Sense of urgency fuels Sox victory

741452.jpg

Sense of urgency fuels Sox victory

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Perhaps it was the frustration of losing a one-run game the previous night, highlighted by some issues with the umpiring.
Perhaps it was the knowledge that another loss would cause them to lose additional ground in the division, wiping out any progress made by a five-game winning streak at home.
Whatever it was, manager Bobby Valentine sensed that Thursday night's game against the Tampa Bay Rays had extra signficiance. So Valentine managed like it was a must-win game, even if was only mid-May.
"I was just going after this game tonight," said Valentine after a 5-3 victory. "I felt the guys really wanted this game and I was going to do everything I can to win it, not that I don't manage that way every day. But sometimes I'll take some future considerations (into account).
"There weren't any future considerations tonight."
Indeed, Valentine managed the game like it was the seventh game of a playoff series, using five relievers, including three different relievers for three hitters in the seventh inning.
"I think every game's important," said Mike Aviles, who got ejected for the first time in his major league career for arguing a called third strike in the top of the seventh. "But the fact that they won Wednesday in a close game and we had another close game tonight, it's good to always get that second win, get on the road and continue (the success).
"It's definitely good to get the win and go about it any way possible and I think Bobby did the right thing, mixing and matching later in the game."
Asked if a sense of urgency existed for the game, Cody Ross, who drove in four of the team's five runs, said: "Definitely. It wouldn't be good dropping the first two on a tough road trip, then going into Philly and Baltimore, a team in first place.
"We know how good the Rays are. We have to play them every single pitch like it's the last. Tonight is a perfect example of a team win and good for morale."

Red Sox-Indians ALDS matchup becoming increasingly likely

Red Sox-Indians ALDS matchup becoming increasingly likely

BOSTON - The Red Sox knew they'd be in the playoffs last weekend when they clinched a postseason berth for the first time since 2013.

On Wednesday, they became division champs and knew they'd avoided the dreaded wild-card game.

ANALYSIS: Nick Friar looks at potential Red Sox-Indians matchup

They still don't know their first-round opponent, though it's becoming increasingly likely that it will be the Cleveland Indians.

Here's why: the Red Sox' loss to the Yankees on Thursday night leaves them with a 92-67 record with three games remaining, the second-best mark -- for now -- among the three A.L. division winners.

The Texas Rangers, at 94-65, retain the best record, with the Indians, at 91-67, a half-game behind the Sox.

The team with the best record of the three will enter the playoffs as the No. 1 seed, and will be matched against the winner of Tuesday's A.L. wild-card matchup.

To finish with the A.L.'s best record and host the wild-card winner, the Red Sox essentially need to sweep the Toronto Blue Jays on the final weekend and hope that the Rangers get swept by Tampa Bay.

That's because a tie between the Red Sox and Rangers in the standings would make the Rangers the top seed by virtue of the second tie-breaker: intra-division play.

(The first tie-breaker is head-to-head play; the Sox and Rangers split the season series, sending them to the second tie-breaker).

In other words, the Rangers have a magic number of one to clinch the best record in the A.L. and gain home-field advantage throughout the postseason. One more Red Sox loss or one more Rangers win would get the Rangers locked into the top spot.

Again, barring a sweep by the Sox and the Rangers getting swept, a matchup in the Division Series with Cleveland seems almost inevitable.

What's not known is where that series will begin, and here's where it gets tricky.

Because the Indians and Detroit Tigers were rained out Thursday, the Tribe will have played only 161 games by the time the regular season ends early Sunday evening.

That could force the Indians and Tigers to play a makeup game on Monday, since the game could have playoff seeding implications for the Indians and Tigers. Detroit is still in the running for the A.L. wild card spot, currently a game-and-a-half behind the Orioles and Jays.

Since the Red Sox won the season series against the Indians 4-2, the Sox can clinch home field by winning two-of-three games from Toronto this weekend.

Should the Sox win two from the Jays, it would wipe out the need for Monday's makeup -- at least as far as the Indians are concerned. It's possible that it would still need to be played to determine the one of the wild card spots.

No matter who wins home field in a likely Red Sox-Indians matchup, the Division Series between the two will start with games next Thursday and Friday. After a travel day, the series would resume Sunday and Monday, Oct. 9-10.

Should the Sox win home field and host the first two games, Game 3 would be played Sunday Oct. 9 in Cleveland -- on the same day and in the same city where Tom Brady will make his return to the Patriots.