The Red Sox and Yankees, who haven't finished 1-2 in the American League East since 2009, are back at the top of the division standings -- Boston first, New York second and in the first AL Wild Card spot. With every game important as the two longstanding rivals jockey for
The Red Sox and Yankees, who haven't finished 1-2 in the American League East since 2009, are back at the top of the division standings -- Boston first, New York second and in the first AL Wild Card spot. With every game important as the two longstanding rivals jockey for playoff position in the season's final two months, the Red Sox got a big, 5-4 win on Wednesday.
The Red Sox were down, 4-2, to the Cardinals entering the ninth inning at Fenway Park, three outs from seeing their lead in the East trimmed to 3 1/2 games. The Yanks had just beaten the Mets, 5-3, in a Subway Series contest at Citi Field.
But the Red Sox rallied. Xander Bogaerts homered. Mitch Moreland and Jackie Bradley Jr. walked. And with two outs, Mookie Betts finished the comeback, ripping a walk-off, two-run double to left field.
The Yankees had a game made up, and then they didn't. Boston went from giving away a game to its rivals to keeping pace atop the standings, 4 1/2 games up.
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The Red Sox have nine walk-off wins this season, tied for the most in the AL with the A's. The Dodgers lead the Majors with 10 after the National League West leaders came back to beat the White Sox, 5-4, a few hours after the Red Sox's walk-off.
It makes some intuitive sense that powerhouses like the Red Sox and Dodgers could end up with high walk-off totals -- they're talented teams with loaded rosters that might be more likely to emerge victorious at the end of a close game.
Last season, for example, the Indians led the Majors in walk-offs, as they won the AL Central and came within a win of a World Series title. In 2015, it was the Cubs, who went on to reach the NL Championship Series.
That's not to say that only teams with high walk-off totals will be playoff contenders (or that non-playoff teams can't collect walk-off wins). The 2016 Red Sox -- who won the division -- had only three walk-off wins during the regular season. That was tied for second fewest in the Majors, the polar opposite of what they've done this year.
A lack of walk-offs didn't stop Boston from reaching the postseason a year ago. But as the Red Sox play for October again, in a tight division race that could come down to the wire, their late, dramatic wins could prove to be difference-makers.
David Adler is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler.