BOSTON - The Boston Red Sox continue to roll, as their rivals, the New York Yankees, continue to fade.
"We're pitching well, we're playing good defense, we're hitting ... no doubt," David Ortiz said after his team completed a three-game sweep of the Yankees with a 9-2 rout Sunday night. "Hopefully, it'll continue like that."
Daniel Nava stroked four hits, Mike Napoli hit a long two-run homer, and Clay Buchholz pitched six innings in his second start off the disabled list as the Red Sox reduced their Magic Number for clinching their first American League East title since 2007 to four.
New York was officially eliminated from the division title race on the night the Red Sox honored retiring closer Mariano Rivera. The battered Yankees, who have 12 games left, remain three games behind both Tampa Bay and the Texas Rangers in the race for the two AL wild cards.
"I don't stop believing," said Yankees manager Joe Girardi. "We're not the only team that's run into hard times in August and September. There's other teams that have run into hard times, too. We still have a great opportunity. Sure we have to win a lot of games, but the opportunity's right in front of us."
Ortiz added two RBI singles for the Red Sox.
Boston won the season series 13-6 from its rivals (6-1 the last two weekends, scoring 59 runs on 82 hits in the seven games). The Red Sox outscored New York 22-7 in the series.
"Our confidence continues to grow and that's not to take anything for granted or guys thinking that someone is not going to either pitch a good game against us or put together a good game against us," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "It's just a matter that this group believes in itself and it continues to show up between the lines."
Yankees starter Ivan Nova (8-5) suffered his first loss since July 27. Nova, 4-0 with four no-decisions in his previous eight starts, left his outing last week in Baltimore with forearm tightness, and he lasted just four-plus innings Sunday. He gave up five runs (four earned) on six hits and four walks.
Buchholz (11-0, 1.51 ERA) limited the Yankees to two hits, four walks and one first-inning run, which was unearned because of his own error on a pickoff throw.
"Not as sharp as his last time out but he has such an ability to manipulate the baseball and make a pitch in key spots," said Farrell, who added, "more importantly, we got him through six innings, we got him up over 90 pitches and that was somewhat of the objective tonight -- in addition to going out and giving us a chance to win."
Napoli homered (No. 22, seven against the Yankees) in the first inning and struck out twice later, earning his first career ejection (from Ron Kulpa) after throwing his helmet down and arguing after the second whiff. That one gave him 178 strikeouts for the season, breaking Mark Bellhorn's single-season franchise record, set in 2004.
The Red Sox, 18-4 in their last 22 games as they close in on their first postseason berth since 2009, pulled a double steal in the fourth inning. Rookie Xander Bogaerts (two hits) swiped second (his first career steal) as a bad throw allowed Jarrod Saltalamacchia to steal home.
Dustin Pedroia ripped a two-run double in the seventh inning.
The Yankees had eight hits in the last two games of the series.
The Rivera ceremony began with a detailed look at the great closer's disastrous ninth inning in Game 4 of the 2004 AL Championship Series, including interviews with Kevin Millar, Dave Roberts and Bill Mueller. They were the three Red Sox who combined to keep their team alive before the greatest comeback/collapse in baseball postseason history.
Then, the message board read the words, "But seriously ..." and the real tribute started, Rivera receiving several gifts, including the No. 42 used on the manual scoreboard at Fenway, with all of the current Red Sox having signed it.
"A great ceremony. Great," Rivera said. "Well done. It was humbling. At the same time, I definitely appreciate what the Red Sox organization did. I will never forget it."
Near the end of the game, he signed some autographs out in the bullpen and then also signed the bullpen wall: "Mariano Rivera. Last to wear No. 42. Thanks for everything."
The only way he'll ever pitch at Fenway Park again would be in the playoffs.
NOTES: Alex Rodriguez was actually cheered by the Boston crowd when it was announced Vernon Wells was hitting for him in the fifth inning. Rodriguez has been DHing because of a hamstring issue, but he left with a right calf injury. He was 1-for-9 in the series, driving in a run Sunday. ... OF Shane Victorino (hamstring, back) was rested by Boston, while 3B Will Middlebrooks (in an 0-for-17 slump) was out due to flu-like symptoms. ... Both teams are off Monday. The Yankees send LHP Andy Pettitte to face the Blue Jays in Toronto on Tuesday, while RHP Ryan Dempster opens Boston's three-game series against the Baltimore Orioles the same night. Pettitte is 3-0 against Toronto this season, 25-13 lifetime.