Another day, another clinch
Red Sox secure home-field advantage throughout playoffs
BOSTON -- The Red Sox erased another October question mark in the season's penultimate game. Red-hot J.D. Drew made the emphatic statement on Saturday night, carrying Boston to a 6-4 victory over the Twins.
In the process, the Red Sox took care of some other last-minute business. With a win and an Indians loss in Kansas City, the Red Sox ensured themselves the best record in the American League and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Even if Cleveland pulls even on Sunday, Boston, which beat the Indians in five of seven games this season, would hold the tiebreaker.
Thus, the Sox also won the privilege of picking Division Series schedule B, which will give them a day off between Games 1 and 2. The ALDS will open on Wednesday at Fenway Park and resume on Friday.
Drew, who went 3-for-4 on Saturday, capped his hot month with some timely heroics. He entered the day on a seven-game RBI streak, which nevertheless looked unsustainable when each of his first three plate appearances came without runners on base. Boston's offense struggled for six listless innings against Minnesota starter Carlos Silva, one night after clinching the AL East title.
Boston first showed signs of life in the fourth. Drew hit a leadoff triple and Kevin Youkilis, who has battled right wrist pain since getting hit by a Chien-Ming Wang fastball on Sept. 15, cracked a high double to deep center, scoring Drew.
A sixth-inning Mike Lowell homer pulled the Red Sox within two runs and Silva gave way to Minnesota's bullpen in the seventh. That set the stage for Drew, who entered with a .441 on-base percentage and a .542 slugging percentage this month, second only to David Ortiz among Red Sox regulars. After Coco Crisp and Alex Cora each singled with one out, and Lowell drove in Crisp, Drew blasted a 3-2 fastball into the right-field bleachers.
"I'm trying to have fun, relax, get pitches I can handle, and hit them where they ain't," Drew said. "The last one was a big one. Definitely a good feeling."
Boston starter Tim Wakefield, who had struggled in four starts since returning from back soreness, pitched seven strong innings, allowing just three earned runs. It was the knuckleballer's longest start since Aug. 25, his last appearance preceding the injury. With it, he tied his career high of 17 wins, set back in 1998.
"[It's] very satisfying, considering the month that I've had," Wakefield said.
American League Division Series schedule
|Wed., Oct. 3||6:30 p.m.||Fenway Park||TBS|
|Fri., Oct. 5||8:30 p.m.||Fenway Park||TBS|
|Sun. Oct. 7||3 p.m.||Angel Stadium||TBS|
|*Mon. Oct. 8||9:30 p.m.||Angel Stadium||TBS|
|*Wed. Oct. 10||8:30 p.m.||Fenway Park||TBS|
|Thu., Oct. 4||6:30 p.m.||Jacobs Field||TBS|
|Fri., Oct. 5||5 p.m.||Jacobs Field||TBS|
|Sun. Oct. 7||6:30 p.m.||Yankee Stadium||TBS|
|*Mon. Oct. 8||6 p.m.||Yankee Stadium||TBS|
|*Wed. Oct. 10||5 p.m.||Jacobs Field||TBS|
|* If necessary. All times ET.|
Reliever Javy Lopez entered to pitch a perfect eighth, and fellow lefty Hideki Okajima got the call to make a ninth-inning save, with closer Jonathan Papelbon unavailable.
Okajima, who was shut down with a dead arm for almost two weeks, promptly gave up singles to Joe Mauer and Torii Hunter, the latter a "missile" off the left-field wall, according to Red Sox manager Terry Francona.
"But thankfully," Francona added, "[he] didn't get under it."
"We were starting to get in a little bit of a bind there," Francona said, "and we were trying to stay away from [Papelbon] and [Eric] Gagne, so that they can pitch tomorrow. We had [Manny] Delcarmen up, but we really wanted the result to be what it was. We wanted Oki to pitch a good inning."
Okajima punched out Twins slugger Justin Morneau on a 3-2 pitch, then got out of the first-and-third jam by inducing a hard ground ball by Michael Cuddyer. The Japanese southpaw came up with the ball and started a textbook 1-4-3 game-ending double play.
"I got lucky," Okajima said.
Alex McPhillips is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.