Closing Time: John Lackey loses no-hitter but punches Red Sox' ticket to postseason

September 19, 2013 - 5:32 pm

They've said they won't celebrate clinching a wild card spot, but there was plenty for the Red Sox to celebrate beyond that as they topped the Orioles 3-1 on Thursday. In one of the most dominant outings of his career, John Lackey carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning, when he surrendered the first of just two hits on a towering solo home run from cleanup hitter Adam Jones. The other hit was an eighth-inning single by J.J. Hardy. Lackey struck out eight, including AL home run leader Chris Davis twice, en route to a complete-game two-hitter. In addition to the six strikeouts, Lackey recorded 10 outs on the ground, consistently getting weak contact from even the heart of the Orioles' order. He did so chiefly on the strength of a powerful fastball, a pitch he used almost exclusively in his initial blitz through the Baltimore lineup, before mixing in an impressive array of cutters, sliders and curves. Lackey's start was a convincing statement after he entered the night having given up 11 earned runs over his last 12 innings. (In a reversal of his fortunes for most of this year, he actually went 1-0 in those starts because the Sox pulled off the rare feat of scoring runs when he was on the mound.) Thursday's game was much more in line with the performances Lackey has turned in for most of this year. Aside from Jones' home run and Hardy's single, he allowed just two baserunners, both on walks, and did it all relying largely on his fastball and slider. (Five) of his (six) strikeouts came on the fastball, and he also got swings and misses on the slider. WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX -- Stephen Drew hit his 13th homer of the year, a shot to left field that brought home Jarrod Saltalamacchia as well. He also hit his seventh triple on a long fly ball to center that glanced off of Jones' glove. Drew had been cold this month, hitting just .226 with a .305 OBP in his last 14 games, but he does have five doubles and three of his 13 homers on the year in that span. -- Jackie Bradley Jr. went 2-for-3 with a double down the left-field line and a single up the middle, exhibiting the ability he's shown in the past to hit the ball hard to all fields. It was only the second multi-hit game of Bradley's major-league career (the first came on June 1 against the Yankees). -- Dustin Pedroia was effective in the leadoff spot, doubling to start the game and bringing home Bradley with a single in the second. This was only the ninth game of the year in which he's hit leadoff, but he's hitting .325 in games when he's at the top of the order. WHAT WENT WRONG -- Mike Napoli went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts, snapping a modest streak of four games in which he had been on base. -- After a three-run third against Orioles starter Chris Tillman, the lineup sputtered, failing to push across another run. The Sox were 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position in the game, and after starting with five hits in their first nine at-bats, the Sox went just 2-for-21 the rest of the way.