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Monday, August 31, 2009

Birdman daddy, I fly in any weather




Can I say it? I really like this team.
The 2009 Boston Red Sox are not going to win the AL East, we can agree on that, right? But they have a very good chance to win the wild card and once you get this team in the playoffs, I like their chances.

Yesterday's strange season took another unexpected pit stop as the two newest Red Sox (Paul Byrd and Billy Wagner) helped to shut out Toronto, 7-0 at Fenway as Boston swept the three-game series.

The Byrd Man was back with his old-timey delivery and right-handed Jamie Moyer-esque stuff. The Blue Jays (58-70) have clearly checked out and are dreaming of a miserable winter in Toronto mixed in with plenty of losses by the Leafs and Raptors. Just kidding, no players live there in the off-season.

Byrd pitched six scoreless innings, as he gave up three hits, walked three and struck out one. For one afternoon at least, he provided some stability to the back end of a rotation that has seen more action than Paris Hilton's bed. WOW!

He had been out of baseball and pitching to his 13-year-old son's team (really) when the Red Sox brought him back.

Acquired from the Mets last week, Wagner was impressive in his Red Sox debut as he struck out the side in the eighth.

Ignoring what chief moron Jonathan Papelbon had to say, Wagner is a welcome addition to a bullpen that was understandably getting tired and needed another left-hander. The fact that Papelbon has been shaky as well, makes this a no-brainer pick up.

The Sox (76-54) moved to 3.5 games up in the wild card on the Rangers and 5.5 on the Rays.

They also beat Roy Halladay for the second straight time. Think he wishes he got traded in July? Youk (2 hits, 3 RBIs) gave Boston a 1-0 lead in the first with an RBI double which scored Victor Martinez.

Rocco Baldelli made it 2-0 in the second with a solo homer before Youkilis had a sacrifice fly in the third, putting Boston up 3-0.

Alex Gonzalez (2 hits), who's swinging a hot bat, extended the lead to 4-0 in the fourth with an RBI single. Finally, the Sox scored three in the seventh on an error and another RBI single by Youk.

After the off-day today, the Sox have three games at the Trop starting tomorrow. If they can win at least two, they'll bury Tampa Bay for all intents and purposes. However if Tampa Bay continues to own Boston (especially at home), they will get right back in the wild card race.

Full Tilt, Full Time: Saluting one of the greatest Patriots of all-time


Like so many things in life, the pivotal moments happen when you least expect them.

Last night, I got a text from a buddy that Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi was retiring. It wasn't unexpected by any means since Bruschi was not getting many reps in training camp and in the preseason games so far this summer.

Still, to see a guy that played his whole career with New England (13 seasons) call it quits is big. Bruschi was never the best player, although he did make a Pro Bowl in 2005. Rather, he was the consummate professional: he always showed up in the most important games and when he was at his peak, he made countless game-changing plays.

Think the Miami game in the snow where he had the pick for a touchdown. The strip and fumble recovery vs. the Colts in another snowy playoff game. Or the sack in the Super Bowl against the Eagles.

Things were never the same after Bruschi suffered a minor stroke in February 2005, 10 days after the Pats had won their third Super Bowl in four seasons.

He returned that fall and played four more years but it was clear since he had lost a step (or two) that his career wasn't going to top what he had already done.

At this point, it's weird enough to root for guys on the Red Sox, Celtics, Bruins and Patriots that are now years younger than me, but nothing will make you feel your age like seeing one of your favorite athletes retire.

Whether Bruschi felt like he would be released before this season started is irrelevant. He wanted to go out on top, before he's crippled for the rest of his life (like so many other NFL players). He has a wife and young kids that mean the world to him. The Patriots will hook him up with a nice job (if he wants it) or he'll move on to coach/commentate, whatever.

Today is all about Tedy Bruschi, one of the greatest Patriots players I'll ever see in my lifetime.

Friday, August 21, 2009

You can always count on J.D. Drew


Fielding probably their best lineup of the season last night in Toronto, the Red Sox swept the hapless Jays with an 8-1 win.

The most frustrating athlete on the planet J.D. Drew was the star of the game, going 4 for 4 with two home runs and three RBIs.

Jon Lester (10-7) was outstanding after he escaped a bases loaded, no outs jam in the first while only allowing a run. That would be the only run he gave up in eight innings of work. Toronto (55-64) had three hits off him, he walked two and struck out five.

Drew hit a solo shot in the third to give Boston (69-51) a 1-0 lead.

Mike Lowell's RBI single in the fourth and Drew's two-run blast put the Red Sox ahead 4-1. They added two more runs in the fifth, one in the seventh on a Victor Martinez homer and one more in the eighth before departing from their neighbors to the North.

The red-hot Yankees are in Boston for the weekend and the Sox find themselves 6.5 games behind the Bombers and a game ahead of the Rangers in the wild card. These three games likely won't mean much since New York is almost a sure thing to win the division but taking two out of three or heaven forbid a sweep, would make things interesting coming down the stretch.

The pitching matchups in the first two games do not line up favorably at all for Boston as tonight Brad Penny goes again Andy Petitte.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Jars of Clay


Looks like Clay Buchholz might be a decent big league pitcher after all. It's still ludicrous that the Sox wouldn't trade him and other prospects to get Roy Halladay but last night Buchholz outpitched Halladay as the Red Sox won 6-1 in Toronto.

Buchholz improved to 2-3 as he went six strong innings, allowing only one run on six hits with a walk and four strikeouts.

Halladay (13-6) like Josh Beckett the night before, was not on his game for whatever reason. He went just five innings, allowing five runs (four earned) on eight hits with four walks and seven strikeouts.

Boston (68-51) took a one game lead in the wild card thanks to its win and the Twins comeback victory over the Rangers.
David Ortiz (2 hits) continued to swing a hot bat as he hit a solo shot in the second inning. New shortstop Alex Gonzalez (2 hits) singled home Casey Kotchman later in the inning to make it 2-0 good guys.

In the fourth, Jacoby Ellsbury tripled home Gonzalez for a 3-0 lead. In the bottom of the inning, the Blue Jays (55-63) scored their only run of the game when Vernon Wells drove in Aaron Hill with a single.

Boston tacked on two in the fifth on Jason Bay's two-run bomb and one in the ninth on Victor Martinez (2 hits) solo homer.

Jon Lester takes the mound tonight as the Red Sox try to sweep the Blue Jays before coming home to face th

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Red Sox survive Beckett's clunker


Going into last night's game, Josh Beckett was shaping up as the odds on favorite to win the AL Cy Young. After last night's performance, he might have lost ground to Roy Halladay and Zach Greinke.

Most importantly, the Red Sox (67-51) held on 10-9 in Toronto (55-62) even though Beckett resembled John Smoltz.

In 5.1 bumpy innings, Beckett allowed seven earned runs on nine hits with a walk and four strikeouts.

Luckily, Blue Jays rookie Ricky Romero has been good against everyone except the Red Sox. He gave up six runs (five earned) in 3.2 innings.

This game looked over early as Boston built up leads of 4-0 and 7-3 but Beckett's uncharacteristic outing made for some tense moments.

David Ortiz's RBI double in the second scored two, Alex Gonzalez drove in a run with a ground out and Jacoby Ellsbury (2 hits, 3 RBIs) singled home Oritz for a 4-0 cushion.

Recent call-ups Randy Ruiz (3rd inning) and Travis Snider (4th inning) hit solo homers to cut the Boston lead in half.

The Red Sox scored twice more in the fourth on an Ortiz solo homer and a sacrifice fly by Ellsbury.

Edwin Encarnacion made it 6-3 with a sacrifice fly in the fourth.

Jason Bay (2 runs, 2 walks) hit a solo homer to make it 7-3 before Adam Lind's (2 hits, 2 RBIs) two-run double brought Toronto within two in the bottom of the fifth.

Rod Barajas (2 runs, 2 hits) tied it with a two-run bomb off Beckett in the sixth which ended Beckett's night.

The Red Sox responded once again with three in the eighth. Alex Gonzalez's bunt to pitcher Casey Jannsen was thrown away, allowing Ortiz to score. Then Ellsbury hit another sac. fly and Victor Martinez (2 hits) came through with an RBI double.

Jonathan Papelbon came to Daniel Bard's rescue in the eighth as the rookie continues to scuffle after his incredible start.

Unfortunately, Papelbon is almost as shaky as Bard at the moment. Papelbon allowed two inherited runners to score as Marco Scutaro hit a two-run double in the eighth.

The ninth was just as crazy for Papelbon who threw 33 total pitches, 17 for strikes. To get four outs, he worked around two hits and three walks. And most of the balls the Blue Jays hit for outs just fell short of being home runs. In the end, Papelbon recorded his 29th save but he obviously won't be available tonight.

Clay Buchholz for the third time in a row draws an ace, this time in the form of Halladay. After pitching great but losing to C.C. Sabathia and Justin Verlander, maybe tonight is the night his luck turns around.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Winning on the road is overrated


The Red Sox concluded their weekend series in Texas yesterday with a 4-3 loss.

Boston (66-51) has now lost three series in a row and four out of five but who's counting?

Pitching hasn't been the issue lately as the Sox' starters for the most part are having decent outings. The offense is the culprit is timely hitting seems to be a foreign concept. It seems like the only way Boston scores on the road is via solo homers.

Rookie Junichi Tazawa (1-2) made his third appearance, second start, and it wasn't as good as his first start against the Tigers last week.

In five innings, he allowed four earned runs on ten hits with three walks and no strikeouts.

With the win, the Rangers (66-50) flip-flopped with the Sox and now lead the AL wild card by half a game. The season series is over and Texas won seven of the nine games between the teams. It's also troubling that the Sox' biggest competition for the wild card, Tampa Bay and Texas, own Boston this season.

Dustin Nippert (4-1) pitched well for Texas, going six strong innings. In 95 degree heat, he allowed two earned runs on six hits with three walks and three strikeouts.

After the worst outing of his career on Friday night, Rangers closer Frank Francisco bounced back with a 1-2-3 ninth yesterday for his 17th save.

David Ortiz (2 runs, 2 walks) hit his second homer of the series, a solo homer in the second which gave the Sox a 1-0 lead.

Ian Kinsler responded with a solo shot of his own in the home half of the inning. Texas went up 3-1 in the third with a Josh Hamilton (everybody's favorite recovering addict) RBI double and Kinsler's RBI single.

Recently promoted Brian Anderson cut it to 3-2 Texas with a sacrifice fly in the fourth but Taylor Teagarden hit a bomb of Tazawa to open the sixth.

Dustin Pedroia hit a solo homer in the seventh (see the theme?) but that was as close as the Red Sox would get.

Victor Martinez (2 hits) was the only Boston player with more than one hit in the game.

An off day today is followed by three in Toronto beginning tomorrow. The Blue Jays are playing the role of spoiler as usual but the Sox will have their hands full as they have to face Roy Halladay and Ricky Romero.

Friday, August 14, 2009

This Verlander guy can pitch


I went to Fenway Park yesterday afternoon, hoping for a Red Sox sweep but knowing full well that Tigers ace Justin Verlander is one of the best pitchers in baseball.

Therefore it wasn't shocking (especially since Kevin Youkilis is currently serving his suspension and Dustin Pedroia got the day off) that Verlander completely silenced Boston's (65-49) bats as the Tigers (60-54) salvaged the fourth game, 2-0.

Verlander (13-6), who is Josh Beckett's biggest competition for the AL Cy Young this season, threw eight shutout innings before giving way to Detroit closer Fernando Rodney, who recorded a 1-2-3 ninth for his 24th save.

Verlander allowed just four hits, he walked one and struck out eight with a manly 123 pitches. Most impressive, on his last two pitches of the day in the eighth, he made Jason Bay swing and miss at 100-mph fastballs.

For the second straight outing, Clay Buchholz pitched well enough to win but unfortunately he faced another team's ace (C.C. Sabathia was the last one). Clay (1-3) lasted seven innings, giving up two runs (one earned) on five hits with three walks and three strikeouts.

In the fourth, Ryan Raburn provided all the offense the Tigers needed as his infield single drove in Miguel Cabrera.

With a solo homer over the Monster in the seventh by Raburn, everybody knew it was game set, match.

After the game, Boston departed for Texas where it has a pivotal three game series with the Rangers. The Red Sox lie half a game ahead of Texas in the AL wild card standings so hopefully last weekend's no-show against the Yankees is a distant memory.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Nothing like a baseball "brawl"


If you're not a fan of the Boston Red Sox, Kevin Youkilis is probably the Sox player you hate the most. He talks a lot of shit, complains a ton about balls and strikes (he does have a Rainman like eye at the plate) and on top of it all is one ugly mofo.

It's no surprise then that Youk was in the middle of the action last night as the Red Sox beat the Tigers, 7-5 at Fenway.

In the second inning, Tigers (59-53) starter Rick Porcello hit Youk on the shoulder with a pitch. It was clearly intentional since Detroit star Miguel Cabrera was hit in the first inning by Red Sox rookie Junichi Tazawa (not intentional, it was 0 and 2).

Youk had also been hit the night before and he is always near the top of the league lead for hit by pitches so it was enough to set him off. He charged Porcello, threw his batting helmet at him and then took him down with a tackle before they rolled around on the infield grass.

Baseball fights are usually pretty weak (lots of posturing and talk) and this was no exception. However, it seemed to spark the Red Sox (64-48) who were down 3-0 at the time.

After Youk and Porcello were tossed and order was restored, a few batters later Jason Bay tied it with a three-run homer over the Monster seats.

MIke Lowell, who was subbed in for Youk, hit a solo homer in the third then a two-run bomb in the fifth.

After the disastrous first inning, Tazawa settled down and stuck around for five innings, grabbing his first win in his first start (and second appearance). Only one run was earned, he gave up four hits with two walks and six strikeouts.

Jacoby Ellsbury scored on a balk in the seventh and the Sox looked they were cruising after enduring the fight delay and a rain delay.

Curtis Granderson hit a two-run homer in the ninth off Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon. I guess the rationale for him being in there in a non-save situation was that he needed the work.

Boston tries to make it three in a row tonight with ace Josh Beckett going against Armando Galarraga.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Home cookin', sure sounds good, to a country boy like me


To say the Boston Red Sox limped home after losing all six games on their road trip (to Tampa Bay and New York) would be an insult to cripples and drunks everywhere.

The Sox (63-48) can't hit and the bullpen is falling apart but all those troubles were forgotten for an evening as they beat Detroit (59-52), 6-5 last night at Fenway in the start of a four-game series.

The Yankees lost to the Blue Jays last night and the Rangers were idle so Boston moved up to 5.5 games behind New York in the AL East and a half game up in the Wild Card.

It only took two innings for Boston to double its output from the last three games combined against the Yankees.

Dustin Pedroia hit a two-run homer in the first off Tigers All-Star Edwin Jackson. In the second, Nick Green hit a solo shot and David Ortiz knocked in Jacoby Ellsbury (2 hits, 2 runs) with an RBI single.

Brad Penny gave his usual six inning performance and it was better than most of his recent outings: six innings, three earned runs on six hits, one walk and two strikeouts.

Magglio Ordonez (3 hits) tripled home Miguel Cabrera in the fourth and Brandon Inge scored Ordonez with a single.

An inning later, Detroit cut it to 4-3 when Marcus Thames knocked in Curtis Granderson with a sacrifice fly.

Jason Bay hit a solo homer in the fifth that just stayed fair down the line in left.

What would a Red Sox game be without the bullpen giving up a lead? Manny Delcarmen did the honors last night in the seventh. Placido Polanco (3 hits) had an RBI single and Marcus Thames' RBI double tied the game at five.

Nick Green, who has been an automatic out for the last month and a half, knocked in the winning run (J.D. Drew) with a sacrifice fly in the seventh.

Jonathan Papelbon came on in the eighth with runners on second and third, two outs and Granderson at the plate. Papelbon got him to pop out to catcher Victor Martinez and then he recorded a 1-2-3 ninth for his 28th save of the season.

23-year-old rookie Junichi Tazawa gets his first MLB start tonight against Tigers rookie Rick Porcello.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Time to pull the plug on old man Smoltz


A wise man once said, "you can't make chicken salad out of chicken shit." Don't the Red Sox know that right now as John Smoltz at this point in his hallowed, Hall of Fame career is basically chicken shit every fifth day.

In game one of a pivotal four game set in the new Yankee Stadium, Smoltz got rocked and the Yankees (66-42) rolled 13-6.

Staked to a 3-1 lead, Smoltz couldn't hold it as he and PawSox call-up Billy Traber (who I had never heard of before yesterday) gave up an eight-spot to the Bombers.

Smoltz's final line: 3.1 innings, eight earned runs, nine hits, four walks, three strikeouts. The question now: will that be his last start for the Red Sox (and his career)? Maybe he could be used for an inning or two out of the bullpen but at the moment, the Sox (62-45) desperately need starting pitching, like Kate Hudson (A-Rod's main squeeze) needs a boob job.

With the loss, Boston fell 3.5 games behind New York while also ensuring that even if they win the remaining three games this weekend, they'll still occupy second place.

The ironic thing was that last night Joba Chamberlain (8-2) was not on his game but he looked like Tim Lincecum next to Smoltz's batting practice stuff. Joba lasted only five innings, giving up four earned runs on six hits with a career-high seven walks and five strikeouts.

Dustin Pedroia (3 hits, 2 RBIs, walk) hit a solo shot to right in the third as the Red Sox grabbed a 1-0 lead.

Johnny Damon (3 hits, 3 runs) answered with a solo shot to the same cheap spot in right, to tie it in the bottom of the third.

Casey Kotchman made the most of his first start for Boston as he cranked a two-run bomb to the exact same place in the fourth, giving Boston a 3-1 lead.

In the huge fourth, Melky Cabrera (2 hits) and Jorge Posada (3 hits, 2 runs) both crushed three-run homers.

Mike Lowell (2 hits) made it 9-4 with an RBI single in the fifth but New York added single runs in the fifth, sixth and seventh including another bomb, a solo job by Mark Teixeira (3 hits, 2 runs) in the seventh.

The Red Sox scored two in the ninth for yucks.

Clearly, Josh Beckett needs to play his usual role of stopper tonight as he opposes former Marlins teammate A.J. Burnett. The Red Sox' season is spinning out of control and it needs something positive.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Are we looking at 2006 all over again?


As the Red Sox lost 6-4 to the Rays last night at Tropicana Field, moving their record there to 2-13 since the start of last season, you had to wonder, is Boston (62-44) about to have an epic collapse?

That might seem like a stretch for a team that is in control of the AL wild card and 18 games over .500 but anyone that has watched closely realizes that this is a very flawed squad.

Nobody outside of Josh Beckett and Jon Lester has stepped up; Tim Wakefield might return at the end of next week and Dice-K possibly in September (not holding my breath on that). Clay Buchholz, Brad Penny and John Smoltz are each almost automatic losses.

Penny (7-6) went six innings last night but gave up five runs on six hits with two walks and five strikeouts.

Tampa Bay (60-48) starter David Price (5-4) looked like the stud from last fall's playoffs. He went six innings, allowing two runs on six hits with five strikeouts and no walks.

Victor Martinez was a great addition but he can only do so much for a lineup that just doesn't have the juice it had in the first half of the season. Martinez was the only player from either team to have two hits, a double and a homer.

Jason Bay crushed a homer to left in the second to give the Red Sox an early 1-0 lead.

The Rays answered with Carlos Pena's two-run homer in the third and birthday boy Carl Crawford's (28) two-run blast in the third.

Martinez's solo shot in the sixth cut it to 4-2 but Penny gave up his third long ball of the night as bum Pat Burrell went deep for a 5-2 Tampa Bay advantage.

Every time the Sox scored, Tampa quickly responded. Jed Lowrie's groundout in the seventh made it 5-3 in the seventh but Jason Bartlett hit a solo homer off Manny Delcarmen.

Kevin Youkilis produced the last run with an RBI groundout in the eighth but Rays closer J.P. Howell struck out two in the ninth for his 12th save of the season.

The Sox travel to Yankee Stadium, the four-game series starts tonight and it should be a great barometer for where this team is going. New York has been the best team in baseball for months now, a far cry from their 0-8 early-season record against Boston.

New York is 2.5 games up on Boston and the Red Sox are just three games ahead of Tampa Bay. The Yankees are obviously going to win at least one game this series but the Red Sox need at least a split to show they're doing more than treading water.

John Smoltz pitches against Joba tonight, a complete mismatch if I've ever seen one. I think Boston's relievers are warming up as we speak.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Nine out of ten blue hairs agree: the Rays own the Sox


Evan Longoria and the Tampa Bay Rays continued their recent dominance over the Boston Red Sox as they outlasted the Boston Red Sox, 4-2 last night in 13 innings at Tropicana Field.

Longoria hit a walk-off two run bomb (his second homer of the game) in the first of two games between these two playoff contenders (one of which will likely miss the playoffs).

In a pitching rematch from last fall's ALCS game 7, Jon Lester and Matt Garza proved why their some of MLB's best starting pitchers. Neither earned a decision but they were both on top of their games.

Lester went six innings, allowing a run on three hits, with two walks and ten strikeouts.

Garza lasted seven innings, giving up two runs on three hits with two walks and six strikeouts.

Boston (62-43) jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the second on Kevin Youkilis' solo homer. Things looked even better in the sixth when Dustin Pedroia (2 hits) made it 2-0 with another solo shot.

As per usual, the Rays (59-48) didn't go way as Jason Bartlett (2 hits, 2 walks, RBI) knocked in Carlos Pena with an infield single in the seventh.

Longoria tied it with a solo homer in the eighth and predictably ended it with his bomb in the 13th. For the season, Longoria has seven homers and 25 RBIs against the Red Sox.

Boston's bullpen danced out of trouble in the 8th and 10th as they somehow escaped bases-loaded, no out jams without giving up a run.

Brad Penny goes against David Price tonight so who knows what to expect from either unpredictable guy.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Dude can rake


Nothing like a weekend sweep of the Orioles to make life feel good. After shutting out the Birds 4-0 on Saturday night, the Red Sox set a season-high in runs and hits as they destroyed Baltimore, 18-10 yesterday at Camden Yards.

Hitting in the No. 3 spot, new Sox (62-42) slugger Victor Martinez proved what a beast he is: the Ed Hardy t-shirt wearing, crying catcher, formerly of the Indians tied a career-high with five hits, four RBIs and a run.

The Red Sox had 23 hits and seven walks in this wacky game. Mike Lowell (3 hits, 3 RBIs, run), Kevin Youkilis (3 hits, 2 RBIs, 2 runs, 2 walks; in the series he reached base 12 straight times until striking out in the ninth yesterday), Dustin Pedroia (4 runs, 3 hits), Jacoby Ellsbury (4 runs, 2 hits, 2 walks) and rookie Josh Reddick (2 hits, 2 runs, 2 RBIs) were the most notable Boston hitters.

Its not often that you score 10 runs and collect 15 hits and six walks yet still lose by eight runs but the O's (44-60) found a way.

Adam Jones (3 hits, 3 runs, 3 RBIs), Ty Wigginton (3 hits, 2 RBIs, run) and Brian Roberts (3 hits, run, RBI) padded their fantasy stats as Scott Boras (who probably represents all three of them) made 50-page reports on why they're grossly underpaid.

Lost in the domination yesterday and throughout the weekend, was the fact that outside of Josh Beckett and Jon Lester, the No. 3-5 spots in the Red Sox' pitching rotation have become a blackhole.

PawSox legend Clay Buchholz continues to struggle at the big league level. Staked to a 7-0 lead in the third, he promptly gave up six in the third. Didn't really matter though as Boston responded with seven in the fourth and after that, the Orioles pretty much rolled over.

Buchholz couldn't even last long enough to get the win. He went four innings, allowing seven runs on nine hits with four walks and three strikeouts. He also surrendered two home runs.

After the Yankees lost three of four over the weekend to the White Sox, the Red Sox find themselves on this off-day, half a game behind New York for first place in the AL East. The schedule in August is particularly difficult and that's signified by this week: the Red Sox have two in Tampa, followed by four in Da Bronx.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Victory


As predicted by yours truly, the Red Sox made the biggest move of the trade deadline as they acquired Victor Martinez from the Indians for Justin Masterson and two minor league pitchers (not named Michael Bowden).

In a lower profile move, they also swapped Adam LaRoche for Casey Kotchman of the Braves. Roy Halladay stayed in Toronto and neither the Yankees nor Rays made a significant move.

Getting Martinez is a huge pickup for Boston. He's a switch-hitting catcher/first baseman/DH in the prime of his career and they have him at least through next season. Having Mike Lowell, Kevin Youkilis, Jason Varitek, David Ortiz, Martinez and Kotchman makes Terry Francona's life a little harder in terms of juggling the lineup but with a veteran club, it shouldn't create too many issues.

The fact that Theo Epstein got Martinez without giving up Clay Buchholz, Daniel Bard, Bowden, etc. is the most surprising part of the whole deal. Masterson was a versatile, nice kid that should have a good career but this move was a no-brainer.

As for Kotchman, he's a slight upgrade defensively over LaRoche and a little better hitter. He's not going to play much but he'll be useful as a late-inning replacement and pinch hitter.

It was hard to top that excitement but the Sox had one of their more thrilling games of the season last night as they held off Baltimore 6-5 at Camden Yards.

John Smoltz (2-4) picked up the win but he was more lucky than good. He lasted six innings, giving up five earned runs on eight hits with two strikeouts and no walks. He entered the sixth with a 4-3 lead but promptly gave it back as Aubrey Huff (2 hits) took him deep for a two-run shot.

Kevin Youkilis (3 hits, 2 runs, 2 RBIs) bailed out Smoltz and the Red Sox (60-42) with a two-run bomb of his own in the seventh.

Ramon Ramirez pitched a scoreless seventh, Hideki Okajima walked two but didn't give up a run in the eighth and Jonathan Papelbon got a 1-2-3 ninth (with two strikeouts) for his 27th save.

Nick Green gave Boston a 1-0 lead with a sacrifice fly in the second. David Ortiz (2 hits) made it 3-0 Red Sox with a two-run shot in the third.

Brian Roberts got the Orioles (44-58) back in it with an RBI single in the third and rookie Nolan Reimold tied it up later in the inning with a two-run homer.

Jacoby Ellsbury had a huge night as he went 3-for-5 with a homer, two runs and a stolen base. He also robbed Luke Scott of a homer in the sixth with a leaping grab.