BOSTON -- Nothing had come easily for the Red Sox all season long, so it was appropriate that, on the night when they were in position to wrap up their first division title in six seasons, the clinching victory wasn't routine, either.
The Red Sox hit into three double plays and stranded runners in every inning but two before breaking the game open in the seventh, then holding off the Toronto Blue Jays for a 6-3 win that gave the Sox the American League East title.
The victory virtually assures the Sox will open the Division Series at Fenway on Friday, Oct. 4. Boston's next goal is to wrap up the best record in the American League, which would assure them of home field all the way through the World Series, should they advance that far.
A bloop run-scoring single by David Ortiz and a two-run single by Mike Carp capped a three-run seventh.
But the Jays responded quickly with a two-run homer by Adam Lind off Jinichi Tazawa before Koji Uehara was summoned for a five-out save.
Jon Lester, who battled with runners on base for most of the night, got the win, limiting the Jays to a single run over seven innings, improving to 15-8.
The Sox took a quick 1-0 lead in the first when Dustin Pedroia doubled, took third on a flyout and scored on a wild pitch from Esmil Rogers. In the third, a bases-loaded walk to Mike Carp forced in a run and grew the Sox lead to 2-0.
Toronto cut into the lead in the fifth off Lester when, with two out, Rajai Davis singled, stole both second and third, and then rode home on a single to center by Brett Lawrie.
The win came against the team John Farrell managed for the past two seasons.
AT A GLANCE
STAR OF THE GAME: Jon Lester
Lester went seven innings, giving up just one run on five hits with two walks and eight strikeouts. Lester earned his 100th career win, clinching the Sox first division title since 2007. He improved to 15-8 with a 3.67 ERA.
HONORABLE MENTION: Mike Carp
Carp’s two-out single in the seventh gave the Sox a four-run lead. He went 1-for-3 with three RBI and a walk.
THE GOAT: Esmil Rogers
Rogers lasted just 2 1/3 innings, giving up two runs on three hits and five walks (one intentional) with two strikeouts and a wild pitch. He threw 60 pitches, just 29 for strikes.
BY THE NUMBERS
This is the first time in team history the Sox have gone from worst one season to first the next season. The Sox are just the second AL team to win a division title the season after finishing last, along with the 2008 Rays. The Sox have led the AL East 148 days this season the most among AL teams.
QUOTE OF NOTE
“You’re so involved day to day that you don’t think how long it’s been. It wasn’t really until yesterday or today that I realized exactly how long it had been. It’s been a long time, 2009 was the last time we celebrated making the postseason. But this is only the second time we’ve won the division. And this was a year where we really had our sights set on winning the division.” – Red Sox principal owner John Henry
At A Glance contributed by Maureen Mullen