to create an environment that's inclusive," Farrell said. "We would have their back as an organization if that's the expression they chose. It's their constitutional right."

INTERLEAGUE

The Red Sox are 12-1 against the Reds all-time in the regular season and have won nine straight, their longest winning streak against any NL team since interleague play started in 1997. The Reds beat the Red Sox in seven games for the 1975 World Series championship. Overall, Boston is 16-4 in interleague play this season. The Reds are 5-15.

90 LOSSES AGAIN

The Reds reached the 90-loss mark for the third straight year. They lost 98 games in 2015 and 94 last year. It's the first time they've had three straight 90-loss seasons since 1930-34.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Red Sox: INF Eduardo Nunez ran the bases before the game, his next step in recovering from a sprained knee.

Reds: Hamilton was back in the lineup after getting a day off. He's played twice since returning from a broken left thumb.

UP NEXT

Red Sox: LHP Drew Pomeranz (16-5) faces Blue Jays LHP Brett Anderson (1-2) on Monday night. Pomeranz is 7-1 with a 2.62 ERA in 13 starts since the All-Star break.

Reds: After a day off, they finish with three games in Milwaukee and three at the Chicago Cubs. Deck McGuire (0-0) makes his first major league start Tuesday night against Zach Davies (17-9).

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Check out the Red Sox's luxurious plane for London trip

Check out the Red Sox's luxurious plane for London trip

The Red Sox are flying in style on their trip to England.

As they departed Boston to meet the Yankees in London for a two-game series between the archrivals, slugger J.D. Martinez showed off the inside of the team plane via his Instagram story.

It turns out being a professional athlete has its perks.

The Red Sox will have a much-needed off day on Thursday, then it'll be Rick Porcello taking the hill in the first game of the series Friday at 1:10 p.m. ET. Eduardo Rodriguez gets the start in Saturday's matchup at 10:10 a.m. ET.

The Yankees will be without slugger Giancarlo Stanton for the series, as he has been placed on the injured list with a strained posterior collateral ligament in his right knee.

Check out the unique field setup for the London Series here >>

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Matt Barnes, Red Sox bullpen finally crumbling under weight of overuse and it's time for Dave Dombrowski to do something

Matt Barnes, Red Sox bullpen finally crumbling under weight of overuse and it's time for Dave Dombrowski to do something

BOSTON -- The Red Sox are torching Matt Barnes and the rest of their bullpen and if Dave Dombrowski doesn't act soon, he's going to find himself a heck of a lot more than one reliever short.

That's certainly the feel emanating from a ragged Red Sox relief corps that blew yet another save -- its league-leading 16th -- in a demoralizing 8-7 loss to the White Sox on Wednesday. Barnes took the loss after ending a marathon 10-pitch at-bat by leaving a fastball in Jose Abreu's wheelhouse, and the White Sox slugger didn't miss, blasting it over everything in left for the game-winning two-run homer.

Attention will undoubtedly focus on Barnes blowing his sixth save of the season and the Red Sox losing their eighth game with a lead after seven innings, but at some point, the workload should enter the equation.

Right-hander Brandon Workman leads the American League in appearances with 40, and Barnes and teammate Ryan Brasier are both right behind him in the top 10 at 36 apiece. That kind of wear and tear is taking a toll, particularly on Barnes, who has seen his ERA skyrocket from 1.99 on June 1 to 4.19 today. The 14 appearances he has made this month probably aren't helping.

"No, I feel good," Barnes said, though not necessarily convincingly.

Barnes lost the game when he failed to elevate the 10th and final pitch of his battle with Abreu, leaving a 97 mph fastball at the belt, where Abreu pulverized it. He was asked how much this one stings, particularly in light of the three-run rally that had given the Red Sox a 7-6 lead in the eighth.

"A lot. A lot," he said. "I didn't do my job. Offense did a phenomenal job of coming back and scoring three in the eighth, and then to give it up like that is tough."

Such losses are starting to feel inevitable, as the bullpen sags under the dual strain of (a) needing to pick up an average of six innings every time the fifth spot in the rotation rolls around, and (b) lacking a closer to handle the ninth inning and provide some definition to the final frames. The return of knuckleballer Steven Wright adds an experienced arm, but the Red Sox need more than say, Heath Hembree coming off the IL to save them.

"I know the usage is there," allowed manager Alex Cora, "but everyone has been used a lot. We've just got to get the job done."

Finding rest has been a balancing act. Workman (7-1, 1.70 ERA, three saves) was not available on Wednesday because of his workload, but he probably would've been pressed into duty if the Red Sox had extended the game.

"We try to take care of everyone," pitching coach Dana LeVangie said. "We're in a situation trying to win baseball games, trying to protect guys. We went into the first game of the series against these guys with Barnsey down. We have a plan for the most part going in. At times, we have to erase that based on what happens with the starter or whatever.

"At times, you can win or lose a game at the risk of losing a guy for two or three weeks, a month, because of it. I think we're trying to do this better, as much as we can."

Without reinforcements, it's hard to imagine the situation improving.

"Fatigued? Sure. All of the above," LeVangie said. "That's where a lot of those guys are. That's where we're at. That's part of being a reliever. Unfortunately, that's part of being their job. We've got a couple of days rest here leading into the London series, we've got one leading into the Toronto series. Hopefully, we can catch our breath."

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