Friday, September 20, 2013

John Lackey's Complete Game Gets Red Sox into Playoffs; Hanley Ramirez Homers Twice as Dodgers Clinch NL West

Players of the Day for Thursday, September 19, 2013

American League

Boston took a step closer to the post-season, clinching a playoff berth with a 3-1 win over the visiting Orioles, the Red Sox getting a gem of a performance from starting pitcher, John Lackey.

Lackey: 2H, CG
Tossing a no-hitter through 7 1/3 innings, Lackey's quest for immortality was cut short by a massive, no-doubt-about-it, solo homer by Adam Jones, over the Green Monster in left field and into the parking lot.

Lackey got through the remainder of the inning unscathed, and nursed the two-run lead until the end, allowing a one-out single by J.J. Hardy in the eighth before retiring the final five batters for the complete game win.

Fanning eight and walking a pair of batters, Lackey threw 82 of 113 pitches for strikes, improving to 10-12 on the year. It was Lackey's second complete game of the season and the 16th of his career.

The Red Sox need only one more win or a Tampa Bay loss to clinch the AL East, which they lead by nine games over the Rays. The Red Sox are also looking to establish home field for the playoffs with the best record in the league. They are 93-61. Oakland, leading the AL West by 6 1/2 games, is 90-63. Detroit leads the AL Central with an 89-64 record.

Texas and Tampa Bay are tied once again for the wild card spots, ending their four-game series with an 8-2 Texas win, earning a 2-2 split for the series. With Cleveland's 2-1 win over Houston and Baltimore's loss, the Indians are 1/2 game back, the Orioles two games out, in the wild card. Kansas City was idle, three back and and the fading Yankees, 6-2 losers to the Blue Jays, are 3 1/2 out.

Tampa Bay opens a huge, four-game series with Baltimore in Tampa on Friday, while the Rangers start a three-game set at Kansas City. The final seven games for Texas are at home: three against Houston and four with the Angels.

Cleveland appears to have the easiest schedule remaining. They host Houston for three more games, then take on the White Sox for two games at home before traveling to Minnesota for a four-game series to close out the regular season.

The Yankees start a three-game series at home with the Giants, then remain at Yankee Stadium for three with the Rays. They close out the season with three games at Houston.

National League

Ramirez: 2HR, 4RBI
Clinching their first NL West pennant since 2009, the LA Dodgers rode the bat of Hanley Ramirez to a 7-6 victory over the Diamondbacks in Arizona.

Ramirez opened the scoring with a three-run blast in the third inning, but the D'Backs countered with six run in the bottom half of the inning off LA starter, Ricky Nolasco.

In the seventh, Ramirez tied the game with his second homer of the night, a solo shot that evened the score at 6-all, the game-winner coming an inning later, off the bat of A.J. Ellis, who socked a solo shot into the left field stands.

Ramirez added a pair of singles to finish 4-for-5 for the night, raising his batting average to .351, though he lacks the number of plate appearances to qualify as the league leader. He has only 291 at-bats this season, but has 20 homers and 57 RBI. The NL batting leader is Colorado's Michael Cuddyer, hitting .331. Atlanta's Chris Johnson is second, at .327. Andrew McCutchen of the Pirates is third, with a .325 average.

With the pennant in hand, the Dodgers now have the luxury of casting into the playoffs, though they may have sights set on getting the best record in the league and home field for the playoffs. Atlanta leads, at 90-62; St, Louis leads the Central with an 89-64 record. The Dodgers are 88-65, and close out the season with a trio of three-game series, starting with the Padres and Giants on the road, before returning home to close out with three against the Rockies.

Today's Trivia: Since George Brett led the AL in batting with a .329 average in 1990, only twice has the AL batting crown been won by a player with a lower average. Who were these two hitters and in what years did they win their batting titles? (answer tomorrow)

Yesterday's Answer: Al Oliver won the NL batting title in 1982; Tim Raines won it in 1986.

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