BOSTON — Now that they’ve clinched their first American League East title since 2007, the Boston Red Sox are going about the business of trying to wrap up the best overall record in the league.
But Saturday night, one night after their celebration, they ran into a stingy Mark Buehrle, who helped the last-place Toronto Blue Jays to a 4-2 win over the Red Sox and previously undefeated Clay Buchholz.
By finishing first overall, the Red Sox would avoid both Detroit and Oakland (the likely winners of their divisions) and get to play the winner of the one-game wild card play-in. In their first postseason since 2009, they would also guarantee home field advantage in the American League Championship Series should they win their Division Series.
Boston’s lead over Oakland dropped to 1 1/2 games after the A’s beat Minnesota earlier Saturday. The Tigers rallied to win and trail Boston by 2 1/2 games.
Buchholz (11-1) was hit with a two-out, three-run rally in the fourth inning and pitched the first six innings, the longest of his three outings since coming off the disabled list (neck, shoulder) earlier this month. He threw 106 pitches and wanted more.
“I thought Clay was pretty sharp and pretty crisp for the time he was out on the mound tonight,” said manager John Farrell.
Adam Lind’s long RBI double was the key to the inning, as was a Buchholz throwing error.
Said Buchholz: “I feel good. Movement on all the pitches is there. It’s just the command and location and where to start it, which is sometimes is hard to get better. The velocity is there and the body feels good.”
Buehrle (12-9) ended a two-start losing streak, going six innings and yielding a run and five hits.
“He’s had a tremendous year,” said manager John Gibbons. “Slow start, then he kicked it in, then he was Steady Eddie and he’s been doing what he’s done his whole career. It’s pretty amazing; he’s logged so many innings over the years, he’s never been on DL. He’s a rare guy … He’s a pleasure. I’ve said before, you get 25 Buerhles you’re probably going to have a good year.”
In working the six innings, Buehrle cleared the 200 mark for the 13th straight season.
“That’s one thing that coming into the season I set my goal at,” Buehrle said of the 200. “I wish it was in a better situation (the Jays, who were picked to have a big year, are 71-83) and in a better spot. But I feel like I went out there and had a pretty good year so far.”
Reliever Dustin McGowan gave up an unearned run in the seventh, Sergio Santos worked a 1-2-3 eighth and Casey Janssen pitched a perfect ninth (two strikeouts) for his 33rd save — after J.P. Arencibia snapped an 0-for-27 slump with an RBI single off the left field wall in the top of the inning.
Buchholz had allowed no earned runs and just five hits in his first 14 innings since coming off the disabled list, retiring the first nine hitters in this game (two on nice defensive plays). Jose Reyes led the fourth inning with a single but was thrown out stealing. The Jays had two outs and nobody on when Brett Lowrie hit a grounder to third. Rookie Xander Bogaerts double pumped before throwing and Lawrie hustled out a single.
Lind then hit a long double, scoring Lawrie. Moises Sierra singled Lind to third and Rajai Davis blooped an RBI single to left center. Sierra took third on the hit and scored when Buchholz threw a pickoff attempt at first base away.
The only run Buchholz had allowed in his two post-DL starts, against the New York Yankees, was also unearned as a result of an errant Buchholz pickoff throw.
NOTES: Red Sox 2B Dustin Pedroia was rested, but Pedroia, who lobbied to start, pinch hit and struck out in the seventh, ending his 10-game hitting streak. … Toronto 2B Munenori Kawasaki was ejected by first base umpire Eric Cooper for slamming his helmet down after being called out at first. He appeared safe on the replays. … Red Sox C David Ross threw all three would-be base stealers out at second. … The Blue Jays placed CF Colby Rasmus, who suffered a freak eye injury Friday night, on the disabled list, ending his season. The injury is a contusion. Rasmus was hit on the left eye by a warmup throw by RF Anthony Gose as Rasmus went to take his position in the first inning. … IF Will Middlebrooks made his professional debut at first base. The Red Sox hope he’s available there for postseason emergencies. … RHP Ryan Dempster, moved to the bullpen for postseason work, made his first relief appearance since 2007. … RHP R.A. Dickey, who hasn’t lost since Aug. 21, faces the Red Sox and LHP Felix Doubront in the series finale on Sunday. Doubront, fighting for his postseason life, hasn’t pitched since his second straight poor start on Sept. 6. … LHP Henry Owens was named pitcher of the year in the Red Sox system and 2B Mookie Betts was tabbed as the offensive player of the year. Both minor leaguers were honored, along with others, before Saturday night’s game.