The Boston Red Sox felt a little uneasy going into Thursday night's game against the Indians at Cleveland, and rightfully so. After losing three straight games, the American League East race was becoming too close for comfort.
But the pressure has been considerably lessened, at least for the time being, as the Red Sox broke out of their slump by routing the Indians, 12-0, assuring them at least a share of the division title.
"We were starting to sweat a little bit," shortstop Jody Reed said after the game. "The pressure's off us now. We've got Roger going (tonight)."
The Red Sox can win their second championship in 3 seasons tonight when Roger Clemens faces the Indians, against whom he has a 9-0 career record.
Boston's victory eliminated the Detroit Tigers from the race. The New York Yankees and the Milwaukee Brewers can tie only if they win all of their remaining games and the Red Sox lose their final three in Cleveland. Boston is 8-2 against the Indians this season.
"Everybody said, 'Let's just get loose. Don't worry about anything and come out and play ball,' " said Ellis Burks, who drove in four runs. "I think the whole idea was, after three losses at home against Toronto, everybody was pressing a little."
Mike Boddicker, 13-15 overall and 7-3 since joining the Red Sox July 29, pitched a 3-hitter. He retired the first 16 batters and pitched his first complete game for Boston and his first shutout since May 18, 1987, when he was with Baltimore.
Jim Rice got his 2,400th career hit with a run-scoring single in the seventh inning. He is third on Boston's all-time hit list behind Carl Yastrzemski (3,419) and Ted Williams (2,654).
New York 5, Baltimore 1--Ken Phelps hit a 2-run home run in the fourth inning, pacing the Yankees past the Orioles at Baltimore and keeping their division title chances alive, though barely.
The best the Yankees can do is tie the Boston Red Sox and force a playoff.
Richard Dotson (12-9) scattered 5 hits, struck out 6 and walked 3 in 7 innings, and Dave Righetti earned his 25th save.
Jack Clark singled with two out in the fourth inning off Mark Williamson (5-8) before Phelps, a .391 hitter against the Orioles, hit his 23rd homer of the season.
Oakland 6, Minnesota 2--Walt Weiss singled 3 times and drove in 2 runs, and major league RBI leader Jose Canseco drove in 2 runs as the Athletics won their club-record 102nd game, beating the Twins at Minneapolis.
Canseco increased his RBI total to 122 for the A's, who won 101 games in 1971.
The A's, who have already dethroned the Twins as American League West champions, need 1 victory in their 3 remaining games to break the 1977 Kansas City Royals' record for victories by an AL West club.
Seattle 5, Texas 1--Mark Langston pitched an 8-hitter for 8 innings but had his streak of 34 scoreless innings snapped as the Mariners beat the Rangers at Seattle.
Langston (15-11) had last permitted a run in the 11th inning of a game Sept. 9 at Milwaukee.
In the ninth, Langston walked the bases loaded with one out before pinch-hitter Jim Sundberg delivered a run-scoring single, breaking the streak and chasing Langston.
Kansas City 7, Chicago White Sox 6--Pinch-hitter Ed Hearn singled home Jim Eisenreich from second base with one out in the 10th inning, lifting the Royals past the White Sox at Kansas City.
Houston 5, Atlanta 4--Mike Scott allowed 4 hits in 7 innings to break a personal 5-game losing streak, and Kevin Bass had 3 RBIs as the Astros beat the Braves at Atlanta.
Montreal 5, Chicago Cubs 4--Bryn Smith allowed 5 hits in 6 innings, and Mike Fitzgerald hit a 2-run home run to help the Expos beat the Cubs at Montreal.