Lackey stifles Orioles; Sox clinch playoff berth

Boston Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia and pitcher John Lackey congratulate each other after the Red Sox beat the Baltimore Orioles 3-1 at Fenway Park in Boston Thursday night.
Brian Snyder/Reuters
Boston Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia and pitcher John Lackey congratulate each other after the Red Sox beat the Baltimore Orioles 3-1 at Fenway Park in Boston Thursday night.
Posted Sept. 19, 2013, at 10:38 p.m.
Last modified Sept. 19, 2013, at 11:52 p.m.

BOSTON — John Lackey fired a two-hitter and the Boston Red Sox beat the Baltimore Orioles 3-1 on Thursday night at Fenway Park to clinch a playoff berth.

Boston is assured of at least a wild card. The Red Sox’s magic number for clinching the American League East championship was one after Texas beat the second-place Tampa Bay Rays 8-2.

The Red Sox, who avoided a sweep in the three-game series, will be in the postseason for the first time since 2009.

Lackey had a no-hitter through 6 1/3 innings, but Baltimore’s first hit wasn’t a cheapie. Adam Jones clubbed an 0-1 pitch over the Green Monster.

Baltimore’s only other hit was J.J. Hardy’s eighth-inning single.

Lackey (10-12) threw his first nine-inning complete game of the season, finishing with two walks and eight strikeouts.

“John Lackey pitched just an outstanding ballgame,” Red Sox manager John 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.”

The closest that Lackey has come to a no-hitter was 8 1/3 innings for the Los Angeles Angels against the Red Sox on July 29, 2008, at Fenway Park when Dustin Pedroia’s single broke up his bid. Before Jones’ home run, he had allowed two base runners, on two-out walks to Brian Roberts in the third and Nate McLouth in the sixth.

“I didn’t get that far ahead,” Lackey said of a potential no-hitter. “I felt pretty good. I was locating my fastball and had a little bit on it. My arm felt good.

“We were just trying to win a game, especially in a 3-0 game you can’t get too far ahead of yourself with their lineup. That can get out of hand pretty quick.

“It was fun. Things lined up for me good tonight.”

Orioles right-hander Chris Tillman (16-7) went seven innings, giving up three runs, seven hits and two walks with eight strikeouts.

“It was a small margin of error,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “But another example of Chris’ maturity. To think that he was going to give us those seven is pretty impressive. … The story was Lackey. It’s one of those tip-your-hat nights.”

Tillman said, “I was fighting to make adjustments all night. I think I was a little out of whack the whole game and me and (catcher Matt Wieters) and (pitching coach Bill Castro) were able to sit down and say, ‘We’ve got to do something different here and make an adjustment.’ Once I made a little bit of an adjustment they kept coming. It was a grind throughout.”

The Red Sox took a three-run lead in the second. Stephen Drew hit a two-run homer, driving in Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who led off the inning with a double. Jackie Bradley Jr. doubled and scored on Dustin Pedroia’s single.

NOTES: Orioles RHP Darren O’Day returned to action for the first time since Sept. 7, retiring one batter in the eighth inning. He was sidelined because of numbness in two fingers of his right hand. … Orioles manager Buck Showalter is deciding between RHPs Miguel Gonzalez and Bud Norris for the Saturday start at Tampa Bay. Gonzalez left Sunday’s game in Toronto with a strained right groin, and Norris missed a start due to tightness in his right elbow. … Red Sox RF Shane Victorino did not play. He left Wednesday’s game for a pinch hitter in the 12th inning. Manager John Farrell said Victorino, who has been dealing with a jammed right thumb, is considered day-to-day. … Boston CF Jacoby Ellsbury has not yet begun baseball activities as he rehabs the fractured navicular bone in his right foot, an injury that occurred when he fouled off a ball off the foot Aug. 28. He continued playing but has not appeared in a game since Sept. 5. There is no timetable for his return.

RANGERS 8, RAYS 2: The Texas Rangers knotted the race for the top American League wild-card spot with Tampa Bay again on Thursday, pounding the Rays 8-2 at Tropicana Field.

Texas (83-69), which had lost seven straight before the four-game series began, earned a split and continued one of the few remaining playoff battles with the Rays (83-69), Indians (83-70) and Orioles (81-71). The top wild card team will host a one-game playoff with the second wild-card team.

Texas starter Yu Darvish (13-9) was wild but good enough after losing consecutive 1-0 decisions. The Rangers’ defense turned two double plays to offset a six walks issued by Darvish, which tied a season high. He allowed two earned runs on five hits and struck out four.

Texas out-hit the Rays 16-7.

Texas hammered three solo homers in third inning to take a 4-2 lead against Rays starter Matt Moore. Mitch Moreland, the lone left-hander in the lineup against the southpaw Moore, led off with a blast to left and Elvis Andrus and Alex Rios went back-to-back with one out.

The Rangers used aggressive base running to score twice in the sixth to take a 6-2 lead. Andrus drove in both runs with an infield single.

Craig Gentry singled to lead off the inning and Ian Kinsler walked with two outs. Both runners advanced on a double steal and then scored when Andrus beat out a chopper to short after Rays first baseman James Loney made a basket catch of Yunel Escobar’s throw instead of reaching for the ball.

Moore lasted just four innings, allowing six runs (five earned) and seven hits. He struck out six.

Texas took a 1-0 lead in the first inning on Rios’ RBI single that scored Andrus, who had reached on an Escobar error and had taken second on Moore wild pitch.

The Rays responded with two runs in the second, exploiting Darvish’s wildness. Leadoff hitter David DeJesus was hit by a pitch and Evan Longoria walked with two outs before Loney flicked a run-scoring double down the left-field line. Kelly Johnson walked to load the bases and Desmond Jennings received the third free pass of the 40-pitch inning to give the Rays a 2-1 lead.

BLUE JAYS 6, YANKEES 2: Anthony Gose and Adam Lind hit home runs and Todd Redmond pitched seven strong innings as the Toronto Blue Jays defeated the New York Yankees 6-2 on Thursday.

Redmond (4-2) held the Yankees to four hits, one walk and one run and struck out seven as the Blue Jays (70-82) won the rubber match of the three-game series to complete their homestand at 3-6.

Curtis Granderson homered for the Yankees (80-73) who entered Thursday 2 1/2 games out of an American League wild-card spot and finished their trip at 4-6.

Yankee starter Hiroki Kuroda (11-12) allowed eight hits, four walks and three runs while striking out seven in six innings to take his fifth loss without a win in his past seven starts.

Joba Chamberlain took over for New York in the seventh and did not retire a batter in allowing three runs on Lind’s 22nd homer of the season, a blast to right on a 2-1 slider. Chamberlain walked Munenori Kawasaki to start the inning and Brett Lawrie followed with a single to extend his hit streak to six games.

Toronto opened a 2-0 lead in the third inning. Granderson hit his seventh homer of the season to right with one out in the sixth to cut the lead to one.

Gose answered with his second homer of the season with two out in the bottom of the sixth to make it 3-1. It was his third hit of the game against Kuroda.

Sergio Santos pitched a 1-2-3 eighth for the Blue Jays before a crowd of 32,003 at Rogers Centre.

Luis Perez retired one batter in the ninth for the Blue Jays before Alex Rodriguez walked and Robinson Cano singled.

Jeremy Jeffress took over and walked Alfonso Soriano to load the bases and was replaced by Casey Janssen. Vernon Wells grounded out to second, scoring one run. Lyle Overbay grounded out to first to end the game and as Janssen earned his 32nd save.

The Blue Jays scored twice in the third. Gose led off with a single and cruised home on a double to left-center by Jose Reyes. Reyes took third on a sacrifice by Kawasaki and came home on Lawrie’s chopper to third.

The Blue Jays loaded the bases on a single and two walks, but Kuroda struck out Ryan Goins to prevent further damage.

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