BOSTON — Boston Red Sox president Dave Dombrowski stood dripping, smelling of the champagne sprayed throughout the Fenway Park clubhouse Saturday.

Dombrowski usually presents a reserved, gentlemanly demeanor, so it was hard to imagine him jumping into the celebration.

“This (celebration) is more for the players,” Dombrowski said. “But as soon as I walked in, I got doused.”

The Red Sox won their second straight AL East title with a 6-3 win over Houston, and this time the players felt like enjoying themselves.

Last year the Red Sox clinched when the second-place Blue Jays lost. Meanwhile, Boston blew a 3-0 lead in the ninth and experienced a walk-off loss to the Yankees in New York.

“Last year was a weird celebration, coming in after a loss,” said pitcher Drew Pomeranz. “In the locker room, everyone felt confused about what to do. This is what we wanted. We wanted to win the game, and come in and celebrate.”

It was a celebration the Red Sox had to wait to enjoy. After an 8-1 trip, the team returned Monday to Fenway. Depending how the Yankees did, there was talk of a possible clinching by Tuesday.

But the losses piled up and the Yankees kept winning. Heading into Saturday, New York was two games behind with two games to go.

The Yankees decided to go for it. They intended to pitch Jaime Garcia on Saturday and rest CC Sabathia for the playoffs. But with a chance for the division title, the Yankees changed and went with Sabathia.

Sabathia helped New York to a 2-1 win, but the Red Sox finally took care of things.

“One hundred and sixty-one games. That took a long time,” Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts said.

There was a feeling of relief along with the happiness. With each day, they did not clinch, the Red Sox had to feel the pressure.

Now they’ve won.

Still, do you want a team heading into the playoffs feeling relieved or feeling confident?

Jackie Bradley Jr., an outfielder never short of confidence, said the losses this past week mean nothing.

“Who cares about the last few days?” Bradley said. “It really doesn’t matter now. What you do in the regular season doesn’t make a difference in the playoffs.”

Manager John Farrell sat behind his desk, drenched and content.

“We know (how) we finished out this month of September,” he said. “We’re a little banged up, but we’re champs.”

Winning Saturday was huge. The Red Sox don’t have to use Chris Sale on Sunday. He’s been grinding for a month, with up-and-down results.

“Now we get a chance to get him some extra days rest,” Farrell said.

Hector Velazquez will start instead. Sunday will look more like a spring- training game with lots of backups and substitutions.

Then it will be off to Houston for the division series and the Astros will be heavily favored.

Want perspective? On Saturday the Red Sox, with their second-best starter, beat the Astros, and their No. 5, Lance McCullers.

Last Thursday and Friday, Boston faced Houston starters Brad Peacock and Charlie Morton, totaling four runs in two losses. Peacock and Morton are the Astros’ third and fourth starters.

When the Red Sox play in Houston, they will face Justin Verlander (15-8, 3.36 ERA) and Dallas Keuchel (14-5, 2.90). Since Houston acquired Verlander from the Tigers, he’s 5-0 with a 1.06 ERA.

“We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us,” Farrell said.

Memories of last year’s three-game sweep to Cleveland are still fresh – starting with two losses in Cleveland, when Boston totaled four runs.

There’s no reason to believe this team will be any different. Farrell, of course, believes otherwise. He’s thinks big picture.

“We have 11 more wins to accumulate this year,” Farrell said.

Farrell uses words like “resolve” and “resiliency” a lot. This Red Sox team was not wire-to-wire dominant. They falter but they also win. And they won a big one Saturday.

“We’re going to enjoy this,” said Brock Holt, dripping like everyone else. “It’s a team thing. But we know the work’s not over yet.”

Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: @ClearTheBases