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Red Sox defeat Orioles, clinch a playoff spot

Sep 19, 2013, 9:48 PM EDT

John Lackey Getty Getty Images

The Red Sox are headed back to the postseason for the first time since 2009.

John Lackey went the distance tonight in a 3-1 victory over the Orioles, helping the Red Sox clinch a spot in the playoffs. The win secured them at least a spot in the American League Wild Card game. Their magic number sits at two to win the American League East.

It’s fitting that the resurgent Lackey would be the one to get them there. The veteran right-hander gave up just two hits on the night while walking two and striking out eight. He didn’t allow his first hit until Adam Jones went deep for a solo homer with two outs in the seventh inning. After missing all of last season following Tommy John surgery, he now owns a 3.44 ERA and 156/39 K/BB ratio over 183 1/3 innings. Tonight’s complete game was his first as a member of the Red Sox. Remember when his contract was a disaster?

The Red Sox were a complete disaster under Bobby Valentine last season, finishing with a record of 69-93, but John Farrell has guided them to 93 wins so far this season. How’s that for some nifty symmetry?

  1. aceshigh11 - Sep 19, 2013 at 9:50 PM

    Lackey was DEALING tonight. Awesome performance.

    Congrats, boys. You’ve earned it.

    • jcmeyer10 - Sep 19, 2013 at 10:10 PM

      I was waiting for them to fall apart when the Rays closed the gap after the break but I can’t give these guys enough kudos.

  2. chill1184 - Sep 19, 2013 at 9:52 PM

    Congrats to the Red Sox

    • sabatimus - Sep 19, 2013 at 10:53 PM

      Not yet. We’ve clinched the one-game playoff. To quote Top Gun, I WANT VIPER.

      • sabatimus - Sep 19, 2013 at 10:54 PM

        All right. One magic number until Viper.

  3. wilkisoft - Sep 19, 2013 at 9:55 PM

    I had the Red Sox finishing last in this division prior to the season. As a Red Sox fan, I’m pleasantly surprised with this team of role players. Reminds me a lot of the recent championship teams. Go Red Sox!

    • jcmeyer10 - Sep 19, 2013 at 10:04 PM

      I hear that. I braced myself for a crummy year and this has been nothing short of magical.

    • pinkfloydprism - Sep 19, 2013 at 10:41 PM

      After last season, and the one before that as well, combined with the off season signings… I had them last this season too… I never thought a manager could be THAT bad…

  4. thebigtim2012 - Sep 19, 2013 at 10:02 PM

    The bearded ones conquer

  5. jcmeyer10 - Sep 19, 2013 at 10:03 PM

    The Sox could have at least put out a kiddie pool for them to celebrate in.

  6. bosoxfan15 - Sep 19, 2013 at 10:04 PM

    This team is so fun to watch. The beards are awesome, and the guys they’ve brought in to this supposed “rebuilding year” have been great.

  7. j0esixpack - Sep 19, 2013 at 10:37 PM

    I’ve long contended that Valentine served his intended purpose in what was destined to be a lost season

    Veteran players had taken for granted Francona’s hands off approach and they did not self police like professionals – or grown men for the most part.

    Giving up on the season allowed them to trade some of the albatross contracts too.

    Today between the remaining guys here and the new character guys signed, you can be sure they will never again take a player’s coach for granted

    Valentine mission accomplished as far as I’m concerned

    • dan1111 - Sep 20, 2013 at 5:27 AM

      Surely there are easier ways to teach cocky players a lesson than wasting a whole season.

      And if they didn’t want certain players, there was nothing to stop them from making a trade even while they were competitive. As they did with Nomar and Manny Ramirez, for example. Being bad only reduces the team’s leverage, because everyone knows you need to make a trade.

      Bobby Valentine’s tenure, like New Coke, wasn’t some sort of evil genius plan. It was a train wreck that ended up doing far less long-term damage than everyone expected.

    • 18thstreet - Sep 20, 2013 at 8:15 AM

      This is not the stupidest thing I’ve ever read.

      Huh.

      • j0esixpack - Sep 20, 2013 at 4:59 PM

        Then obviously you don’t understand the mindset of professional baseball players – men playing a boys game – many of whom are stuck in an adolescent mind set.

        That’s obvisoulsy something way above your head.

        The bottom line – they were no longer responding to Francona – who everyone recognizes as a “player’s coach”

        After one year under Valentine, the Sox again are responding well to a players’ coach.

      • 18thstreet - Sep 20, 2013 at 7:34 PM

        I think it’s pretty ridiculous to suggest every major league baseball player has the same mindset.

      • j0esixpack - Sep 20, 2013 at 8:19 PM

        Where did anyone suggest that every major league player is identical?

        Is that type of black and white argument what you need to resort to in order to prove your point?

        As anyone with half a brain knows, not every Red Sox player was a problem child. And even some of the problem children were able to have an attitude adjustment. Others were traded or let go.

        But overall, a great many players grew lazy and took Francona for granted (he’s a good manager, but many players didn’t realize how good they had it or took advantage of him)

        They were most certainly wishing they had Francona back under Valentine – and clearly are thriving under Farrell.

        Why would they NOT take Farrell for granted when they took Francona for granted? The Valentine experience is one big reason.

  8. thomas844 - Sep 19, 2013 at 11:03 PM

    I’ve never been a Red Sox fan, but I really like this group of guys. Pedroia is a great leader, Napoli and Gomes bring a lot of energy and fun to the team, Uehara is an elite closer, and the beard trend is fun for both the team and the fans. This team and the 2012 team are like night and day.

  9. proudlycanadian - Sep 19, 2013 at 11:08 PM

    Congratulations to the Red Sox and their fans. They can take it easy during their next series. I am sure that Red Sox fans are also pleased that the Yankees lost today and are in 6th place among the 6 teams still in the Wild Card race.

    • historiophiliac - Sep 19, 2013 at 11:59 PM

      Their fans are gonna be unbearable now.

      • Francisco (FC) - Sep 20, 2013 at 12:52 AM

        Yankees Fans or Sox Fans?

      • historiophiliac - Sep 20, 2013 at 8:00 AM

        BloSox. Yankees fans are already that way. ;)

      • aceshigh11 - Sep 20, 2013 at 8:07 AM

        Yes, we are. ;)

      • historiophiliac - Sep 20, 2013 at 8:14 AM

        Hmmm, yeah, you weren’t who I had in mind at all. lol

      • aceshigh11 - Sep 20, 2013 at 8:19 AM

        Honestly, I never brag or rub it in. What’s the point? The Sox sucked for almost a century, and then suffered the biggest late season collapse in history.

        There isn’t a helluva lot to be arrogant about, especially compared to Yankees fans. I’m happy about this season but I don’t gloat.

      • mfbuckley - Sep 20, 2013 at 10:49 AM

        Did you mean “unBEARDable?

      • historiophiliac - Sep 20, 2013 at 11:40 AM

        nice

    • MLBlogsbig3bosox - Sep 20, 2013 at 12:52 AM

      Ha! I know why you want them to take it easy in their next series but they still gotta finish the job. Magic number is 2 for the division and I’m sure that’s the real goal for now.

      • 18thstreet - Sep 20, 2013 at 8:19 AM

        The Sox are really a lot better at Fenway (51-27) than on the road (42-34). There’s some real incentive for them to get the best record in the AL. I wouldn’t expect them to ease up for the last week of the season, especially when there’s four days between end of the regular season and the start of the ALDS.

    • theskinsman - Sep 20, 2013 at 4:55 AM

      Proudly, my old friend, Please type it correctly for dim witted Harry, who no doubt reads these posts, but isn’t man enough to post anymore.
      ‘Ball game over, Yankees lose! Theeeeee Yankees LOSE!’
      Thanks to Joba for going in to serve up yet another gopher ball. I said a long time ago that the yanks would be watching the good teams play on TV when the playoffs start,and that prediction looks better every day.

  10. tfbuckfutter - Sep 19, 2013 at 11:19 PM

    The good thing about being a pessimist is that you get to take enjoyment in the rare occasion when you are wrong.

    So I can say with total happiness that I was completely wrong about the Sox heading into the season. I didn’t expect them to be even average let alone have, as of now, the best record in baseball.

    That said, it’s really too bad this shitty team is going to be so badly embarrassed in the playoffs. Probably.

    • proudlycanadian - Sep 20, 2013 at 7:51 AM

      Agreed if that is any help to you.

  11. necr0philia - Sep 19, 2013 at 11:27 PM

    From a Braves fan: Congrats to Boston and their Fans!!

  12. bahston - Sep 20, 2013 at 2:18 AM

    First, not what I expected at all this season. Wow.

    Second, screw the playoffs and the division. The rest of the regular season is about home field advantage, period.

    Third, please don’t act like the bone heads from L.A. (a team I actually like) and celebrate unless it a World Series clincher.

    • Anoesis - Sep 20, 2013 at 10:36 AM

      Then I guess they won’t be celebrating this year. With their road record maybe the Sox missed their only chance to celebrate. Hey, you piss on my parade, I piss on yours.

      • drewzducks - Sep 20, 2013 at 7:54 PM

        Yeah genius, Boston’s hideous 42-34 road record pales in comparison to the mighty LA Dodgers’ 43-34.

  13. theskinsman - Sep 20, 2013 at 4:57 AM

    Lackey looked better than he has since coming to Boston. I think the Bosox look awfully good for the postseason.

  14. Jack Marshall - Sep 20, 2013 at 6:51 AM

    Until the day I die, every time someone (like D.J. Short) takes a cheap shot at Valentine to suggest that there was a single thing he could have done to stop 2012 from being a disaster or that any other manager, including Farrell, Earl Weaver or John McGraw, could have done any better, I’m going to ask for some substantive justification. I haven’t heard any so far, except that people like bashing Bobby. He had the Red Sox, despite being without Ellsbury and Crawford, with the healthy players, like Pedroia and Gonzalez, all having sub-par seasons,with no closer and with a rookie, Doubront, the only member of the starting staff to come close to reasonable expectations, still over .500 on July 4, still within 7 games of first, and with a plus run differential only 8 runs worse than the first place Yankees. Look it up. Those are facts. When even more injuries hit and the bullpen wore down because of the season-long rottenness of Beckett, Bard, Buchholtz, and Lester, the Sox were doomed; by the end of August and the Dodger trade, Valentine was relegated to playing minor leaguers and scrubs, and was re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic. Holding him to blame is either proof of ignorance or viciousness.

    But speaking of ignorance, it should have been obvious that the Red Sox would be contenders, as they would have been if Valentine had been retained. Even with most of the offense hobbled by injuries last year, the team still had a strong offense–if Ellsbury, Ortiz, and Pedey were healthy and the team could find any non-slug to play Left (unlike 2011-2012 slug Carll Crawford), the offense was predictably going to be among the AL best in 2013. Lester’s year was obviously just a bad year; Buchholtz had it figured out by the end. Lackey clearly had pitched hurt his first two years, and his return to Angels form was at least a good possibility. Doubront was a good bet to improve. For the first time in memory, the Red Sox had a solid 5 man rotation without rookies or retreads going into the season. The Sox couldn’t be as unlucky with closers as they were in 2012. Meanwhile, they used the money the Dodgers freed up to address depth and defense—Drew was obviously going to be an upgrade over Avila at short. Picking them last was just lazy and lousy analysis. Because so many did, I made a bunch of bets with friends (Nats fans who don’t follow the Sox) in February that John Farrell would end up Manager of the Year, because this is how sportswriters cover their own incompetence.

    I’ll win those bets. The dirty little secret is that Farrell hasn’t done a particularly good job managing the team. It’s three games below its Pythagorean numbers, and watching the games, you can see why. In Wednesday’s loss to the O’s, for example, the Sox had runners on first and second with one out in the 11th inning with Drew the scheduled hitter against leftyT.J. McFarland. Drew’s had a good year, but he can’t hit lefties at all. He is hitting .183 with a .568 OPS against lefthanders this season. That drops to .162 with a .537 OPS in 80 plate appearances against lefthanded relievers. Farrell had good right-handed options on the bench, but anyone would have had a better chance than Drew. Still, he was allowed to hit, so he grounded into a double play and the Red Sox went on to lose in 12 innings.

    It was a Ned Yost, John McNamara, Jim Frey, Grady move–idiotic. (Valentine would have pinch hit, because he’s, you know, awake). It does not bode well for team in the post-season, frankly. Neither does the fact that the network “storyline” I’m going to have to hear ad nauseum is that team chemistry and Farrell are the reason the Sox “surprised the experts.”

    The team is healthy this year. Last year it wasn’t. Duh.

    • tfbuckfutter - Sep 20, 2013 at 7:28 AM

      I don’t have time to read all that, but it seems like you’re suggesting in your first paragraph that part of a manager’s job ISN’T to get players to perform to at least their minimum standards and, even better, exceed them.

    • dapperdan50 - Sep 20, 2013 at 9:51 AM

      There is a shred of truth in your overlong post, but not much more. Yes, Valentine hit some bad luck with injuries and he did not have the benefit of some of the great personnel moves that Cherington made, starting with the Punto trade and continuing through the offseason.

      But let’s be clear: Valentine was an EPICALLY bad manager, in nearly every way possible. I certainly had nothing against him when he arrived, but I sure do now. He mismanaged players, mishandled the media, alienated players needlessly (he needs to take Personnel Management 101), made decisions that led to injuries, and heconstantly made on-field decisions that dwarf Farrell’s poor decision on Drew two days ago. (Have you forgotten Scott Podsednik?) There is hardly an area in which he did not perform terribly.

      Despite more than a few poor on-field decisions like playing Drew on Wednesday (or pitching Andrew Bailey in tight games when he was clearly unable to perform), Farrell’s been pretty savvy about match-ups, pinch-hitting, and bullpen use. The fact that the Sox will enter the postseason with few critical injuries is not an accident, though there’s always plenty of luck involved in that. He’s assembled a strong coaching staff and worked with them to work on the mechanics of struggling players and pitchers that has overall worked out REALLY well . And he has treated his players respectfully, starting with never humiliating them publicly (a Valentine specialty) and helped build a great team chemistry that, while not the only factor contributing to winning is certainly one of them.

      I really have nothing personal against Valentine. He involved himself in some good charitable activities while here, he has, over the years, contributed to our understanding of the Japanese game, and he has a love of baseball history that I certainly share. But how anyone could defend his year as Sox manager is way beyond me.

    • cur68 - Sep 20, 2013 at 10:43 AM

      You’re getting killed with the thumbs and the comments, Jack, BUT you are not totally wrong in spite of the wishcasting of some people.

      While I don’t hate Farrell, I don’t think he’s a particularly good manager, either. He’s lucky to have landed on the Sox just when their health came into form. He freezes when he should make decisions and seems a step behind the other managers when it comes time to play match ups. Moreover when he DOES make a decision it can just as likely be the wrong one as the right. He did that all the time when he was in Toronto managing My Boys, The Beavermen. Its just his good damn luck that the Sox roster comprises many guys who can make a bad decision look like a good one. A certain amount of it has to do with their park suiting their hitters, too.

      You’re correct about Valentine: he did the best he could with what he had as a manager but ran his mouth when he should have kept it shut. It made for a contentious relationship with his team, media, and fans. He got killed not because he mismanaged really but because he couldn’t shut up about it.

      As for “Manager of the Year”, that award should be renamed “Guy Who Did The Best He Could With What He Had”. After that, its a matter of numbers.

  15. Anoesis - Sep 20, 2013 at 10:40 AM

    2012: Dodgers suck, Red Sox suck. Exchange some players.
    2013: Dodgers clinch, Red Sox clinch, on the same day.
    Coincidence? Perhaps. But can we finally put to bed the idea that one team took the other to the cleaners? You like the guys you got in the deal and we feel the same about the ones we got. Seems to me they both ended up where they were trying to go: The postseason. Irony would be these two meeting in the WS.

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