The playoff math has become very simple for the Boston Red Sox.
If the Red Sox win their regular-season finale Sunday at the Washington Nationals, they will host the American League wild-card game.
Boston enters Sunday tied with the New York Yankees at 91-70 but owns the tiebreaker because it won the season series (10-9). If the Red Sox lose, scenarios involving the Yankees, Toronto Blue Jays (90-71) and Seattle Mariners (90-71) could come into play.
“We know what that means if we win,” Boston manager Alex Cora said after the Red Sox broke a tie with four runs in the ninth and held on for a 5-3 win on Saturday.
Cora will turn to ace Chris Sale (5-1, 2.90 ERA), who makes his ninth start after missing much of the season following Tommy John surgery. On Tuesday in Baltimore, Sale gave up three runs on four hits in 5 1/3 innings of a loss.
For the Nationals, Sunday could be Ryan Zimmerman’s final game with the team. The 37-year-old first baseman says he has not decided about returning for a 17th season with the Nationals in 2022. He might get a start Sunday, especially if the left-handed Sale does indeed pitch for Boston.
“I don’t want to make a decision on anything before I really have closure on it,” he said. “The last thing I would want to do is say I don’t want to come back, and then come December, I’m sitting at home and talking with my family and realize I do want to come back.”
As a part-time player this season, Zimmerman is hitting .246 with 14 homers and 45 RBIs. He doubled and scored Washington’s first run on Saturday. For his career, Zimmerman is a .277 hitter with 284 homers and 1,060 RBIs. He was an All-Star as recently as 2017.
“For me, there’s no doubt,” manager Dave Martinez said. “I still think he has a lot left in the tank. His bat speed is still there. As you can see, he’s still one of the better first basemen, fielding-wise, in the game. He runs the bases well. It’s all up to him.”
Washington will call-up right-hander Joan Adon to make his major-league debut, and catcher Alex Avila will play his final MLB game.
Adon, 23, has pitched at three levels this season and recently made his first Triple-A start, pitched four scoreless innings.
Avila, 34, is retiring after 13 seasons, the majority spent with the Detroit Tigers.
On Saturday, Enrique Hernandez’s two-run homer capped a four-run outburst that came after Washington had tied the game in the eighth. Tanner Houck pitched five perfect innings before being lifted, and Rafael Devers homered for the Red Sox.
The Red Sox, who had lost five of six before winning their last two, hope the momentum from Saturday’s ninth inning carries over.
“Obviously it wasn’t a great week, but we’re in this position right now. We’ve got the right guy and we’ve got to show up tomorrow and win,” Cora said. “Do that, hop on that plane, go home, back to our families and be ready for whatever happens this week.”
–Field Level Media