Posted on September 30, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine

Boston Red Sox

Image via masslive.com

It took 161 games, but the Boston Red Sox are officially champions of the AL East. With a 6-3 win over the Houston Astros on Saturday, the Red Sox wrapped up a second consecutive AL East title. They will now face the Astros in the ALDS. The two teams have split six regular-season meetings this season and will play one final game on Sunday that bears no importance for either team.

Repeating as champions of the best division in the American League was not easy. The Yankees did a fine job of staying within striking distance down the stretch and keeping the pressure on Boston. In fact, the Red Sox had already decided to move up Chris Sale in the rotation to start on Sunday had they not wrapped up the division on Saturday. But after Saturday’s win, Sale will not be preserved for Game 1 of the ALDS next week.

After Saturday’s win, Red Sox manager John Farrell toasted his players in the clubhouse just before the beer and champagne started to flow.

“I just want to say this,” began Farrell. “To a great group, a resilient group. A great coaching staff. But most importantly, to what you guys do. It’s been an honor, a pleasure. We love you like brothers. We love you like sons. But this is the first step. We got 11 more, 11 more wins, that’s the main goal.”

Over the course of the season, the Red Sox have been largely overshadowed by both the Astros and Indians. Houston is in possession of a frightening lineup from top to bottom while Cleveland has a rotation full of aces and an excellent bullpen. However, Boston’s pitching staff has the second lowest ERA in the American League, behind only Cleveland.

Offensively, the Red Sox are by no means a juggernaut, nor do they have one player capable of carrying them in the postseason like they’ve had with David Ortiz in recent years. But the Red Sox do have steady offensive contributors at every position, making them a difficult lineup to face in the postseason.

If there’s a concern for Boston heading into the playoffs it could be health. Hanley Ramirez has fought shoulder problems all season, while Dustin Pedroia is playing with chronic knee pain. Eduardo Nunez is also questionable to be ready for the postseason right now after re-aggravating a knee injury earlier this week.

Of course, the Red Sox battled injury and adversity all season, more so than the Astros and Indians. Those challenges during the regular season should have the Red Sox prepared for whatever obstacles present themselves in the playoffs. Boston is no doubt being viewed as an underdog heading into the postseason. But the AL East champs should not be dismissed as a World Series contender.

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