Red Sox clinch playoff berth
BOSTON — The Red Sox clubhouse was quiet after the team clinched its first postseason berth since 2009, about as quiet as the Orioles’ bats were against John Lackey.
Boston has much bigger goals.
Lackey pitched a two-hit complete game, Stephen Drew hit a two-run homer and the Red Sox beat Baltimore 3-1 on Thursday night to complete an impressive turnaround from last season’s last place-finish.
The win ensured Boston at least a wild-card berth and lowered its magic number to one for clinching the AL East. A year ago, under Bobby valentine, the Red Sox finished 69-93 record — their worst since 1965.
“We’ve still got some other goals ahead of us,” Lackey said. “Hopefully, here in the next night or two we can get a party going.”
Earlier in the day, the Los Angeles Dodgers became the first team to earn a playoff berth when they clinched the NL West.
Just before Adam Jones’ game-ending flyout to right, the crowd chanted, “Lackey! Lackey!” And after Daniel Nava caught the ball, catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia embraced Lackey in front of the mound as Red Sox players came out of the dugout and lined up for their usual, low-key postgame handshakes.
“The next step is a more important one than this,” said manager John Farrell, who has led Boston’s turnaround after one disastrous year under Bobby Valentine. “Winning the East, that’s been the stated goal since day one of spring training. That’s getting closer and I think that will probably be a little bit more the realization of where we’ve come from and where we are at that moment.”
Lackey’s resurgence has been just as remarkable.
He had a 6.41 ERA in 2011 while pitching with arm trouble, then missed all last season following ligament replacement surgery on his right elbow. He’s just 10-12 this season but has had the least run support among Boston starters. On Thursday, he lowered his ERA to 3.44.
“The remake of John Lackey, both physically and getting back on the mound and performing as he’s done all year, mirrors that of this team,” Farrell said. “It’s somewhat fitting that to clinch a spot to get into the playoffs is with him on the mound and to go nine innings the way he did, like I said, very fitting.”
Lackey held the Orioles hitless until Jones homered with one out in the seventh, his 32nd this season. The right-hander allowed a one-out single to J.J. Hardy in the eighth, struck out eight and walked two in his 16th career complete game.
“There’s definitely some satisfaction for sure,” he said, “Just with the injury and other stuff, to get back to the playoffs and get back to the way I can pitch has been fun.”
Baltimore is two games behind in the AL wild-card race after winning two of the three games in the series.
“Who cares about this getting two out of three?” Jones said. “At this point in time, winning the series means nothing. We need wins. ‘Good job getting the series’ if this was June, but it’s September. We need wins.”
Chris Tillman (16-7) gave up three runs and seven hits in seven innings with eight strikeouts and two walks.
“That’s the way these games go at the end of the season,” he said. “You’ve got to be on top of it from the get-go all the way through. I made some mistakes and they made me pay.”
Boston scored all its runs in the second on Drew’s homer, his 13th of the year, and Dustin Pedroia’s RBI single.
The Red Sox have led the AL East since after play on Aug. 25 and entered Thursday having topped the AL East in 46 of the previous 49 days.
Lackey made it 47 out of 50.
“As far as fastball command, keeping the ball down in the zone throughout the game, yeah, that was probably his best game” of the year, Saltalamacchia said.
RANGERS 8, RAYS 2
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Elvis Andrus drove in three runs and Texas beat Tampa for a split of their four-game series that left the teams tied atop the AL wild-card race.
The Rangers won the season series with the Rays 4-3, earning home-field advantage should the teams finish in tie for the two wild-card spots. They each have 10 games left.
The Indians, meanwhile, pulled within a half-game of the leaders by beating Houston 2-1 in 11 innings. Cleveland has nine remaining.
Yu Darvish won for the first time in seven starts since Aug. 12. Darvish (13-9) made it through five innings despite walking six.
Mitch Moreland, Andrus and Alex Rios homered off Matt Moore in the third inning to put the Rangers ahead to stay.
Craig Gentry had four of the Rangers’ 16 hits and three of their five stolen bases, the most against the Rays this season.
Moore (15-4) gave up six runs, five earned, while striking out six in four innings.
INDIANS 2, ASTROS 1, 11 inn.
CLEVELAND — Matt Carson’s single with two outs in the 11th inning gave Cleveland the win as it closed within a half-game in the AL wild card race.
Yan Gomes singled with one out against Rhiner Cruz (0-2), and Asdrubal Cabrera reached on an infield single.
Trevor Crowe caught Michael Brantley’s liner to center and nearly doubled Gomes off second, and Mike Aviles loaded the bases with a walk.
Carson hit a grounder under the glove of second baseman Jose Altuve for Cleveland’s 10th walkoff win this season.
Tampa Bay and Texas (83-69) are tied for the two wild cards.
Bryan Shaw (5-3) pitched the 11th for the win.
The Astros lost their sixth straight.
Cleveland’s Nick Swisher matched a career high with four hits.
BLUE JAYS 6, YANKEES 2
TORONTO — New York lost for the fifth time in six games.
Hiroki Kuroda lost his fifth straight decision, allowing two runs in the third inning and a solo home run to Anthony Gose in the sixth. Adam Lind added a three-run homer in the seventh off Joba Chamberlain.
New York, which dropped 3½ games back for the second AL wild-card berth, lost two of three in Toronto while scoring just six runs and hitting .198 (19 for 96). The Yankees are in danger of missing the playoffs for only the second time in 19 seasons.
New York won 12 of its first 13 games against Toronto this year but lost four of its final six.
Kuroda allowed three runs and eight hits in six inning with four walks and seven strikeouts.
Rookie Todd Redmond (4-2) gave up one run and four hits in a career-high seven innings with seven strikeouts and a walk. Casey Janssen relieved with the bases loaded and one out in the ninth, then finished for his 32nd save in 34 chances.
TIGERS 5, MARINERS 4
DETROIT — Prince Fielder had three hits and scored the tiebreaking run in the seventh inning on a close play at the plate for Detroit.
The Tigers trailed 4-3 after Seattle’s Dustin Ackley hit a three-run homer in the fifth, but Fielder’s RBI single in the seventh tied it. Then he scored from first when Victor Martinez doubled off Charlie Furbush (2-6).
Torii Hunter homered for the Tigers. Doug Fister (13-9) struck out 10 in 7 2-3 innings. Joaquin Benoit pitched a perfect ninth for his 22nd save in 22 chances.
Detroit pushed its AL Central lead to 6½ games. Second-place Cleveland hosted Houston on Thursday night.
ATHLETICS 8, TWINS 6
OAKLAND, Calif. — Coco Crisp hit a go-ahead two-run homer in the eighth inning, and Oakland lowered its magic number to clinch the AL West to four.
Brian Dozier hit a tying RBI single in the top half of the eighth, then Oakland rallied once more just as this club has done so many times the past two seasons. Crisp connected for his 21st home run off Shairon Martis (0-1).
Jed Lowrie’s three-run homer put the A’s ahead 6-3 in the sixth after pinch-hitter Alberto Callaspo tied it with a solo shot, but the bullpen couldn’t hold the lead.
Sean Doolittle (5-5) recorded the final four outs for the victory to end the 3-hour, 41-minute game in front of just 11,461 fans.
Oswaldo Arcia homered in the seventh for the Twins, who lost for the seventh time in nine games that included dropping two of three to the A’s at home last week.
PIRATES 10, PADRES 1
PITTSBURGH — Neil Walker had four hits, including his 11th homer, and drove in three runs to Pittsburgh in stopping a three-game losing streak.
Pedro Alvarez hit his NL-leading 34th homer for Pittsburgh. Jose Tabata added two hits and three RBIs as the Pirates moved a game in front of Cincinnati for the top wild card spot in the NL. The rivals begin a three-game series in Pittsburgh on Friday.
Pittsburgh moved within one game of first-place St. Louis in the NL Central.
Gerrit Cole (9-7) struck out a career-high 12 while allowing one run and four hits in six innings.
Pittsburgh scored four runs total while losing three straight games to the Padres but scored five in the fourth against Ian Kennedy (6-10). Alvarez homered to center with one out to give Pittsburgh the lead.
NATIONALS 3, MARLINS 2
WASHINGTON — Bryce Harper hit a three-run homer to back an effective pitching performance by Gio Gonzalez, and Washington kept alive their slim hope of reaching the playoffs.
Despite winning 11 of 13 in a belated run, the Nationals trail Cincinnati by five games for the final NL wild-card slot with nine games remaining.
Denard Span went 0 for 4 for Washington, ending his hitting streak at 29 games — one short of the Nationals record. He was bidding to become the 27th player to have a 30-game hitting streak since Joe DiMaggio had his 56-game run in 1941.
Gonzalez (11-7) allowed two runs and seven hits over six innings to improve to 3-0 against Miami this season. He struck out three, lifting his team-high total to 186.
Rafael Soriano got three outs for his 42nd save.
Harper’s 20th homer of the season came in the first inning off Henderson Alvarez (4-5).
Ed Lucas had three hits for the Marlins, who must go 7-2 in their last nine games to avoid 100 losses.
ROCKIES 7, CARDINALS 6, 15 inn.
DENVER — Corey Dickerson’s RBI triple with one out in the bottom of the 15th inning gave Colorado the win.
Charlie Blackmon finished with four hits and Troy Tulowitzki and Todd Helton homered for the Rockies in tying the second-longest game in Coors Field history.
Matt Holliday had three hits for the Cardinals, who had their NL Central Division lead over Pittsburgh trimmed to one game. The Pirates beat San Diego 10-1 on Thursday.
DJ LeMahieu started the winning rally with a one-out single to right. Dickerson then drilled a line drive into the right-field corner. The relay from second baseman Matt Carpenter beat LeMahieu but catcher Yadier Molina couldn’t control the ball as LeMahieu crawled to touch home.
It was Dickerson’s second triple of the game and sixth of the season.
In the first inning, Helton tagged out Carpenter at first with the hidden-ball trick. After Roy Oswalt threw to first, Helton feigned a throw back to the mound and tagged Carpenter when he stepped off the bag to end the inning.
The Cardinals loaded the bases in the 15th but Pete Kozma hit into a double play to end the inning.
GIANTS 2, METS 1
NEW YORK — San Francisco’s Madison Bumgarner struck out 10 in seven innings of four-hit ball to outpitch Jonathon Niese.
Juan Perez went 3 for 3 with an RBI and the World Series champions won for the eighth time in 11 games. After taking two of three from the Mets, the Giants don’t even have to change hotels — they stay in New York this weekend to play three interleague games at Yankee Stadium.
Bumgarner (13-9) has gone 19 straight starts without yielding more than three earned runs, the longest streak by a San Francisco pitcher since Tim Lincecum’s 19 in a row from 2007-08. The previous Giants hurler to do it during one season was Ed Whitson in 1980, according to STATS.
Niese (7-8) threw seven solid innings for the Mets, who rallied for four runs in the ninth to win 5-4 on Wednesday night. They finished 4-7 on their penultimate homestand.
CUBS 5, BREWERS 1
MILWAUKEE — Luis Valbuena, Nate Schierholtz and Brian Bogusevic homered, and Chicago stopped a five-game losing streak.
Jake Arrieta (3-2) didn’t allow a hit until two outs in the fourth when former-Cub Aramis Ramirez singled between second and third. Carlos Gomez hit a solo homer in the seventh.
Arrieta allowed three hits, struck out five, walked one and drove in a run.
Valbuena stopped an 0-for-14 slide with his 12th homer, a solo shot off Kyle Lohse (10-10) in the first. Schierholtz hit a two-run homer in third and Bogusevic added a pinch- homer off Donovan Hand leading off the ninth.
Lohse gave up three runs and seven hits in five innings.
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