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The AL East was the last man standing among baseball’s divisions, the final one to crown its champion. And fittingly, it wrapped up with some late-inning dramatic twists. After failing to clinch the title on their first attempt Tuesday, the Boston Red Sox tried again on Wednesday, able to win the division with either a victory of their own over the New York Yankees or a Toronto Blue Jays loss to the Baltimore Orioles. For much of the evening, it wasn’t clear that either of those things were going to happen — the Blue Jays had jumped out to an early lead, while the Red Sox and Yankees remained scoreless late.
The eighth inning, however, brought some fireworks in both games. The Orioles, down 2-0, began to rally with Mark Trumbo’s major-league leading 46th home run. While the solo shot cut the Blue Jays’ lead in half, it still left the Orioles behind by one run heading to the ninth — though it seemed not to matter so much to the Red Sox, who were taking control of their own destiny by scoring their first runs in the eighth. Mookie Betts drove in two with a double, David Ortiz made it home on a passed ball, and the Red Sox left the inning with a 3-0 lead.
But neither game finished the ninth as it started it. Hyun Soo Kim followed up Trumbo’s dinger with one of his own, this one a two-run shot to give the Orioles their first lead of the night — and, after a shutdown bottom of the ninth by Zach Britton, the win. Toronto had lost, and so the division officially belonged to Boston. The Red Sox, with their three-run lead, just had to get through one more inning before they started popping champagne.
But that turned out to be a more complicated task than it might have seemed. An erratic Craig Kimbrel walked three and gave up a hit before being replaced by Joe Kelly, who got two quick outs ... before allowing the Yankees to play spoiler and walk it off on a Mark Teixeira grand slam. But thanks to Baltimore’s win, the loss mattered not, and Boston celebrated all the same.
- Another heartbreaking day for Miami, as Jose Fernandez’s funeral procession wound through the city streets on Wednesday, with his Marlins teammates and many others paying their respects.
- Theo Epstein and Co. will be staying with the Cubs for five more years, thanks to a set of contract extensions.
- The Detroit Tigers took another step towards the AL’s second wild card spot, beating the Cleveland Indians in a rain-shortened outing to stay just one game back.
- The Seattle Mariners did their best to do the same, trouncing the Houston Astros by a score of 12-4 to hang two games back of that second wild card spot.
- Over on the National League side, however, the wild card race offered more in the way of losses. The San Francisco Giants were shut out by the Colorado Rockies, 2-0 ...
- ... while the St. Louis Cardinals fell 2-1 to the Cincinnati Reds, meaning they sit one game back of San Francisco for that second spot.
- John Jaso hit for the cycle in the Pirates’ 8-4 win over the Cubs.
- How could the playoffs have a little more chaos? SB Nation’s MLB staff offers some creative suggestions for you.
- And Tim Tebow’s first plate appearance in the instructional league? Yeah, it was a home run.