With their first American League East title since 2007 in tow, the Boston Red Sox are still gunning for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs and will pursue that goal Tuesday in the opener of a two-game series against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field.
The Red Sox have the edge over the Oakland Athletics and Detroit Tigers for home-field advantage and will close out the regular season with five straight road games against Colorado and Baltimore. They have won eight of 12 and 16 of the last 22 contests, and took a three-game set from the Toronto Blue Jays this weekend.
In Sunday's 5-2 win, the Red Sox plated four runs in the second inning to open the game and both David Ortiz and Jackie Bradley Jr. added home runs. Bradley Jr. cracked a three-run homer in the decisive fourth inning to give starter Felix Doubront a comfortable lead. Doubront threw seven innings of two-run ball, while Franklin Morales and Koji Uehara pitched a scoreless inning apiece. Uehara has 21 saves on the season.
Boston clinched the AL East on Friday and went worst-to-first for the first time in franchise history.
"The energy that's here once again has been our advantage," Red Sox manager John Farrell said of his club recovering from 2011's September collapse and a last-place finish in 2012. "We've heard a lot about the last two Septembers, but it hasn't entered the minds of anyone in this clubhouse."
The Red Sox need to win out to reach 100 victories for the first time since 1946.
"We want to win out ... we want to win 100 games," Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks told the club's website. "And we want to have home-field advantage, too. It's a close record for the best record. Oakland is right behind us. That's important to us."
John Lackey will try to pitch the Red Sox closer to home-field advantage when he takes the mound Tuesday in Colorado. Lackey is 2-0 in his last three starts and went the distance in Thursday's 3-1 win over the Orioles, limiting the visitors to a run and two hits with eight strikeouts and two walks.
Lackey is 10-12 with a 3.44 earned run average in 28 starts and is just 4-9 in 15 road outings. The right-handed Lackey has faced the Rockies three times in his career, going 2-0 with a 4.15 ERA against them.
The Rockies will try to put a halt on Boston's plans for home-field advantage and have lost six of their last nine games. They dropped two of three versus Arizona over the weekend and suffered a 13-9 loss in Sunday's series finale, as Juan Nicasio failed to make it out of the third inning and was touched for seven runs and seven hits in only 2 1/3 frames.
"I think particularly with the time he's missed the last couple years, this is a heavy workload for him," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said of Nicasio
Both teams pounded out 19 hits and the Rockies had three players with three hits. Charlie Blackmon was 3-for-6 with an RBI and a run scored, Michael Cuddyer had three hits and drove in a run and the retiring Todd Helton collected three hits, four RBI and scored a run. Cuddyer is hitting .334 and leads Atlanta's Chris Johnson (.327) for the NL batting title.
Colorado fans have two more chances to see Helton in action at Coors Field and will celebrate his career Wednesday with his bobblehead. The Rockies will close out the season with three games at Los Angeles.
Tyler Chatwood will open this series with Boston on the hill and is 0-2 in his past five starts. Chatwood allowed four runs and eight hits in six innings of a 4-3 loss to St. Louis last Wednesday and dropped to 7-5 in 19 starts to go along with a 3.36 ERA.
Chatwood, who last won on July 26 versus Milwaukee, is 4-2 in 10 starts at home and did not record a decision in his only start against the Red Sox, tossing six innings of two-run ball in a 4-2 loss on April 21, 2011 as a member of the LA Angels.
Boston swept a two-game set versus Colorado at Fenway Park from June 25-26.