BALTIMORE -- The Red Sox are fending off a surge by the Yankees with a nice hot streak of their own. Backed by an overpowering performance by Chris Sale, who became the first American League pitcher since Pedro Martinez in 1999 to record 300 strikeouts in a season, Boston finished
BALTIMORE -- The Red Sox are fending off a surge by the Yankees with a nice hot streak of their own. Backed by an overpowering performance by Chris Sale, who became the first American League pitcher since Pedro Martinez in 1999 to record 300 strikeouts in a season, Boston finished a three-game sweep of the Orioles with a 9-0 victory on Wednesday night.
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The victory was the seventh in the last 10 games by the Sox, who secured a postseason berth by virtue of the Angels' 6-5 loss to the Indians. At a minimum, Boston will play in the American League Wild Card Game on Tuesday, Oct. 3.
Boston's win also maintained its three-game lead over the Yankees in the American League East. Despite winning eight of their last 10, the Yankees have gained just one game on Boston in the standings over that time.
"I'm not worried about anybody else doing anything for us. We know what we have to do," said Sale. "We're just worried about our business, worried about what we have to do in going out there to win games. I don't know what the [magic] number is, I don't know who needs to do what. I know if we keep winning games, we're going to put ourselves in a good position, and that's really all that matters to us."
Sale allowed four hits while walking none and striking out 13. The last strikeout was No. 300, as the lefty got Ryan Flaherty looking to end the eighth and joined Martinez as the only two pitchers in Red Sox history to reach that milestone. Sale is the second AL lefty to notch 300 strikeouts since the designated hitter was introduced in 1973, joining Randy Johnson. The only AL pitchers to reach the 300-K plateau over that same span are Martinez and Nolan Ryan (five times).
"I mean, I appreciate it," said Sale. "I don't want to downplay it or anything. But we still have a lot of work to do. Quite a few games left. Hopefully beyond that. Have to keep your eye on the prize and look back on this when it's all said and done."
Hanley Ramirez helped lead the offense with a 3-for-5 performance that included two doubles and three RBIs. Mookie Betts belted a homer and scored three times as part of a 2-for-4 night.
For the Red Sox, the biggest storyline was Sale. In the six starts that preceded this one, Sale was 2-3 with a 4.64 ERA. Wednesday's start was an indication that Sale has plenty left in the tank heading into the final stretch of the regular season.
"It's pretty obvious that he's one of the best pitchers in game," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said of Sale. "Couple it with the fact that we're not really operating on all cylinders offensively -- that's for sure -- you end up with a shutout."
Wade Miley struggled for the Orioles, giving up six runs on four hits over 4 1/3 innings.
"Any time you go out there and get your [butt] kicked it [stinks]," Miley said. "There's no other way to put it. It's kind of been that way all year."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Mookie's late power surge continues: After hitting just one home run in August, Betts is building some momentum heading into the most important part of the year. The right fielder's two-run shot in the fourth inning broke a scoreless tie and it was his fifth home run in September. All five blasts have come since Sept. 8.
Hanley pads lead: After not starting for the last week due to a left biceps injury and ongoing discomfort in both shoulders, Ramirez made a strong return to the lineup on Wednesday. His two-run double in the fifth against Mike Wright gave the Red Sox a commanding 6-0 lead. Ramirez also belted a double in the fourth.
"It was really good to see the swings Hanley took tonight," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "Driving the ball into right-center field, another line drive up the middle, doubling into the left-field corner. He's such a presence in the lineup and is a key to us."
"It was fun. I'm appreciative of that. We go through the trenches together and put in a lot of hard work. They don't call these the dog days for nothing. Having them have my back and being able to share that moment with them was special. I'm very appreciative of it." -- Sale, on the warm reception from his teammates after getting No. 300
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
With five whiffs on his four-seam fastballs on Wednesday, Sale now has 139 on the season. Jacob deGrom is second in the Majors with 118.
Red Sox: Following an off-day, the Red Sox open a three-game series in Cincinnati against the Reds. Right-hander Rick Porcello will try to build off a strong outing in his last start. Andrew Benintendi, a native of Madeira, Ohio, will be playing against the team he rooted for as a kid for the first time. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. ET.
Orioles: Right-hander Gabriel Ynoa (1-2, 4.18 ERA) looks for his first win since joining the starting rotation in early September when he takes the mound Thursday at 7:05 p.m. ET vs. the Rays.
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Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.
Joshua Needelman is a contributor to MLB.com based in Baltimore and covered the Orioles on Wednesday.