Holding AL's best record, Boston out to secure home-field advantage
BOSTON -- Though the Red Sox completed their goal of winning the American League East on Friday night for the first time since 2007, it could be a while before they know who they will face off against in the AL Division Series.
Assuming the 94-61 Red Sox can maintain their hold on the best record in the AL, their Division Series opponent will be the winner of the AL Wild Card play-in game, which won't take place until Oct. 2.
Through Friday night's action, the Rays and Indians were in possession of the two Wild Card spots, but the Rangers were just a half-game back.
The Orioles (2 1/2 games back), Royals (2 1/2 back) and Yankees (three back) all remained within striking distance.
Of those possible opponents, Boston fared the best against the Yankees (13-6) and Indians (6-1).
The Sox had some trouble with the Rangers (2-4), Orioles (7-9 with a three-game series looming at Camden Yards next weekend) and Royals (2-5).
No matter who the Red Sox wind up playing, they are thrilled to be postseason participants again for the first time since '09.
"I resist the temptation to think ahead," manager John Farrell said while doused in champagne on Friday night. "We've got some plans and sketches of some ideas and things we might want to arrange as we go through the latter part of next week. We'll enjoy this tonight, but we'll be right back out there ready to play tomorrow night."
With seven games left in their season, the Red Sox would love to solidify home-field advantage. And if they can go 6-1, they'd be the first Boston team to win 100 games since the 1946 squad.
"We never put a win total [goal] on the number of games," said Farrell. "We've got seven left. We'll see where it takes us. I think the biggest thing is to secure home-field advantage however we can because we thrive on the energy and atmosphere here that's created in this ballpark. Our guys are extremely confident when we play at home. At home, this is a very different feel."
The Red Sox lead the Athletics by two games in the loss column in the race for home field. The Tigers have three more losses than Boston.
If the Red Sox slip down the stretch and get the second-best record, they would host either Oakland or Detroit at the start of the ALDS.
If, in a surprising development, the Sox finish with the third-best record, they would most likely open on the road against either Oakland or Detroit.
The Sox split their series with Oakland, 3-3. They lost four of seven with the Tigers, but in the last meeting between the teams, the Sox had a 20-4 romp.
One thing the Red Sox will be able to do over these last seven games is get their pitching lined up exactly as they want, and rest the relievers who need a blow.
"Now is going to be a recharge time," said pitching coach Juan Nieves. "We're going to really monitor everything they do, as we did from February 8. It's funny, my first meeting with the team was, 'We're going to start making pitches in Spring Training, and it starts today, the first time you get off the mound. These pitches are pitches were going to use in April all the way to October. So if you want to impress us, make the glove go down, don't make the glove go up.'"
"Hopefully we'll all be back next year and it's the same thing. It doesn't change. We work on our craft constantly. And it's going to go on and on."