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Red Sox vs. Orioles: Ryan Dempster takes the mound with a chance to clinch

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Ryan Dempster will take the mound for the Red Sox on a night where a win could mean clinching a playoff berth.

Jared Wickerham

The Red Sox will send Ryan Dempster to the mound with, for the first time this season, a chance to clinch a playoff spot.

Boston Red Sox (92-59)

  1. Dustin Pedroia, 2B
  2. Shane Victorino, CF
  3. David Ortiz, DH
  4. Mike Napoli, 1B
  5. Daniel Nava, RF
  6. Mike Carp, LF
  7. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C
  8. Stephen Drew, SS
  9. Xander Bogaerts, 3B

Starting Pitcher -- Ryan Dempster

Baltimore Orioles (79-70)

  1. Nate McLouth, LF
  2. Manny Machado, 3B
  3. Chris Davis, 1B
  4. Adam Jones, CF
  5. Nick Markakis, RF
  6. Danny Valencia, DH
  7. Matt Wieters, C
  8. J.J. Hardy, SS
  9. Brian Roberts, 2B

Starting Pitcher -- Scott Feldman

It's hard to believe how long it's been since this season started. Since vague hope for respectability and perhaps with some luck contention was met by a 20-8 start. Since fears of a fade slowly faded themselves, leaving us finally on the verge not simply of clinching a playoff spot, but doing so with two weeks left to play and with the best record in the game.

For comparison, here is the lineup from this day last year. The Red Sox had just picked up their 81st loss of the season, and the only question was whether we wanted the team to try to spoil Tampa Bay's playoff push, or to tank and help their own draft position.

They might well not clinch tonight. Scott Feldman has been pretty good for the Orioles since they acquired him, particularly over the past month, while Ryan Dempster remains the clear last option in Boston's rotation (rest issues for Doubront aside). And even if Boston can get the job done, they need some help from elsewhere to bring their magic number in the playoffs down all the way to zero.

But there's two weeks left to play, and no stress on this bunch. It's not a matter of if, but when.

Yeah, yeah, knocking on wood...Salt over the shoulder. I know the drill.

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