Closing Time: John Lackey, Red Sox falter but remain in lead for top AL seed

September 24, 2013 - 7:39 pm
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This wasn't the start to the season-ending road trip for which the Red Sox hoped. The Red Sox are fighting for the top seed in the American League to ensure home field advantage for the entire postseason, holding a 1 1/2-game lead over the Oakland A's. With the 8-3 loss to the Rockies, that lead shrank to just one game, with the possibility of slipping to a half a game by the end of the night had the A's won against the Angels. That didn't happen. After the Sox' loss, which left the two teams even in the loss column, Oakland suffered its own defeat, falling 3-0 to the Halos. That outcome was just about the only good news of the night for Boston. After all, if the Sox and A's were to finish the regular season with the same record, there is a series of tie-breaking criteria to decide the top seed. The first is the most simple: head-to-head record between the two clubs in question. Of course, the Sox and A's have split the six-game series. The next determining factor would be each team's record against teams within their division. Currently, the A's are 42-30 against the AL West, while the Red Sox own a 43-30 record against the AL East -- with the Sox possessing a slightly higher winning percentage. However, the A's still have four intra-division games to play, all against teams with sub-.500 records (one against the Angels, three against the Mariners). The Red Sox will take on the Orioles, the only AL East team with a winning record against them, in the final series of the regular season. If somehow the two teams were still locked in a tie after the divisional records are looked at, it'll come down to the teams' records in the last 81 games of the season. In this case, the A's are 47-30, the same record that the Sox own after their loss to the Rockies. However, this criteria excludes the teams' records in interleague play, which may be the deciding factor. When interleague play is disregarded, Oakland would be 42-27, going 5-3 in eight interleague games in the second half. The Red Sox had a heavy interleague slate in the past few months, and their record dropped to 38-26 in intraleague play in the second half of the year. But obviously, the easiest way to take the top spot in the AL is simply to win more games than the A's do. The Sox once again control their own destiny thanks to Oakland's loss, but their margin for error is very, very slim. Meanwhile, the loss dashed the Sox' hopes of their first 100-win season since they won 104 in 1946, but they can still finish with 99 wins if they win the rest of the way. WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX -- John Lackey probably doesn't want to pitch at Coors Field again any time in the near future. Lackey had a lot of trouble keeping the ball in what is notoriously a hitter's park thanks to the thin air in Colorado, giving up three home runs in six innings of work. It's the third time this season that Lackey's given up three home runs in a game, a yield that brings his total to 26 on the year, tying his second-highest season total. Three of the four runs allowed by Lackey came via home runs. After a tough first inning, in which Lackey saw his third pitch heading into the right field stands and another run come aroundon a double and single, the right-hander settled down somewhat, allowing just three more hits (although two of them were home runs). The righty will get one more start to finish the regular season on a high note before he finds out which game he'll be starting in the postseason. -- The tandem of Drake Britton and Brandon Workman was not effective in the seventh inning. Britton started the frame and promptly gave up a double (eventually resulting in a run), while Workman ended up allowing three runs on three hits and a walk while recording just one out. Workman looks to be more of a sure thing to make the postseason roster than Britton, but the right-hander has been somewhat shaky lately. Even before the rough outing on Tuesday, Workman had allowed three runs on five hits in his last four appearances (four innings pitched). Britton has been decent, despite not being used as frequently as Workman or in many high-pressure situations. He was charged with a run against the Rockies, but he had allowing runs in just one of his previous six outings. -- Shane Victorino got twisted around running down a deep fly ball off the bat of Michael Cuddyer. Victorino has been outstanding defensively all season, but has had a habit of twisting around while running down fly balls, especially while playing center field at Fenway. WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX -- Jarrod Saltalamacchia went deep for the 14th time this season while driving in his 60th and 61st runs. Even though Saltalamacchia's home run total has slipped this season after he clubbed 25 in 2012, he's hit four round trippers in his last 17 games, launching one out of the park roughly every 16 plate appearances. His home run in the ninth inning on Tuesday came as a right-handed hitter, just his second longball of the year from that side of the plate. -- Jackie Bradley Jr.'s single in the fifth inning was only the second hit of the evening for the Red Sox to that point, as they were unable to get much going against starter Tyler Chatwood. Bradley has now hit safely in his last four games. He also swiped his second base of the season, although he stole uncontested when the ball skipped away from the catcher. He also successfully manned a very large center field, chasing down every fly ball that came his way in the outfield that reaches as deep as 415 feet in straightaway center. -- David Ortiz didn't get a whole lot of action over at first base, but made a nice snag on a hard-hit liner off the bat of Corey Dickerson in the sixth. This will more than likely be Ortiz's last regular season game at first base, and he's looked solid in his five games in the field this year.

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