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Orioles clinch the AL East title with their 100th win of the season, 2-0 over Red Sox

BALTIMORE (AP) — Ramón Urías fielded a grounder and threw to first for the final out, and the Baltimore Orioles poured onto the field for a celebration at the mound.

They weren’t in a full sprint. Some players walked and others jogged or skipped. Perhaps it was a sign of just how grueling — and at times exhausting — this race or the AL East title was.

That chase is now over. Anthony Santander homered, DL Hall worked out of a sixth-inning jam and the Orioles clinched the division championship with a 2-0 victory over the Boston Red Sox on Thursday night.

“It was the AL Beast again this year, and we knew it,” outfielder Austin Hays said. “We had to battle … but here we are. We did it.”

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Dean Kremer (13-5) allowed two hits and a walk in 5 1/3 innings, striking out eight, and the Orioles reached 100 wins for the sixth time in team history and first since 1980. Baltimore prevailed in a brutally tough division that relegated the Red Sox and New York Yankees to afterthoughts.

Now the Orioles — two years after losing 110 games — will enter the postseason as the top seed in the American League.

“There were so many rough nights in ‘19 and ’21,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “There’s a lot of guys that were in that clubhouse that are celebrating right now.”

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Before the team wrapped up the victory, there was already quite a bit of excitement at Camden Yards. The team announced on the scoreboard after the third inning that it had reached an agreement with the state keeping the Orioles in Baltimore for at least the next 30 years. The team’s lease at Camden Yards was set to expire at the end of 2023.

During the seventh-inning stretch, the scoreboard had another treat for Baltimore fans — the sight of Orioles great Cal Ripken in attendance.

Baltimore won the AL East five times in six years after divisional play began in 1969, but this is only the fifth division title for the Orioles since then — and first since 2014. Baltimore’s most recent pennant and World Series title were in 1983.

The Orioles had to work for this AL East crown. Tampa Bay began the season with 13 consecutive victories and led Baltimore by 6 1/2 games after a win at Camden Yards on May 8. But the Orioles took the last two games of that series, stayed close to the Rays and passed them shortly after the All-Star break.

“When they got off to such a hot start, I was just trying to figure out what our club was,” Hyde said. “I thought we were a good team. I wasn’t sure about a lot of things, and I was hoping that we would compete for six months, and knowing it’s a long season.”

Baltimore has gone 91 consecutive series of at least two decisions without being swept.

Santander’s homer off Chris Sale (6-5) gave the Orioles a 1-0 lead in the first. After the Red Sox put men on first and third with one out in the sixth, Hall relieved Kremer and retired pinch-hitter Adam Duvall and Alex Verdugo on a strikeout and a groundout.

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The crowd’s energy seemed to grow with each scoreless Boston frame. Hall worked the seventh as well. Yennier Cano got two outs in the eighth, and Cionel Pérez retired Rafael Devers on a groundout with a man on second for the third out of that inning.

The Orioles added a run in the eighth on an RBI double by pinch-hitter Heston Kjerstad. Then Tyler Wells pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for his first save of the season — and the party began in earnest.

“I was feeling anxiety,” said Adley Rutschman, the star catcher who was Baltimore’s designated hitter Thursday. “I was so anxious in the dugout, just so excited watching Wellsie go out there and do his thing.”

HEAD TO HEAD

The Orioles improved to 31-18 against the AL East with three games still to come against Boston. Baltimore went 8-5 against Tampa Bay, 10-3 against Toronto and 7-6 against the Yankees. The Orioles are 6-4 against the Red Sox.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Red Sox: Boston put RHP Chris Martin on the 15-day injured list with a viral infection.

Orioles: 1B Ryan Mountcastle, activated Wednesday from the IL, was in the starting lineup. He drew a walk and was hit by a pitch.

UP NEXT

Orioles LHP John Means (1-1) starts against Boston’s Nick Pivetta (9-9) on Friday night.

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AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/mlb