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Sox saving celebration for AL East title

09.20.13 at 12:28 am ET
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John Lackey's complete-game win assured the Sox of their first playoff berth since 2009. (AP)

John Lackey’s complete-game win assured the Sox of their first playoff berth since 2009. (AP)

The last time the Red Sox reached the postseason, John Lackey was pitching against them, in a 2009 ALDS series Lackey’s Angels eventually won. On Thursday, Lackey’s dominant complete-game performance clinched the Sox’ first playoff appearance since that series, although the team celebrated the victory no more exuberantly than they would any other win.

From Sox manager John Farrell through the clubhouse, the team maintained that they won’t celebrate in any extraordinary way until they clinch the AL East.

“We know where we’re at. We know what was pending,” Farrell said. “We still feel like there’s the next step is a more important one than this. We know that we’re in but we know that winning the East, that’s been a stated goal since day one of spring training. That’s getting closer. And I think that will be probably a little bit more the realization of where we’ve come from and where we are at the moment.”

The Sox players echoed Farrell’s sentiments.

“We need to go out there and take care of what we need to take care of,” Jarrod Saltalamacchia said. “Tonight was a big win to get a spot, but we want to win the division and we still want to get that 100th win. We’re going to continue to go out there. Tomorrow is a new day and we’re going to focus on that.”

Dustin Pedroia called the win “a big step,” but repeated the mantra that the division title has been the yearlong goal.

“Our main goal was to try to get in and win the division and win the World Series,” Pedroia said. “We’ll celebrate when we win the division.”

Lackey has pitched in 14 postseason games, all with the Angels, but this fall may have some added significance for him in particular given the injury and performance woes he faced over the last three years in Boston.

“It’s nice. It’s good to be part of going to the playoffs,” Lackey said. “It was a lot of hard work getting back to this point for sure. To be back here and be pitching well again, being healthy, it’s been fun.

“Obviously it’s fun pitching here, especially a game like tonight. Fans get on their feet, get that playoff atmosphere. It’s a lot of fun, and that’s why you come to a place like this. … We’ve got such a great group of guys. Seems like we’ve got somebody doing it every night, somebody different. It’s a fun atmosphere in that clubhouse, and we’ve still got some other goals ahead of us, and hopefully here the next night or two we can get a party going.”

The return to the postseason also carries some added weight for the franchise as a whole, given its 69-93 fifth-place finish last year. Orioles manager Buck Showalter has been part of a similar turnaround in Baltimore, and said the change in the Sox from 2012 to 2013 has been “remarkable.”

“It may sound selfish, but it’s something to reflect on,” Showalter said. “I’m sure they’re very proud of the effort. It’s been a long grind to get to that opportunity. My hat’s off to them. I know how hard it is.”

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