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RED SOX 6, ASTROS 3

Red Sox clinch AL East title

BARRY CHIN/GLOBE STAFF

Andrew Benintendi (left) and Mookie Betts scored on Mitch Moreland’s double in the fifth inning.

By Globe Staff 

Drew Pomeranz was hoping to hunker down in the dugout and watch a meaningless game on Saturday afternoon. But when the Red Sox failed to clinch the American League East championship on Friday night, the lefthander was needed.

“I had kept myself ready the whole time in case I needed to pitch,” Pomeranz said. “When I woke up and saw it was raining, I wasn’t surprised. It seems half my home games have been in the rain. I thought that was a good sign.”

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The skies cleared by the first pitch, and by the time the game ended Pomeranz had made it a day to remember. He pitched into the seventh inning, holding the Houston Astros down long enough for the Sox to come away with a 6-3 victory.

The magic number is zero. The Sox have won back-to-back division titles for the first time in franchise history. That the Yankees won their game didn’t matter.

“We’ve got 11 more wins to accumulate this year,” said John Farrell, the first Red Sox manager to win three AL East championships.

Game 1 of the Division Series will be Thursday at Houston at a time to be announced. Chris Sale will oppose Justin Verlander.

“We know it will be very difficult, and it should be this time of the year,” Farrell said.

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Pomeranz (17-6) allowed one run on three hits against the team with the most runs in the majors. By the time he left the mound, the Sox had a 5-0 lead.

Pomeranz was pitching out of the bullpen a year ago, shut down as a starter because of a sore elbow. He reported to spring training unsure whether his arm would hold up but steadily built faith with every start.

“That’s as good as you can get,” Sale said. “You’re talking about probably the most important game of the season for us. He went out there against one of the best lineups in the league and just dominated. He was every bit of what we needed.”

As Sale spoke in the postgame tumult, he was soaked through with beer and champagne. Until Saturday, the last team Sale played on that won anything was the 2010 Florida Gulf Coast University Eagles.

“It’s been a long time coming. I’m enjoying this about as much as anybody,” Sale said. “It’s very satisfying. We still have a lot of work to do but for now we’re going to enjoy it and have some fun.”

It was a raucous celebration six months in the making. The final few days were the hardest as the Sox kept stumbling, losing four of five on their homestand.

That made the clubhouse celebration a bit of a stress release.

Christian Vazquez poured a beer over the head of vice president of major and minor league operations Raquel Ferreira. That earned him a stern look then a big hug.

President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski left his shoes in another room and partied in his socks. Bullpen coach Dana LeVangie was surrounded by the relievers at one point and took a beer shower.

Team president Sam Kennedy had to put one of his beers down to shake hands with Farrell. Even principal owner John Henry was carrying around a bottle of brew.

“You’ve got to love the bullpen and the job the guys have done. The bullpen has been extraordinary,” said Henry, who also owns the Globe. “It makes you think that the playoffs could be interesting.”

Winning two division titles in a row was meaningful to Henry.

“We’ve had so much in the way of ups and downs,” he said. “We like seeing a little continuity of results, which is not easy to do. This is good.”

The Sox built a 5-0 lead in the first five innings against Houston starter Lance McCullers.

Mookie Betts and Mitch Moreland drew walks in the fourth inning ahead of an RBI single by Hanley Ramirez. Rafael Devers followed with an opposite-field double to left field.

The Red Sox kept attacking in the fifth.

Xander Bogaerts doubled with one out and scored on a single to right field by Andrew Benintendi, who has 90 RBIs.

When Betts singled, the Astros went to lefthander Tony Sipp. The Sox greeted him with a double steal, and that proved significant when Moreland cracked a double to left-center and two more runs scored.

At 5-0, the Sox were ready for bottle service in the clubhouse. Pomeranz had a two-hit shutout through six innings and had thrown only 79 pitches.

Then it got tight.

Jose Altuve singled to lead off the seventh and Farrell turned to Carson Smith. He allowed three hits as two runs scored. But David Price came in and ended the inning, leaving three runners stranded.

“He did what he had to do,” Jackie Bradley Jr. said. “We all were relieved.”

Betts homered in the seventh inning to give the Sox some breathing room. From there, Addison Reed and Craig Kimbrel held down the Astros.

Brian McCann homered off Kimbrel in the ninth, but the closer struck out three, including George Springer swinging at a fastball, to end it.

Kimbrel pumped his fist and picked up Vazquez. As the players celebrated on the field, Farrell and the coached hugged in the dugout as “Dirty Water” played. The fans who stayed through late-game rain enjoyed the spectacle.

“We’re a little banged up but we’re champs,” Farrell said.


Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com
Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.