Red Sox

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

red_sox_celebrate_092417.jpg

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

Manny Machado attempts to clarify controversial "hustle" comments

Manny Machado attempts to clarify controversial "hustle" comments

Manny Machado is intent on cleaning up his reputation entering the biggest offseason of his career.

The former Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop raised plenty of eyebrows during the 2018 playoffs when he openly admitted hustling to first base is "not my cup of tea." Machado now is an unrestricted free agent, though, and can't have other teams thinking he's anti-hustle.

So, the four-time All-Star attempted to clear the air about those controversial comments.

"When I was asked that question, I was definitely on the defensive, and I was wrong to answer it the way that I did, because looking back, it doesn't come across how I meant it," Machado told MLB.com's Mark Feinsand.

"For me, I was trying to talk about how I'm not the guy who is eye wash. There's a difference between fake hustle for show and being someone who tries hard to win. I've always been the guy who does whatever he can to win for his team."

We (kind of) see where Machado is coming from, but a supposed aversion to hustle isn't the only criticism he faces. The 26-year-old also gained a reputation as a dirty player on the basepaths thanks to a questionable slide in the National League Championship Series and his apparent spike of Boston Red Sox first baseman Steve Pearce in the World Series.

Of course, Machado also is an immensely talented player -- he hit .297 with 37 home runs and 107 RBIs last season -- who should have no trouble finding work this offseason.

But his reputation apparently is affecting his free agent stock already: Yankees legend Reggie Jackson warned recently that Machado's original hustle comments "ain't going to play" in New York if the Bronx Bombers end up pursuing him.

Machado is well aware of the chatter, however.

"I know how I said it and how that came across, and it's something I take responsibility for," he added. "I look forward to talking with each GM and owner that we meet with about that, or any other questions they have."

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

A-Rod backs 'fine young man' Manny Machado as a free-agent signing

arod-manny-machado.jpg
AP Images

A-Rod backs 'fine young man' Manny Machado as a free-agent signing

Manny Machado seemed to embrace his villain role in the postseason and one of baseball's other great villains - Alex Rodriguez - is endorsing him as a "fine young man" as Machado is pursued as a free agent this offseason.

A-Rod said he's mentored Machado since the former Orioles and Dodgers third baseman was a teenager in Miami, where both players grew up. A-Rod is still an advisor to the Yankees and, on a visit to London where he was promoting the Yanks-Red Sox series their next spring, Rodriguez was asked if he'd recommend Machado to his old team.

"No one has asked me for advice. I do wish Manny well. He's a fine young man," A-Rod told the New York Post. "It's a fun part of his career. I would just tell him to eliminate the white noise and focus on the game.

"I haven't had a chance to talk to [owner] Hal [Steinbrenner] or [GM Brian] Cashman, but I know ownership is as hungry as ever to put a great product and winner on the field," Rodriguez said. "And he's a great player.

Machado's added to his reputation as a heel by stepping on a few (see below) in the postseason. He was fined for the incident with the Brewers' Jesus Aguilar in the NLCS. He also was a self-proclaimed "not Johnny Hustle" and proved that at least once in the World Series. 

A-Rod, of course, was unliked by every team he wasn't playing on, for various reasons (see below). And there were times the teams he played for weren't too crazy about him either. 

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE