Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Red Sox beat Lee to punch playoff ticket

With the thirst for postseason champagne lingering around the Red Sox for a second straight night, not even overwhelming American League Cy Young Award favorite Cliff Lee was going to prevent the corks from popping.
The Red Sox truly earned their 5-4 victory in this Tuesday night clinch contest against the Indians, getting to the normally dominant Lee for two runs in the fourth and three more in the fifth.

Now that they've solidified their fifth postseason berth in the past six years, the Red Sox can go about the business of trying to become Major League Baseball's first repeat World Series champions since the 2000 Yankees.

Though the Red Sox are still in contention for the American League East title, their most likely entry into the playoffs will be as the Wild Card winner, which would earn them a AL Division Series matchup with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, a best-of-five set that would start in Anaheim on Oct. 1 or 2.

Veteran knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, the only player to be on Boston's past eight postseason entries dating back to 1995, earned the win, allowing six hits and four runs (all of which were scored in the fifth inning) over six innings. Wakefield walked one and struck out six.

Fittingly, Kevin Youkilis (two-run homer in the fourth) and Dustin Pedroia (two-run double in the fifth) provided two of the biggest hits of the night. They've been Boston's most consistent offensive players all season.

And it was equally appropriate that Jason Bay, who has been so productive since coming over in the trade for Manny Ramirez on July 31, drove in the go-ahead run, a two-out RBI single up the middle in the fifth.

Clinging to a 5-4 lead after reliever Manny Declarmen loaded the bases with two outs in the seventh, Red Sox manager Terry Francona went to lefty Hideki Okajima to face Victor Martinez. And Okajima, amid a tense, eight-pitch at-bat, got Martinez to pop a 3-2 pitch to Youkilis to end the threat.

Jonathan Papelbon came on to escape a two-out, bases-loaded jam in the eighth. He then navigated the ninth for save No. 41, giving the Fenway faithful good reason to erupt.

The Red Sox have five games left in the regular season.

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