BOSTON » The Boston Red Sox said goodbye to Mariano Rivera, and then they finished off the New York Yankees in the AL East.
Shortly after a pregame ceremony to honor the longtime Yankees closer, Mike Napoli homered in a three-run first inning to help Clay Buchholz coast to a 9-2 victory over New York on Sunday night. Daniel Nava added four hits for Boston, which eliminated the two-time defending East champions from the division race.
Buchholz pitched six innings of two-hit ball to complete the three-game sweep and give the Red Sox six wins in seven games against the Yankees in 11 days. Boston has won 10 of its past 12 to expand its lead in the AL East over second-place Tampa Bay to 91/2 games.
"It’s not just one team," said Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who singled and scored a run on a double steal. "It’s how we play. We want to win every game. We never settle for what (the lead) is. It’s ‘Go for the next one.’ "
Boston has a magic number of four to clinch its second division title since 1995. The Yankees trail Boston by 121/2 games with 12 games to play and trail the Rays and Texas Rangers by three in the wild-card standings, with Cleveland and Baltimore also ahead of them in the race.
The Yankees had won the past two division titles and 13 of the last 17.
"I don’t stop believing," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "We still have a great opportunity. Sure, we have to win a lot of games, but the opportunity’s right in front of us."
In his second start since coming off the disabled list, Buchholz (11-0) walked four and struck out three and allowed only one unearned run. He gave up four walks and an unearned run while striking out three.
"It’s fun to play ball when things are going right. That’s how this team’s been all year," said Buchholz, who spent three months on the disabled list with a strained neck. "To run back out there two starts in a row, that’s what I want to do. That’s where I want to be."