Red Sox clinch back-to-back first-place finishes for first time since 1916

The final piece of the division championship puzzle was completed on Saturday. The Boston Red Sox became the sixth and final team to wrap up their division, clinching the AL East with a 6-3 win against the Astros.

This is almost impossible to believe, but it’s the first time Boston has finished first place in back-to-back since 1916. At that time MLB was simply divided into two leagues, so it’s also technically the first time Boston has won back-to-back division titles.

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Overall it’s the Red Sox third division title in five seasons. The 2013 team went on to win the World Series, while the 2016 squad was swept in the ALDS by Cleveland. In between Boston posted back-to-back last place finishes.

More than anything, their wide range of finishes show how competitive the AL East has been over the last few seasons. Every team in the division has made at least one postseason appearance since 2013. Most would say order has been restored this season, with the Red Sox and Yankees earning postseason berths in the same season for the first time since 2009.

The Yankees will now host the AL wild-card game, while the Red Sox will continue battling Houston in the ALDS. Game 1 will take place in Houston later this week.

Though good enough to win the division, the Red Sox won’t enter the postseason as favorites. That’s because they’ve yet to really put it all together this season. The lineup has felt like a disappointment thanks to lagging power numbers. They’ve managed only 168 home runs, which is the fourth fewest in MLB. On the plus side, they’re still scoring runs, ranking tenth in MLB. Almost as important to them, they’re still wearing out opponents with patient at-bats.

The Boston Red Sox made it back-to-back AL East titles with Saturday’s win against the Astros. (AP)

On the pitching side, Chris Sale had his most dominant season to date, racking up the Red Sox first 300-strikeout season since 1999. Beyond him, Boston’s rotation has been up and down, with Drew Pomeranz serving as the next most consistent starter. Reigning Cy Young Award winner Rick Porcello has taken a couple steps back, posting a 4.65 ERA. As for David Price, he’s in the bullpen now after elbow issues limited him to 11 starts.

Price’s move might work out for the best if he turns into a weapon a la Andrew Miller. He looked the part Saturday, getting Boston out of a bases loaded jam in the seventh inning. Everyone knows how dominant closer Craig Kimbrel can be once the baseball is in his hand.

As we mentioned, it hasn’t all come together yet for Boston. But there would be no better time for it to happen than right now. If it does, they’ll become a very dangerous team.

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!