Red Sox defeat Orioles, clinch a playoff spot

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The Red Sox are headed back to the postseason for the first time since 2009.

John Lackey went the distance tonight in a 3-1 victory over the Orioles, helping the Red Sox clinch a spot in the playoffs. The win secured them at least a spot in the American League Wild Card game. Their magic number sits at two to win the American League East.

It’s fitting that the resurgent Lackey would be the one to get them there. The veteran right-hander gave up just two hits on the night while walking two and striking out eight. He didn’t allow his first hit until Adam Jones went deep for a solo homer with two outs in the seventh inning. After missing all of last season following Tommy John surgery, he now owns a 3.44 ERA and 156/39 K/BB ratio over 183 1/3 innings. Tonight’s complete game was his first as a member of the Red Sox. Remember when his contract was a disaster?

The Red Sox were a complete disaster under Bobby Valentine last season, finishing with a record of 69-93, but John Farrell has guided them to 93 wins so far this season. How’s that for some nifty symmetry?

Sandy Leon homered twice in one inning, including a grand slam

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Red Sox catcher Sandy Leon achieved a rare feat during Monday afternoon’s Grapefruit League exhibition against the Orioles: he homered twice in one inning. One of those homers happened to be a grand slam.

Leon led off the top of the fifth inning with a solo home run off of Logan Verrett. Verrett continued to get knocked around, giving up three singles and a walk before being relieved by Brian Moran. Moran gave up a walk to load the bases, then a single to knock in a run and keep the bases loaded. Leon stepped back to the plate and swatted a grand slam to left field, making it an eight-run fifth for the Red Sox. The Sox would tack on one more before the inning was mercifully ended.

How often do players homer twice in one inning during the regular season? Not that often. Since 2010, the feat has been accomplished four times in the American League and twice in the National League. The Orioles’ Mark Trumbo was the only one to do it last year.

As for Leon, he’s on track to open the season as the starting catcher in Boston, Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald reported last week.

Phillies release veteran catchers Ryan Hanigan and Bryan Holaday

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The Phillies announced on Monday that the club released veteran catchers Ryan Hanigan and Bryan Holaday. Both were competing for the back-up catcher spot on the team’s 25-man roster. With both out of the picture, that means Andrew Knapp has won that honor.

Knapp, 25, hit a combined .266/.330/.390 with eight home runs and 46 RBI in 443 plate appearances last year at Triple-A Lehigh Valley. He did not have a great spring but has hit well as of late, which likely pushed him ahead of Hanigan and Holaday. Knapp will serve as the understudy to starting catcher Cameron Rupp.