Red Sox

Red Sox rout Orioles, 9-0, and clinch playoff spot when Angels lose

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Red Sox rout Orioles, 9-0, and clinch playoff spot when Angels lose

BALTIMORE -- Chris Sale was at his very best - right down to his momentous last pitch - in another meaningful victory for the Boston Red Sox.

Sale struck out 13 to become the first AL pitcher in 18 years to reach the 300 mark, and the Red Sox clinched a playoff berth hours after beating the Baltimore Orioles 9-0 on Wednesday night.

Boston (88-64) was assured at least a wild card and its second consecutive trip to the postseason when the Los Angeles Angels lost 6-5 to the Cleveland Indians. Of course, the Red Sox are looking for much more than that. They lead the AL East by three games over the rival New York Yankees with 10 to play as Boston pursues its third division title in five years.

"Given where we are in the standings and what is at stake, every win is important," manager John Farrell said. "Just getting into the playoffs is not our goal."

Sale (17-7) reached the milestone on his 111th and final pitch, a called third strike against Ryan Flaherty to end the eighth inning. The last AL pitcher to fan 300 batters in a season was Boston's Pedro Martinez in 1999, when he set a club record with 313.

Farrell sent Sale back out for the eighth inning to give him a shot at getting No. 300.

Thing is, the left-hander had no idea he was at 299 when the inning started.

"No, I didn't," Sale said. "I went out there and struck out the last guy and everyone started losing it. I knew I was close, but I didn't know I needed just one more."

Mookie Betts and Deven Marrero homered for the Red Sox.

After winning two straight 11-inning games over the skidding Orioles, Boston jumped to a 6-0 lead in the fifth and coasted to its 11th win in 14 games.

Betts and Marrero hit two-run homers in the fourth against Wade Miley (8-14), and Hanley Ramirez added a two-run double in the fifth.

Sale allowed four hits and walked none in matching his career high for wins.

"A dominant performance after a year that has been a dominant one," Farrell said.

Sale reached double figures in strikeouts for the 18th time this season. He is the 14th pitcher in the so-called Live Ball Era (1920-present) to ring up 300 strikeouts in a season.

It was his 10th scoreless outing of the season, tying the team record held by Babe Ruth (1916) and Martinez (2000 and 2002).

"It was fun. I felt good tonight," he said.

Sale faced a Baltimore lineup that was lacking two of its better hitters. Manny Machado was held out with an illness that manager Buck Showalter said the third baseman had been dealing with for nearly two weeks, and shortstop Tim Beckham was unavailable after having a wisdom tooth removed.

Not that it would have made much of a difference against Sale.

"He's one of the best pitchers in the game and couple in the fact that we're not really operating on all cylinders offensively, you end up with a shutout," Showalter said.

In a streak that began in the sixth inning Monday night, Baltimore has gone 26 straight innings without scoring. The Orioles (73-80) were in the playoff hunt before losing 12 of their last 14 games.

SLUMP BUSTER

Boston's Dustin Pedroia doubled in two runs in the eighth inning to snap an 0-for-18 skid. He missed Tuesday night's game with a bruised nose.

PRICE CLOSING?

The Red Sox have plenty of pitchers in the bullpen, perhaps none more accomplished than former Cy Young Award winner David Price.

Price has been pitching in relief since returning from the DL on Sept. 14.

"He is available for multiple innings of relief tonight," Farrell said before the game. "I wouldn't be surprised if he were closing the game out."

FILLING OUT THE FIELD

Boston joins AL Central champion Cleveland and AL West champion Houston in the American League playoffs, which begin next month. Two spots are still up for grabs.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Red Sox: INF Eduardo Nunez (knee sprain) fielded grounders and did some running but still has a way to go before returning to the lineup. "While the hitting and fielding portion has improved, we find that the running portion is going to take longer than we first anticipated," Farrell said.

Orioles: Closer Zach Britton will likely be shut down for the season. He's going to get a stem-cell injection in his left knee, and it would probably be foolish to test him again in a season that's gone south. "The most important thing for me is to be healthy going into next season," he said.

UP NEXT

Red Sox: After a day off Thursday, Boston sends 17-game loser Rick Porcello to the mound in the opener of a three-game interleague series at Cincinnati.

Orioles: Gabriel Ynoa (1-2, 4.18 ERA) helps Baltimore launch a four-game series Thursday night against the Tampa Bay Rays, who - like the Orioles - remain only mathematically alive in the playoff chase.

The Baseball Show Podcast: Red Sox head into the break flying high

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The Baseball Show Podcast: Red Sox head into the break flying high

Evan Drellich and Lou Merloni break down the week in Red Sox news and results on The Baseball Show:

1:06 - Evan and Lou discuss the unofficial first half of the season and what has gone right for the Red Sox to put them in first place with a 4.5 game lead in the division as they go into the All-Star break.

3:59 - Lou, Evan and Dan Shaughnessy play a round of over-under with the following topics: Mookie Betts' possible contract extension, Betts' MVP chances and the number of Red Sox selected to the All-Star Game.

8:52 - Evan and Lou look ahead to the second half of the season and discuss which players will improve the most.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Red Sox beat Blue Jays, hit All-Star break with best record since 1949

Red Sox beat Blue Jays, hit All-Star break with best record since 1949

BOSTON -- The Boston Red Sox rolled through the pre-All-Star game portion of their schedule piling up wins. Now, they'll have a few days to sit back, relax and enjoy their historic start.

Xander Bogaerts homered in his first at-bat a day after hitting a walk-off grand slam and drove in two runs, leading the Red Sox past the Toronto Blue Jays 5-2 on Sunday to enter the break with their best record since 1949.

"I think we did great. I think the record shows," Red Sox All-Star outfielder Mookie Betts said. "We were pretty much in every game, had a chance to win every game and we won a lot of them."

Brock Holt also drove in two runs for the AL East-leading Red Sox (68-30), who own the major league's best record and have won 12 of their last 13 games. They lead the Yankees by 4 1/2 games going into the break.

"Anytime you're winning you're having fun," Boston outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. said. "Just keep winning and you'll keep going good."

Betts went 0 for 3, lowering his major league-leading batting average to .359, and fellow-All Star J.D. Martinez enters the break with 29 homers and an MLB best 80 RBI.

Teoscar Hernandez hit a two-run homer for the Blue Jays (43-52). Toronto's dropped seven of 10 and fell to 3-10 against the Red Sox this season.

"Just to reset. I think that's the mindset of anyone," losing pitcher Marcus Stroman said before storming off later in the interview after a question from a reporter. "Even if you're playing well, it's definitely good to get the break to kind of get away from the game, clear your head and hopefully come back and put some wins together."

Stroman became upset when someone asked him about pitching at a field in Vancouver, Canada.

Brandon Workman (2-0), the first of five relievers, struck out the only batter he faced in the fifth after starter Brian Johnson was pulled with the score tied.

All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel got the final three outs for his 30th save, his eighth straight season with 30 or more. Johnson gave up two runs in 4 2/3 innings.

Bradley's RBI double against Stroman (2-7) pushed Boston ahead 3-2 in the fifth, and he scored on Bogaerts run-scoring grounder off Stroman's foot.

Holt's second RBI single made it 5-2 an inning later.

Bogaerts, whose 10th-inning slam on Saturday gave Boston a 6-2 win, homered on the third pitch he saw, sending it completely out of Fenway Park over the Green Monster for his 16th of the season in the first. Holt's RBI single made it 2-0 in the inning.

Hernandez's shot went over the Monster in the third.

Stroman gave up four runs, three earned, on five hits in five innings.

SPECIAL TIMES

Going to the All-Star game will have special meaning for Kimbrel, who is planning to take his 8-month-old daughter and his wife, Ashley, on the trip to Washington D.C.

"Yeah, it is," said Kimbrel of his seventh All-Star selection in the clubhouse Sunday morning. "It's been a busy day trying to get everything ready."

Kimbrel's daughter, Lydia Joy, had two open-heart surgeries shortly after her birth, the second causing him to miss most of spring training.

First-timer Mitch Moreland has a different reason with his 5-year-old son, Crue.

"I think the biggest thing over the years is watching the Home Run Derby, the guys having their kids with them out on the field," he said. "I'm looking forward to doing that with my son, my oldest, and I think he's looking forward to that, too."

Lefty ace Chris Sale rounds out Boston's five All Stars.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Blue Jays: Placed CF Kevin Pillar on the 10-day disabled list with a sternoclavicular joint injury suffered making a diving catch and rolling over Saturday. ... INF Lourdes Gurriel Jr. was also placed on the 7-day concussion DL after sliding headfirst into first and colliding with Boston pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez's leg.

Red Sox: DH Steve Pearce did some early-morning running on the field and was back in the lineup after missing two games with a bruised left shin from getting hit by a pitch on Thursday. . ..Rodriguez went on the 10-day DL with a sprained right ankle, opening a spot for Johnson, who was activated after a stint on the DL with left hip inflammation.

"There's some serious damage in the ankle, no surgery required," manager Alex Cora said about Rodriguez. "He's going to have a boot for two weeks and we'll evaluate to see where he's at, no surgery, that sounds promising."

UP NEXT

Blue Jays: Open their post-break schedule with the first of three at home against Baltimore on Friday.

Red Sox: Begin a three-game series in Detroit on Friday.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE