Red Sox remind Yankees they’re still the class of baseball

Tubs of emptied champagne bottles filled the Yankee Stadium visitors’ clubhouse on Thursday night, the floor as sticky and slippery as a poorly maintained ice rink.

For the Red Sox, this marked a thing of beauty. For the Yankees? Gross reality.

You don’t win 104 of your first 153 games by accident, and the Yankees’ revival won’t be as simple as 1-2-3. The Red Sox’s thundering, come-from-behind, 11-6 thrashing of their rivals clinched their third straight American League East title and simultaneously sent a message across the Yankees’ bow:

Two-and-a-half strong games won’t and can’t eradicate a season of excellence. Not now, not in October.

“It doesn’t matter where [we clinch], but against our biggest rival, it was definitely pretty cool,” said Mookie Betts, who slugged his 30th homer and drove home five runs to enhance his AL Most Valuable Player candidacy.

Echoed Red Sox President and CEO Sam Kennedy: “It’s definitely rewarding to get it done at Yankee Stadium.”

They wanted to get it done here Tuesday night, their magic number for clinching set at two. Yet the Yankees, embroiled in an 8-11 funk, woke up and showed some fight. With Aaron Judge back in their lineup, they prevailed in a 3-2 thriller on Tuesday night and a 10-1 blowout on Wednesday night. Strong starts by J.A. Happ and Luis Severino on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, encouraged the Yankees that anything was possible come postseason time.

It still is. Yet these Red Sox refused to lug their celebration gear onto Cleveland, even after Giancarlo Stanton’s fourth-inning grand slam put them in a 6-4 hole. The industry’s best offense immediately cut it to 6-5 in the fifth and in the process knocked out Masahiro Tanaka, who had pitched so well recently.

Against Chad Green and Dellin Betances in the seventh, the Bosox leaped ahead with three runs, the last coming home when Aaron Hicks threw errantly to third base, the ball getting away from Miguel Andujar and jumping into the stands, thereby allowing Andrew Benintendi to score an insurance run.

And just to ensure that the Yankees (whose AL wild-card lead over the A’s dropped to a game and a half) would check out with neither an actual victory nor a moral victory, the Red Sox welcomed Aroldis Chapman back from the disabled list with Betts’ three-run homer.

“It just shows what kind of team you have,” Betts said. “You’ve got to play 27 outs. That’s the most important thing when you play against us.”

When Craig Kimbrel struck out Stanton — so much for his being the game’s hero — to end it, the Red Sox celebrated on enemy territory in relatively subdued fashion, the team gathering on the field and hugging without much whooping, even as thousands of Red Sox fans loudly saluted them. President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski and his special assistant, Tony La Russa, both of whom know their way around celebrations like these, calmly watched the celebration from the press box.

In his office, Boston rookie manager Alex Cora noted both that Thursday marked the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Maria hitting his native Puerto Rico and that he interviewed for this job at a Manhattan hotel as his Astros played the Yankees in last year’s AL Championship Series. “It’s fitting that we clinch here,” he said.

And his players, out in the dressing area, partied hearty even as they understood the remaining journey’s challenge.

“A lot of people don’t understand how much work goes into this,” said J.D. Martinez, an AL MVP candidate like Betts. “We’re obviously not done, but this is the first step, and we’re proud of it.”

The Red Sox have finished in first place three straight times for the first time in their glorious history. Even with a vulnerable bullpen and shaky starting rotation, they are going to be one tough out in these playoffs.

The Yankees, having seen the Red Sox’s act all season, probably didn’t need reminders for any of those realities. They got one, though. The next Red Sox celebration in their presence would do nothing less than end their season. So the Yankees will have to figure how to avoid a repeat of this scene.

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