AP Sports Writer
BOSTON (AP) – The Boston Red Sox are running out of chances to wrap up the AL East title.
Boston once again failed to clinch the division crown, losing to the Houston Astros 3-2 Friday night as Alex Bregman homered and drove in three runs.
The Red Sox magic number remained at one to close out the New York Yankees, who beat Toronto 4-0. Boston leads the Yankees by two games – both teams have two games left and they’re each assured playoff spots.
After going 8-1 in their final road trip of the season, the Red Sox have slumped at home, losing two in a row and falling to 1-4 on their homestand. But Mookie Betts said no one is panicking inside the clubhouse.
“It’s just go win one game,” the star outfielder said. “Nobody said it’s going to be easy. If it was easy, it wouldn’t be fun … We just got to go win one game.”
If Boston and New York wind up even, they will play a one-game tiebreaker Monday at Yankee Stadium for the division crown. The loser would go to the wild-card game.
Hanley Ramirez doubled with two outs in the Boston ninth. But with the Fenway Park crowd rooting for a rally, Rafael Devers grounded out to end it, with Ken Giles getting his 34th save.
The AL West champion Astros won their fifth straight game and posted their 100th victory of the season. They are one game behind AL Central champion Cleveland for the best record in the league and home-field advantage in the AL playoffs.
“It’s a big number and it takes six months to get there. I’m proud of our guys, obviously. We’ve got a couple games left. We’d like 102, plus 11 in October,” Houston manager A.J. Hinch said.
Charlie Morton (14-7) retired the first 13 Red Sox batters before Mitch Moreland doubled with one out in the fifth inning.
Morton allowed four hits in 5 1/3 innings. Four relievers combined to blank Boston on one hit.
A day after the Astros routed Boston 12-2, they took a 1-0 lead in the third on Bregman’s RBI single off Doug Fister (5-9). Bregman, who had three hits, had a two-run homer in the fifth.
“The obvious thing is to go out and put together a solid game and win,” Boston manager John Farrell said. “Our destiny is controlled by us, particularly as it relates to the final two days in the division. We’ve got to go out and win a game.”
Boston pulled within 3-2 and had the bases loaded in the sixth, but Ramirez grounded out. Dustin Pedroia got aboard with a walk in the eighth, but pinch-runner Brock Holt was caught trying to advance on a curveball in the dirt by Chris Devenski. The play was challenged by Boston and held up after review.
Holt said he got exactly the scenario he hoped he would.
“I was looking for him to bounce one, and he bounced one. The catcher made a perfect play.”
Houston has won 13 of 15. The Astros reached 100 wins for the second time in team history, having won 102 in 1998.
Red Sox: INF/OF Eduardo Nunez (knee) took groundballs and ran sprints, but manager John Farrell said he is “still not game ready.”
Astros: RHP Lance McCullers Jr. (7-3, 4.01 ERA) has battled injuries in the second half, limiting him to just five starts since the break.
Red Sox: LHP Drew Pomeranz (16-6, 3.38) is 3 1/3 innings shy of setting a new career high for innings (170 2/3 in 2016)
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