The Red Sox displayed a range of emotional reactions to Tuesday night's win over the Orioles. There was nervousness with a tinge of relief from David Ortiz, who explained that, if he's still a member of the Red Sox in the future, he hopes they don't have to go through this again.
"I hope, if I'm still here next year, we make it easier," he said with a smile. "It wears you out. You know what I'm saying? We're playing like it's the playoffs already. It's fun, but at the same time, you're against the ropes."
Jarrod Saltalamacchia expressed optimism, especially with Jon Lester taking the ball Wednesday night to start in game No. 162.
"Expect Lester to go out there and do what he does," Saltalamacchia said. "He's pitched well against these guys. We're gonna go out there and pitch his game."
Jonathan Papelbon was so fired up after the game, it was as if he never stepped off the field.
"In this game, man, if you ain't hustling, you getting hustled," he said. "If you ain't grinding, you ain't shining. Only the strong will survive. The weak will fall by the wayside. OK? End of story."
With that, he walked off, with game No. 161 behind him and the final page of the Red Sox turbulent regular season yet to be written.
CINCINNATI - Mitch Moreland ended his long slump with a three-run homer, Eduardo Rodriguez pitched three-hit ball into the eighth inning, and the Boston Red Sox took another step toward a second straight AL East title, beating the Cincinnati Reds 5-0 on Saturday.
Boston has won 13 of 16, holding off the Yankees as it tries to win back-to-back East titles for the first time since divisional realignment in 1969. The Red Sox have their best record of the season at 90-64, reaching 90 wins for the second year in a row.
They remain four games in front of the Yankees, who beat Toronto 5-1.
Moreland was in an 0-for-19 slump when he connected off Robert Stephenson (5-6) in the sixth inning, his 20th homer of the season but only his second in September. The Red Sox are last in the AL with 160 homers.
Rodriguez (6-6) has given up two or fewer earned runs in each of his last four starts, the best stretch of his career. The left-hander gave up three singles and two walks in 7 2/3 innings, his longest outing since May 21.
The Red Sox have shutout victories in three of their last four games, including two at Baltimore. They are 7-1 on a trip that ends Sunday. Boston wraps up the regular season at Fenway Park with three games against Toronto and four against Houston.
Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi, who grew up in suburban Madeira and had hundreds of relatives and friends in the stands for the series, singled home a run in the seventh at the ballpark where he regularly attended games as a youth.
Mookie Betts, who fouled a ball off his left foot Friday night, and Dustin Pedroia, who has been bothered by a knee injury almost all season, were out of the Red Sox lineup Saturday against the Reds in Cincinnati.
Chris Young started in right field for Betts and Brock Holt at second base for Pedroia.
Betts was scratched from the original lineup but was a late scratch. Pedroia, who had been getting intermittent days off to rest his knee was originally expected to play but needed treatement and hopes to be able to play Sunday, according to Scott Lauber of ESPN.
Manager John Farrell told reporters, including Christopher Smith of MassLive.com, that Betts "was hindered by it last night in the second half of that game. [He] woke up a little bit more sore. Went through treatment. But felt it was best to give him a day to fully recover and get some additional treatment."
The manager added that Betts was available to pinch hit Saturday and did not have X-rays, but that step could be taken if there's no improvement in the next 24 hours.