CINCINNATI (AP) — Mookie Betts wasn’t about to stop. Neither are the Red Sox, who are heading home with a chance to win another division title.
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 Red Sox to a 5-4 victory Sunday that moved them closer to an AL East championship.
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, something they’ve never done.
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.
“We’re learning a lot about ourselves,” said Doug Fister, who pitched into the sixth. “We can put ourselves in a corner early and fight back. If we need a touchdown, the boys can put up a touchdown.”
Boston inched closer with more late-game flair. The Red Sox lead the majors with 11 wins when trailing after the seventh 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 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.
“I felt he had a chance to beat it, and with me running it was going to be a tough play at the plate,” Betts said.
Robby Scott (2-1) got the win, and 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.
“In my whole career, that’s one of the best ones, especially since I was in a rundown and just trying to get to second base and then I end up scoring,” Hamilton said.
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.”
The Red Sox are 12-1 against the Reds all-time in the regular season and have won nine straight, their longest winning streak against any NL team since interleague play started in 1997. The Reds beat the Red Sox in seven games for the 1975 World Series championship. Overall, Boston is 16-4 in interleague play this season. The Reds are 5-15.
90 LOSSES AGAIN
The Reds reached the 90-loss mark for the third straight year. They lost 98 games in 2015 and 94 last year. It’s the first time they’ve had three straight 90-loss seasons since 1930-34.
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).