The Boston Red Sox have held the best record in baseball for the bulk of the 2018 season, and on Thursday they clinched their third straight American League East title by beating the New York Yankees in the finale of a series in New York.
Boston has 104 victories this season, their most as a franchise since 1946, and just one off the team record set in 1912.
This is the third consecutive division crown for the Red Sox, though the biggest difference in the 11-win (and counting) improvement over last year is a vastly superior offense. The 2017 Red Sox ranked sixth in the American League in runs scored though after factoring in park and league Boston had a below-average offense. In 2018 the Red Sox are tops in the AL across the board in runs scored, hits, doubles, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS.
J.D. Martinez has been the biggest addition, signing a five-year, $110 million contract. The slugger made an immediate impact in his first season with Boston, leading the AL in hits, RBI (124) and slugging percentage, hitting .331/.400/.629 with 41 home runs.
Martinez is a definite MVP candidate, but probably not even the best one on his own team. Mookie Betts has been sublime, hitting .339/.432/.625 with 44 doubles, 30 home runs, 28 stolen bases and 121 runs scored, all while playing stellar defense in right field. Betts leads the AL in Wins Above Replacement, both the Baseball-Reference version (10.0) and the FanGraphs version (9.4).
Betts was 4-for-5 with two doubles with three runs scored on Thursday, and hit a three-run home run in the eighth inning that put the game away. He drove in five runs in the clincher.
The Red Sox haven’t quite clinched the best record in baseball yet, though it’s only a matter of time. They own a 8½-game lead over the Houston Astros (95-57) with nine games remaining.
Boston appears headed for an American League Division Series matchup against the Wild Card Game winner, likely a matchup between the Yankees and the Oakland Athletics. Boston is 9-7 against New York this season, with three regular season matchups remaining, and 2-4 against Oakland.
The Red Sox are 54-21 at Fenway Park this season, the best home record in the majors, and will have home field advantage for as long as they are alive throughout the postseason.