After the Red Sox suffered two aggravating losses to the Orioles, John Lackey took it upon himself to save them from a sweep. Tossing a two-hit complete game marred only by a monster home run from Adam Jones, Lackey carried a relatively quiet Red Sox lineup to their 93rd win of the season, clinching a postseason berth in the process.
In so many ways, this game was similar to the first two games of the series. The Red Sox went up against a strong pitcher, seemed ready to really knock them out in a big way early on, then stranded some baserunners and fell quiet. Boston's starting pitcher started strong, but ended up stumbling in the middle-to-late innings.
The difference tonight was that, where the first two games had seen the Orioles manage to match Boston's early output against their starter and top it against the bullpen, this time John Lackey just would not let them come back. The three runs for Boston all came in the second inning, two on a two-run homer from Stephen Drew, and the third on a Jackie Bradley double and Dustin Pedroia single. The one Baltimore run on the aforementioned Adam Jones homer--a towering shot over everything in left field that broke up a no-hit bid from Lackey in the seventh inning.
It was not a completely comfortable win after that home run, but only because the Red Sox just never got Lackey any more room to breathe. Chris Tillman completely righted the ship, matching Lackey's every clean inning until the eighth, when he was replaced by Darren O'Day and Brian Matusz, who did the same.
This time, though, Koji Uehara didn't have his streak end, the Red Sox didn't need to go into the depths of their bullpen for a twelve-inning marathon. John Lackey simply kept right on going into the eighth, working around a J.J. Hardy single to keep the Orioles at just the one run, and then the ninth, where he retired the side 1-2-3. He never needed much more than hard stuff, a slider, and the ability to hit the zone over and over and over again to secure the win in dominating fashion.
If he needed an exclamation point for his comeback season, he found one.
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