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Boston Red Sox clinch division, fall on Mark Teixeira's walk-off slam

By Larry Fleisher, The Sports Xchange
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Boston Red Sox clinch division, fall on Mark Teixeira's walk-off slam
New York Yankees' Mark Teixeira celebrates at home plate with his teammates after he hits a grand slam walk off home run in the 9th inning against the Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium in New York City on September 28, 2016. The Yankees defeated the Red Sox 5-3. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

NEW YORK -- Moments after Joe Kelly's pitch to Mark Teixeira landed over the center field wall, Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell delivered a message to his team.

The gist of the speech was one bad inning would not undo everything the Red Sox achieved this season.

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Minutes after Farrell finished, the rap music was turned up, gray T-shirts reading "Made in October" were distributed, beverages were sprayed and the raucous party was on for the Red Sox.

Although Teixeira hit a dramatic grand slam with two outs in the ninth off Kelly to give the New York Yankees a 5-3 victory, the Red Sox still won the American League East title Wednesday night.

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Needing a win or a Toronto loss, the Red Sox were one out away from getting both. Technically, the Red Sox clinched their eighth division title before Craig Kimbrel (2-5) even threw the first of his 28 pitches to four batters.

"It doesn't detract at all from what these guys accomplished over the last six months," said Red Sox owner John Henry, who was sitting by the dugout in the ninth. "The baseball season is an endurance test, so it takes six months to determine a champion. That championship was determined before this game ended."

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The Red Sox saw the Yankees celebrate the 2009 AL East title against them and last year's wild-card berth in New York.

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Though the Red Sox (92-66) did not celebrate on the field as a division winner normally would, they still engaged in a wild celebration inside the clubhouse similar to their party after winning Game 7 of the 2004 AL Championship Series in the Bronx.

"It just says that one inning didn't determine our whole season," Red Sox right fielder Mookie Betts said.

Teixeira's grand slam gave Boston a second straight loss after an 11-game winning streak. The streak began with Hanley Ramirez's game-winning home run off Dellin Betances on Sept. 15 at Fenway Park and essentially wrapped up the Red Sox's eighth division title and second under Farrell, who joined Joe Morgan (1988 and 1990) as the only manager to win multiple division titles in team history.

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"That ending doesn't take away from the yearlong work our guys put in," Farrell said. "So it might not be as you draw it up, but to say that (losing) takes away from the work would be shortsighted."

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While the wild finish kept the Yankees alive for at least one more day. A loss and a Baltimore win would have eliminated New York from playoff contention, but when Teixeira hit his first career regular-season walk-off home run, it touched off a wild celebration at the plate that culminated with the retiring first base getting doused in Gatorade and getting handed the team's wrestling belt during his on-field interview.

The Orioles (86-72) sit in the second AL wild-card position, and they hold a four-game edge on the Yankees (82-76) with four games remaining.

"For the kind of season we've had, we've been fighting all year long," Teixeira said. "To come back from three runs down against one of the best closers in baseball shows a lot about our team."

It also might have been the last home run for the 36-year-old, who announced his pending retirement in August. It was his fifth walk-off hit, first in over five years and the first walk-off grand slam by a Yankee since Alex Rodriguez had one on April 7, 2007, vs. Baltimore's Chris Ray.

"You don't want like a wall-scraper in an 8-0 game to be your last one," Teixeira said. "You want a walk-off grand slam against the Red Sox. I'll still be trying to hit in the next four games but if it happens to be my last one, it would be pretty special."

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Teixeira wound up getting the ball back and when he was done with his postgame interview, Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson came up to him and congratulated him.

Before Kimbrel set up Teixeira's grand slam by issuing three walks and allowing a base hit to Brett Gardner, the Red Sox took a 2-0 lead on a two-run, bases-loaded double by Betts with one out in the eighth off Adam Warren. Boston added a third run when David Ortiz scored on a passed ball by catcher Gary Sanchez.

The Yankees nearly won it before Teixeira stepped up as Brian McCann lined a pitch about 10 feet foul down the right field line with the bases loaded. McCann wound up with a walk. Kelly came on and recorded the first two outs before Teixeira homered.

"It's a great moment for him and a great moment for us," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.

Before the Red Sox went ahead and the Yankees rallied, starters Clay Buchholz and Bryan Mitchell engaged in a scoreless duel. Buchholz allowed only a fourth-inning infield single to Brett Gardner in six scoreless innings, while Mitchell allowed two hits and worked around five walks in seven scoreless innings.

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James Pazos (1-0) got one out to earn his first career win.

NOTES: Boston LHP Drew Pomeranz (forearm soreness) will have a bullpen session of 30 to 35 pitches Thursday to determine if he can make a relief appearance. ... The Yankees have not decided if RHP Masahiro Tanaka (forearm) will start Saturday against Baltimore. .... Boston manager John Farrell said LHP David Price is still expected to start the regular-season finale Sunday against Toronto. ... Farrell said the Red Sox have purposely avoided any discussion about constructing a postseason roster. ... Manager Joe Girardi said he not heard anything about possible discipline for RHP Luis Severino, who was ejected for throwing at Toronto 1B/DH Justin Smoak on Monday.

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