CINCINNATI (AP) — Mookie Betts doubled with the bases loaded to tie it in the eighth inning and dashed home from second base on an infield single, rallying the Boston Red Sox to a 5-4 victory Sunday over the Cincinnati Reds that moved them closer to the AL East title.
By winning 14 of its last 17 games, Boston has left virtually no opening for the second-place New York Yankees to catch up. The Red Sox, already assured a playoff spot, completed an 8-1 road trip that put them in excellent position to win a second consecutive division crown for the first time in franchise history.
Coupled with New York’s 9-5 loss in Toronto, the Red Sox reduced their magic number to three. They lead the Yankees by five games with seven to play.
That means Fenway Park can start preparing for a potential celebration. Boston finishes the regular season at home with three games against Toronto and four vs. Houston.
Boston inched closer with more late-game flair. The Red Sox lead the majors with 20 wins after trailing in the fifth inning.
They loaded the bases against Raisel Iglesias (3-3), who had blown only one save chance all season. Betts had fouled a ball off his left foot on Friday night and missed one game. His double tied it 5-all, and he sprinted home on the still-sore foot — diving headfirst into the plate — on Rafael Devers’ infield single.
Robby Scott (2-1) got the win. Craig Kimbrel pitched the ninth for his 35th save in 39 chances. He hasn’t allowed a run in his last 11 appearances.
Billy Hamilton helped the Reds go up 4-1. He tripled home a run and brought the crowd to its feet by scoring after getting caught in a rundown between first and second. Second baseman Dustin Pedroia made a wild throw, and Hamilton kept going when nobody covered home.
GOT THEIR BACKS
Red Sox and Reds players stood for the national anthem. Boston manager John Farrell said if any of his players decide to follow the example of other athletes and make a statement during the anthem, he’ll support them. “We strive to create an environment that’s inclusive,” Farrell said. “We would have their back as an organization if that’s the expression they chose. It’s their constitutional right.”
Red Sox: INF Eduardo Nunez ran the bases before the game, his next step in recovering from a sprained knee.
Reds: Hamilton was back in the lineup after getting a day off. He’s played twice since returning from a broken left thumb.
Reds Sox: LHP Drew Pomeranz (16-5) faces Blue Jays LHP Brett Anderson (1-2) on Monday night. Pomeranz is 7-1 with a 2.62 ERA in 13 starts since the All-Star break.
Reds: After a day off, they finish with three games in Milwaukee and three at the Chicago Cubs. Deck McGuire (0-0) makes his first major league start Tuesday night against Zach Davies (17-9).