BOSTON -- Dustin Pedroia played in just three games this season before his problematic left knee confined him to the dugout.But Pedroia is by some distance the longest-tenured Red Sox player, the only member of the club with more than one World Series ring to his name -- and it
BOSTON -- Dustin Pedroia played in just three games this season before his problematic left knee confined him to the dugout.
But Pedroia is by some distance the longest-tenured Red Sox player, the only member of the club with more than one World Series ring to his name -- and it was Pedroia who commanded the attention of the home clubhouse at Fenway Park late Monday night after an historic 6-2 win over the Orioles.
Pedroia didn't speak all that long. Nor did first-year manager Alex Cora, who played alongside Cora when the veteran second baseman was just breaking into the Major Leagues. But their message was about the same: This is a special Red Sox team.
"We should call timeout and enjoy this one," Cora said when he met with the media a few minutes later. "We know what we have to do in October, but to be able to do this, at this level, in this division, it is amazing."
Indeed, in the 118-year history of the Red Sox, no team had won 106 games in a season until Mookie Betts powered the American League East champs over the O's. The win moved this Red Sox team past its 105-win 1912 counterparts of Harry Hooper, Duffy Lewis and Tris Speaker -- and even further past the 104 games the Williams-led 1946 team won. Not since the 2001 Seattle Mariners had any team in Major League Baseball won more than 105 games in a season. Until this bunch.
Even more important, Monday's win secured for Boston the best record in Major League Baseball this season, ensuring home-field advantage through each round of the playoffs. Of the six previous seasons the Red Sox had at least a share of the best record in baseball, they won the World Series five times.
"We have a great team, man," MVP candidate Betts said. "We're showing it."
Betts hit his career-best 32nd home run -- his third straight game with a homer -- and stole his 29th base. Steve Pearce and Brock Holt each doubled and scored as part of a four-run second inning capped by Betts' fireworks.
Nathan Eovaldi made a strong case for inclusion in Boston's playoff rotation, albeit against opposing hitters who weren't quite playoff caliber. The midseason acquisition struck out 10 and didn't issue a walk in five overpowering innings; the only run the Orioles scored came on a wild pitch in the fifth.
"I really had everything working today," said Eovaldi, whom the Red Sox acquired from Tampa Bay in late July. "I was able to locate the fastball up. I had a really good feel for my curveball, my split today. So with those two pitches, I was able to get them off my fastball and the cutter."
Eduardo Rodriguez came on in relief of Eovaldi and retired six of the seven hitters he faced, striking out two. If he's not part of the starting rotation, Rodriguez is a candidate to pitch out of the bullpen in October -- something he'd done just twice before in his big league career. One of those occasions came in the postseason last October in Houston, an appearance in which he yielded an infield single and hit a batter before being lifted.
EOVALDI IN THE CONVERSATION
When asked about Eovaldi's chances to start in October, Cora started talking about matchups. That suggests that Cora will wait to see who wins next week's AL Wild Card Game between the Yankees and A's.
If the Yankees advance to face the Red Sox in the AL Division Series, Eovaldi could start, as the Yankees have hit lefties harder than righties this season. If the A's advance, Rodriguez could start; not only has Oakland hit righties harder than lefties, but Rodriguez has pitched a pair of gems at the Oakland Coliseum in his career.
HE SAID IT
"For this to happen is very special. We sit down at home and sometimes we're in awe, like, 'This is really happening?'" -- Cora, on the 106-win season
Don't expect the Red Sox to rest on their laurels during the final week of the season. With five days off built into the schedule before Game 1 of the ALDS, David Price (15-7, 3.53 ERA) and the Red Sox will look to keep their foot on the gas pedal against the Orioles on Tuesday at Fenway Park. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. ET.
Brian MacPherson is a contributor to MLB.com based in Boston.