I didn't have much faith in the Orioles' ability to sweep the series against John Lackey, but I didn't envision an almost no hitter, either. Starting pitcher Chris Tillman had a solid game but it couldn't match Lackey, who didn't allow a hit until the seventh inning and ultimately threw a complete game two-hitter.
From the get go it looked like Tillman might not be long for the game. After two baserunners and 26 pitches in the first inning, the Red Sox scored all three of their runs in the second inning. Jarrod Saltalamacchia doubled and came in to score on Stephen Drew's 13th home run of the season. Jackie Bradley Jr. followed that with a double, and an RBI single by Dustin Pedroia knocked him in to give the Red Sox a 3-0 lead. All told Tillman faced eight batters in the inning and finished with 53 pitches thrown.
After that it was like a switch was thrown and Tillman was a new pitcher. He went on to pitch seven innings and allowed just two more baserunners, one each in the fourth and sixth innings. His final line was 7 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 8 K. I'll take that line from an Orioles starting pitcher any night, but on this night it wasn't enough.
Lackey had the Orioles flailing from the get go. They didn't have a baserunner until Brian Roberts walked with two outs in the third inning and didn't have another Nate McLouth walked in the sixth. The scored remained close enough that there was hope with each walk, but the Orioles couldn't do anything with them.
Finally, in the seventh inning, Adam Jones broke up the no-no in a big way. He hit a monster home run to left field that sailed completely out of the ball park to make the score 3-1. The Orioles were coming back! Just kidding, no they weren't. Lackey gave up one more hit, a single to J.J. Hardy in the eighth inning, then retired the side in order in the ninth inning to clinch the win and the Red Sox postseason berth.
Going into this series I would have taken two out of three without hesitation, so in that sense it was a success. But man, it would have been sweet to have a sweep. Tomorrow the Orioles start a four-game series in Tampa Bay and by the end of it, we should know if they'll be in the playoffs this season.