(Photo credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports)
After celebrating their first division title since 2014, the Baltimore Orioles will go back to work Friday night as they continue their season-ending series against the visiting Boston Red Sox.
Baltimore's 2-0 win on Thursday night locked up the American League East crown and gave the Orioles theNo. 1 seed in the American League playoffs.
The Orioles (100-59) had not reached the century mark since going 100-62 in 1980. Just two years ago, they lost 110 games.
Baltimore enters the weekend on a five-game winning streak. This year's club has never lost more than four straight and hasn't been swept in a series. They are a combined 31-18 against their division with three games remaining.
"I just think this team is resilient, this team wants to win day in and day out," outfielder Aaron Hicks said. "This team is together, they're a unit and prepared to win every single day. And it's one of the main things I love about this team."
Boston right-hander Nick Pivetta (9-9, 4.25 ERA) opposes left-hander John Means (1-1, 2.60) on Friday.
Pivetta is coming off his best start of the season. On Sept. 23, he tossed seven shutout innings against the White Sox. He allowed three hits, struck out seven and walked one. Pivetta has a 3.09 ERA in four September starts, and opponents are hitting .212 against him.
"He's finding the strike zone with good stuff, so that was a good one," manager Alex Cora said. "It's been fun to watch, especially the last two and a half, three months. He likes to compete, always available, and in tough conditions that was really good."
Pivetta is 7-2 with a 3.54 ERA in 11 career starts vs. the Orioles.
Means makes his fourth start since his return from Tommy John surgery. Competing for a spot in Baltimore's postseason rotation, Means pitched a gem last time out. He went 7 1/3 innings in a win against the Cleveland Guardians, allowing one run on one hit. Means struck out four and walked one.
"You dream of it as a little kid," Means said of the postseason. "I can't wait to see the crowds here at Camden Yards. It's going to be so cool, and I'm just looking forward to it."
Means is 4-2 with a 3.70 ERA in eight games - seven starts - against the Red Sox.
Anthony Santander homered in the first inning, and Dean Kremer pitched into the sixth inning Thursday night as Baltimore earned its 10th division crown. Heston Kjerstad added a pinch-hit RBI double for an eighth-inning insurance run.
First baseman Ryan Mountcastle went 0-for-1 with a walk in his return to the lineup. He went on the injured list Sept. 20 with AC joint inflammation in his left shoulder.
Boston was held to three hits while losing its fifth straight game and watching the Orioles celebrate.
"It seems they were the best team in the American League East," Cora said. "It was pedal to the metal all the way to today. It was a great season for them - and, from all of us, congratulations."
--Field Level Media