Saturday, August 2, 2008

Boston walks off in Bay's Sox debut

The energy returned to Fenway Park on Friday night, roaming from the stands to the dugout to the clubhouse. This after a draining few days in which a superstar essentially begged his way out of town and had his wish granted.
Gone was Manny Ramirez, a hitting legend in these parts for the past 7 1/2 years. But back was the type of late-inning drama the Red Sox have so lacked in recent weeks. In the first game A.M. -- after Manny -- rookie Jed Lowrie produced a two-out, walk-off infield single over the mound that shortstop Bobby Crosby couldn't make a play on.

Just like that, the Red Sox had themselves a 2-1 victory over the Oakland Athletics in 12 innings.

"It's a huge win for us," said veteran knuckleballer Tim Wakefield. "We haven't been playing very well."

Almost as if it was scripted, Jason Bay -- the newest member of the Red Sox -- came racing home with the winning run. As he ran back toward the dugout, teammate Sean Casey -- who played with Bay in Pittsburgh in 2006 -- was the first to grab him. Then Kevin Youkilis joined in with a hearty pat to the head, along with Dustin Pedroia and several others.

"I think he had a pretty good heartbeat going anyway," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "This place continues to amaze me. The way the fans welcomed him, you only see that here. That's pretty special."

Finally, something to smile about for the Red Sox, who won for just the second time in seven games on this homestand.

"We're all pumped," said Red Sox catcher Kevin Cash. "Everyone is excited. Manny is an outstanding player, and was for the Red Sox, but Jason came in."

Bay set the winning rally in motion with a towering fly ball to left-center against A's lefty Alan Embree that took one of those friendly Fenway caroms, turning what would normally be a double into a triple. It was Bay's first hit as a member of the Red Sox, but the fourth time on the night he reached base. He added a terrific sliding catch against Ryan Sweeney to end the top of the fifth.

Could Bay's first Fenway night have turned out any better?

"If that ball could have snuck out for me," quipped Bay. "I don't think so. I would have liked to do it in nine innings. It's been a long day. But it definitely ranks up there with one of the best moments I've had."

The same goes for Lowrie, if only because this was just his 30th Major League game.

Lowrie had a chance to win it in the 10th, coming to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs and squaring a liner to center. However, it didn't fall.

"They always say that the hits even out," Lowrie said. "The one before that, I hit it hard, right at the guy. I got the cheap one, so to speak, in the 12th."

Forgive Lowrie if he didn't get much of a view of it.

"That's one of those balls where you're running out of the box," Lowrie said. "You've just got to run hard, because you never know what's going to happen. It was one of those ones off the end of the bat; it's got a funny spin on it. If Bobby is going to be able to pick it up cleanly, he could have a play, so you just put your head down and run."

Crosby never did get much of a grip on it, allowing the Red Sox to savor the moment.

"We won a game that we desperately tried to win," Francona said. "Everybody gave everything they had."

Third baseman Mike Lowell, who was inserted into the cleanup role vacated by Ramirez, had to leave the game in the bottom of the 10th with a right hip strain.

The night started with a major change -- Bay officially replacing Ramirez in left field. But for a while, it evolved into a storyline that had the familiar comfort of a summer breeze.

Wakefield twirled his knuckleball for 6 1/3 shutout innings, allowing four hits while walking three and striking out four.

But Wakefield's string of being unable to win despite quality performances continued. With two outs in the eighth, Jack Cust hit a game-tying solo shot against lefty Hideki Okajima that just cleared the Green Monster. In fact, it was originally ruled as a triple. But after the umpires conferred, they correctly ruled it as topping the wall for a home run.

It was the sixth time this season he has left a game with a lead but hasn't had a win to show for it. On the eve of his 42nd birthday, Wakefield's record stayed at 6-8 as his ERA dropped to 3.77.

"I have no control over outcomes; I've just got to pitch the best I can and see what happens," said Wakefield.

The ultimate teammate, Wakefield was just happy to see a successful debut for the team's newest member.

"It's nice to have Jason Bay on the team," Wakefield said. "He got a great ovation. He's an unbelievable player and for him to score the winning run, it's great stuff."

Finally, the Red Sox can just focus on baseball again.

"Just the buildup the last couple of days and watching SportsCenter and NESN and the reporting that was going on, now that it's past us, we know what we are with this team going forward for the next two months," said Cash. "Hopefully, we can get on a roll."

Where Goes the Nation?

So what is the “State of the Nation” now? I’ve watched the Manny fiasco ad nauseum over the past 48 hours and I’ve reached a conclusion. The word from the hierarchy was that Manny’s behavior had become intolerable. Owner John Henry is one of the best from the perspective of the players and the fans. He has been fair and generous. I think that once Manny began to berate the ownership, Henry had had enough. It was time for Manny to go. Enough said!

But where does this leave the Red Sox? Prior to the trade, they were a dysfunctional team. The bottom third of their lineup has been woefully lacking. Although the Sox have the second best batting average in the AL, all to often they leave runners stranded as they did last night, leaving 15 on in a 12 inning 2-1 victory against Oakland. Papi has never regained mid-season form., leaving a big gap in the middle of the order ( the nickname Papi has come to mean pop-out). The shortstop position may have been strengthened with the addition of Jed Lowrie after Julio Lugo went down with a hamstring strain, both offensively and defensively. The trade for Jason Bay is intriguing. He certainly offers better defense, once he learns the peculiarities of left field at Fenway. And as evidenced in last night’s game, the hustle factor will certainly be an improvement, but with the team struggling offensively, how will this all shake out? Last night Bay’s hustle in the 12th resulted in a triple which ultimately ended the game when Lowrie grounded up the middle. Had Manny been at the plate, it would have been a single or at most a double, and a run doesn’t score.

The pitching has been good but not great. The starting rotation has by and large been intact but with Okajima’s inconsistencies, the pen is not as nearly as dependable as it was last year. It has seemed that when the Sox score runs, the pitching fails; and when the pitching is there, as it was last night, Boston can’t score runs.

So the agony is over but there is still much baseball to play. The Sox are definitely in a pennant race, but the have several big series left, including home and home against the Chisox and of course the Rays and the Yankees. I guess the best we can say is, “Let’s enjoy the action and have a good time for the rest of the season. And if the Sox can’t pull it all together for the rest of the season, well, that’s why football follows baseball.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Manny to LA, Bay to Boston

Manny Ramirez is going to the Dodgers.
The Red Sox, Dodgers and Pirates agreed to a deal on Thursday, according to sources, in which Ramirez will go to Los Angeles, outfielder Jason Bay will go from Pittsburgh to Boston and the Pirates will receive outfielder Brandon Moss and pitcher Craig Hansen from the Red Sox and third baseman Andy LaRoche and pitcher Bryan Morris from the Dodgers.

The Pirates have called a 5:30 p.m. ET news conference. The Dodgers were expected to announce the trade following a World Baseball Classic news conference being held Thursday afternoon at Dodger Stadium.

Ramirez, the mercurial slugger who recently feuded with Red Sox management, signed a contract with Boston as a free agent during the 2000-01 offseason. He has club options in 2009 and 2010 at $20 million each. He received a $1 million relocation bonus for the trade. The Red Sox will reportedly pay the $7 million remaining on Ramirez's $20 million salary for this year.

"He's one of the best four or five hitters in baseball," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said on Wednesday. "I like him, yet he marches to his own drummer. I had him in the All-Star Game. It doesn't make sense to me [that he would be available]."

The blockbuster move, which is reportedly pending approval from the Commissioner's Office because of the exchange of money, literally came down to the buzzer, just like it did in 2004 when the Sox traded Nomar Garciaparra to the Cubs.

Manny Trade is Dead

Just when it seemed disenchanted Red Sox slugger Manny Ramirez was on the verge of being dealt to the Florida Marlins, early afternoon reports on and surfaced just hours before today's 4 p.m. ET Trade deadline that the proposed three-way deal which also involved the Pittsburgh Pirates was nearly dead.

A fixture in the middle of the Red Sox's batting order since 2001 and a core member of two World Series championship teams, Ramirez was the centerpiece of a proposed, three-way deal between Boston, Pittsburgh and Florida that was discussed at length by the clubs on Wednesday before continuing into today, when stumbling blocks got in the way.

Reported disagreements over how much money the Marlins would receive from the Red Sox and which prospects would switch hands were said to have put a major dent into making the blockbuster transaction a reality.

The major portions of the deal would have Ramirez going to the Marlins, Jason Bay moving from Pittsburgh to Boston and 24-year-old outfielder Jeremy Hermida going to the Pirates.

Even if that deal didn't resuscitate as the deadline closed in, there was still the possibility the Red Sox could try to find another taker for Ramirez, who has become increasingly disenchanted in recent weeks. Similarly, the Pirates are reportedly still working with other teams on a possible deal for Bay, including one with the Tampa Bay Rays and perhaps the Toronto Blue Jays.

The Boston Herald, citing a baseball source on Thursday morning, said that the deal did pick up momentum overnight, but the chances of it being consummated were still "less than 50-50." The newspaper added that there were still some members of Red Sox's upper management who weren't convinced that trading Ramirez was the best move for the team.

Ramirez, as a 10-5 man (10 years in the Major Leagues, five with the same team), has the right to veto any trade. A few days ago, Ramirez told reporters he would approve any trade that would benefit both himself and the Red Sox.

According to, Ramirez did approve a trade to the Marlins, but that was before the teams had actually agreed on a trade.

If the deal for Bay indeed has fallen through, it's hard to imagine the Red Sox would be able to find a better bat to replace Ramirez.

Bay is hitting .282 with 22 homers, 64 RBIs and a .519 slugging percentage. Ramirez, who is having what is basically a par year by his standards, is hitting .299 with 20 homers and 68 RBIs.

The Red Sox, who have lost five of their last six games amid controversy over Ramirez, are eager to see the matter reach a resolution one way or the other.

Boston next takes the field on Friday night against Oakland, by which time Ramirez's fate for the rest of 2008 will finally be settled.

"If he's out there Friday, then Friday on, this is who we're going to be," said Red Sox shortstop Alex Cora. "If he's not, we'll see. We don't decide that. If he's here, we're going to pull for him the same way he pulls for us."

Despite the tense situation, there have been some light-hearted moments. Shortly before Wednesday's loss to the Angels, Ramirez was spotted on NESN holding a sign that said, "I'm going to Green Bay for Brett Favre straight up."

Ramirez is in the final season of an eight-year, $160 million contract. The Red Sox hold $20 million options on Ramirez for 2009 and 2010.

In some ways, going to the Marlins would have been the easiest short-term move for Ramirez. For several years, Ramirez has owned a home in South Florida.

"Oh yeah, Marlins. Tax-free. Stay at home," Ramirez playfully said in the clubhouse before Wednesday's game.

The only reporter to talk in depth with Ramirez over the last couple of days has been Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes.

"Nobody has called me from Boston, and neither has my agent [Scott Boras]," Ramírez told Rojas by phone on Thursday. "The only thing I know of a possible trade is what I've seen in ESPN."

All along, Boston's players were skeptical that Ramirez would actually get traded.

"Every year it's like this," said Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek. "This is so out of our hands. Even this year, it's out of our hands. I just think that this team needs to take a step past that and focus on playing baseball."

While all was well between Ramirez and the Red Sox for the first couple of months of 2008, things have taken a sour turn in recent weeks.

As for the most recent rift between Ramirez and the Red Sox, it seemed to start on June 28 in Houston. That was the day Ramirez pushed traveling secretary Jack McCormick to the floor following a spat over tickets. Though the Red Sox never went public with their discipline, it's believed that Ramirez was issued a fine that went to charity.

At the All-Star Game, Ramirez, in an interview with the Boston Herald, criticized the Red Sox's ownership and front office, saying they haven't been straightforward with him regarding their future plans with his option. Red Sox principal owner John W. Henry said the next day that Ramirez's remarks were "personally offensive."

Another controversy started when Ramirez told the Red Sox he couldn't play against the Mariners on July 23, and again against the Yankees two days later, because of right knee soreness.

Before sending Ramirez out for an MRI on both knees -- which came back negative -- members of ownership and the front office, as well as manager Terry Francona, held a closed-door meeting with the seemingly disgruntled slugger.

Reportedly, the Red Sox were pondering disciplinary action if Ramirez again made himself unavailable in the second game of the series against the Yankees, but he returned to the lineup that day.

A few days later, Ramirez told NESN analyst and former Red Sox player Jerry Remy that he still hoped to be traded so that he could have some "peace."

What the Red Sox want more than peace is closure, and they will get by the time today's deadline expires.

Manny Trade Losing Steam

After all the talks the Red Sox have had with the Marlins and Pirates the last two days, could it be that Manny Ramirez winds up starting in left field for the Red Sox Friday night?

The latest news from's Peter Gammons: "A source close to the three-way negotiations involving Manny Ramirez says the deal is close to dead. Florida has reportedly asked Boston for a cash outlay beyond the $7 million to cover Ramirez's contract, in addition to two prospects. That essentially would add up to the Red Sox trading Ramirez, $9 million and two prospects for Jason Bay."

The Pirates could deal Bay somewhere else -- Tampa Bay has been mentioned and Jayson Stark of is now citing the Blue Jays -- or just hang on to him.

Keep in mind that in recent years, the Red Sox have never been shy about pulling away from blockbuster deals when the price simply became too much. Most dramatically, the Sox had a Ramirez for Alex Rodriguez mega-swap lined up in December, 2003, and pulled out of that when their proposed restructuring of A-Rod's contract was turned down by the Players Association. More recently, Theo Epstein didn't trade for Johan Santana this winter because the asking price of talented young players was simply too much.

T-minus three hours.

Marlin Trade for Manny IN The Works

The prospect of Manny Ramirez becoming a Marlin remains a real possibility.
A source on Thursday morning confirmed that talks continue for a possible three-team trade that would send Ramirez to the Marlins.

Under the scenario, Ramirez would become a Marlin for the final two months of the season. Florida outfielder Jeremy Hermida would head to the Pirates, and the Red Sox would acquire left fielder Jason Bay from Pittsburgh.

The Marlins may also have to part with pitching prospect Ryan Tucker, and according to reports, 19-year-old outfield prospect Mike Stanton -- a second-round pick in 2007 with tremendous power -- may also be part of the package.

The heavy trade rumblings came on Wednesday, a day on which the Marlin beat the Mets, 7-5, to move within a game and a half of first place in the NL East.

Asked about the rumors after going 2-for-4 in what might have been Hermida's final game as a Marlin, the 24-year-old said: "It's out of my control. If something happens, there is nothing I can do about it."

The non-waiver Trade Deadline is 4 p.m. ET on Thursday. Speculation is strong that it's a matter of the Commissioner's Office approving the deal because of the amount of money that may change hands, as Boston has reportedly offered to pay the balance of Ramirez's salary this season.

Once those details are in place, the Red Sox are then expected to officially ask Ramirez if he will waive his no-trade clause.

If the deal is pulled off, the Marlins would be parting with Hermida, their first-round Draft pick in 2002, who broke into the big leagues in '05. The left-handed-hitting right fielder made history in his first at-bat, by connecting on a pinch-hit grand slam.

Making $395,000, Hermida is in his third season with the Marlins, and he is in line for arbitration after this year.

"I've come up in this organization. It's the only staff that I've known," Hermida said. "A lot of guys in this clubhouse I've known for a lot of years. Definitely, it would be tough to leave these guys who I've grown up with."

Should Ramirez become a Marlin, it would be as a two-month rental. According to sources, Florida has no intention of picking up Ramirez's $20 million option for 2009.

Because their payroll is $22 million, the fact the Marlins even pursued Ramirez is startling to many, considering their cost-cutting history. But the team is in the thick of the playoff race, and there is a push to get a new stadium built. Right now, the status of the new stadium is hung up in a lawsuit.

Ramirez brings star power to the Marlins, along with a powerful bat. However, he does have his share of baggage, as he seems to be on the verge of leaving Boston disgruntled with the organization with which he won two World Series titles.

Along with Hermida, Marlins left fielder Josh Willingham heard his name attached to the trade rumors involving Ramirez.

Willingham is the current left fielder, and it is unclear if he also may be part of a deal on Thursday.

"I hadn't heard anything about myself until today," Willingham said. "I'm sitting there and watching and you see yourself, and it's like, 'Whoa.' "

Reminded that the game is a business, Willingham added: "That's how you have to treat it. This is the only organization that I know. Until something happens, we'll cross that bridge when we get there."

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Sox Continue Post-Allstar Slide

Word filtered through the ballpark about an hour before last night's game. Casey Kotchman, who had been in the lineup batting second for the Angels, was scratched. He was headed to Atlanta, with one of the biggest bats on the block (Mark Teixeira) heading to southern California.

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The Angels, the class of the American League and owners of a seven-game winning streak over the Red Sox, had just gotten much better.

They already have the pitching, made abundantly clear last night as John Lackey took a no-hitter into the ninth inning, broken up by Dustin Pedroia's one-out single to left. Still, it was a decisive 6-2 victory for the Angels.

And the Red Sox are not happy. Not happy about their performance last night. Not happy about their performance of late.

"It seems like we're not playing good baseball," Pedroia said. "I think it's time to start doing that. It's not like anybody in our division's going to lose consecutive games. Everyone's playing good. It seems like we're not.

"It's a lack of doing anything. Nobody brought any energy. Nobody did anything. They killed us. It felt like we weren't even in the game."

That could partly be attributed to Lackey, who gave up virtually nothing to the Red Sox for 8 1/3 innings before Pedroia turned on a low slider and rifled it by shortstop Maicer Izturis into left field, then Kevin Youkilis followed with a two-run home run to left. Though the Yankees fell to the Orioles, 7-6, last night, the Rays defeated the Blue Jays, 3-0. The Red Sox are 4-7 since the All-Star break and are two games behind the Rays in the AL East. Not exactly the surge the Sox were anticipating with the return of David Ortiz (0 for 4) and Clay Buchholz, now 0-3 in four starts since his recall from Pawtucket.

"We can't keep going into the third game of the series trying to not get swept," Mike Lowell said. "That's not really the recipe for staying with the pack, the leaders in the division."

Asked if the team's play the last two weeks has been worrisome, Lowell said, "If we continue this way, we won't have to worry at all, because we're not going to make the playoffs."

So what does this team have to do?

"Come out and play," Pedroia said. "We've got to start playing hard and winning games. We got beat in every aspect of the game. They whupped us."

Lackey certainly did. He had been baffling, just as the opposing starter, Buchholz, had been last Sept. 1 when he pitched a no-hitter against the Orioles.

"Can't say I feel sorry for him," said Buchholz, who gave up six runs (five earned) on six hits, three walks, and struck out five in 6 1/3 innings.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Nutt Paints Rosy Picture

In a decade where the Southeastern Conference has won three of the last five national titles, it may be presumptuous on new Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt’s part to think that the Rebels can contend for the SEC crown in 2008.

Even when every national and regional media outlet believes that Florida, Georgia, LSU and Auburn are the most likely choices to win the SEC title and possibly compete for the BCS title, Nutt believes that there are nine or 10 teams in the league that can find themselves on top of the list and that his Rebels are one of them.

“I would put us in there. Again, I’m not saying that, boy, you can give us our bus ticket to Atlanta. But what I am saying, if you walked these athletes in from each of those nine or 10 teams that I’m talking about, you would see that there is a lot of athleticism, a lot of good athletes that can run, jump, hit you, block,” Nutt said during his address at the SEC’s Media Day event at the Wynfrey Hotel. “What I don’t know is who’s going to get hurt, who’s going to stay healthy, who’s going to get the ball that bounces just right. There are a lot of variables and factors involved.

“We’re trying to change the mindset of our program,” Nutt added. “We want to win. We want to win right now. I think it would be unfair to say, ‘OK, we’re going to rebuild, just kind of gradually.’ I think that’s unfair to our seniors. I can’t say we kind of got to start rebuilding a little bit now, we’re going to work our way up. We’re not built that way. Our staff is built to ‘let’s go, let’s go as hard as we can, and let’s go right now.’”

Energy evident

The energy Nutt displayed at Arkansas has been evident ever since he was hired to replace Ed Orgeron this past November. Nutt’s passion for the game, coupled with his vast experience in the SEC as a head coach, make his words that much more believable to the players that the Rebels can actually be in position for a bowl game.

“My goal is to win, and that’s what our team’s goal is too,” UM senior offensive tackle Michael Oher said Thursday. “Coach Nutt is a great guy. He’s a great coach and he’ll do a lot for us this year. He knows what to do and what to say, and what he says we do because we respect him.”

A change for the players has been good during the offseason according to Oher and defensive tackle Peria Jerry, who was also on hand to visit with the media Thursday. Nutt was asked about his new surroundings in Oxford and how the fresh start has been for him personally.

“From the moment (wife) Diana and I and (daughter) Haven walked into the (Gertrude) Ford Theater in Oxford and have 1,500 people there, I can’t tell you how we felt that day. That was a day full of goosebumps, it just reenergized us from that moment forward,” Nutt said. “Then you go into the meeting with the players, you see that hunger again, to see how they embraced our coaching staff, it excites you, it motivates you. It makes you want to please. It makes you want to work a little bit harder. I think it’s been an excellent transition.”

Arkansas game discussed

Of course, Nutt was asked if he ever thought about the meeting with his former team, Arkansas, which is slated for Oct. 25 this year.

“You can’t help but think about it. You grew up in Arkansas. You thought at one time you’d be there for life. I had 10 great years of experience there working with some great people,” Nutt said. “We won three titles. Two of the teams went to Atlanta (for SEC title game). We were very close against Florida in winning that (title) game. So we had some great days, great times there. You can’t but help but think what it’s gonna be like coming in from the visitor side. But quickly my mind goes back to Memphis.”

Nutt’s first game will be against the Tigers at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on Aug. 30. Following that contest, the Rebels’ first road game under Nutt will be played at Wake Forest on Sept. 6. Ole Miss’ first SEC game comes at home against Vanderbilt Sept. 20.

Glenn Dorsey walked up and shook hands with the man who'd just made him rich.

"I promise I'll work hard," said the big defensive tackle, towering over Kansas City Chiefs owner Clark Hunt.

"I know you will," Hunt said. "It's great to have you with us."

After a brief contract holdout that essentially cost him only one practice, Dorsey signed a five-year, $51 million deal Saturday morning that includes an option year and more than $22 million in guaranteed money. The 300-pound All-American from LSU, the fifth player taken overall last April, will be the cornerstone of a line that's being rebuilt to make up for the loss of Pro Bowl defensive end Jared Allen.

After getting word about 4:30 a.m. that a deal was agreed upon, Dorsey hopped a flight out of Baton Rouge, La., and arrived at the Chiefs' offices on the University of Wisconsin-River Falls campus just in time for meetings. Greeting him were a throng of media and Hunt, who stood in the back smiling as Dorsey and general manager Carl Peterson conducted a short news conference.

"He is going to be a very good player for us," Hunt said. "He's got all the tools."

The rebuilding Chiefs, who will be one of the youngest teams in the NFL this season, have agreed to terms with all but one of their 12 draft picks. They've opted to delay signing tight end Michael Merritt, a seventh-round selection out of Central Florida, until he recovers from injury.

"I'm just excited to be here, to stand before you all and get to work with my teammates and my coaches," Dorsey told the media. "My agent did a great job. The Chiefs did a great job. It was a great agreement."

Joel Segal, Dorsey's agent, said he was glad to get his client in camp almost on time. Since Friday's opening workouts were both forced indoors by rain, he really missed only one workout, on Saturday morning. He was expected to be on the field for Saturday's afternoon practice.

"Glenn is a very disciplined guy who loves football," Segal said. "He was anxious to get to camp. He indicated to me that he's excited now to help the Chiefs win."

Dorsey will be handed a starting job on the inside while Tamba Hali moves from left defensive end to right, replacing Allen. After leading the NFL with 15½ sacks, Allen became disgruntled and was traded to Minnesota.

The Chiefs, coming off a 4-12 year, will need an immediate impact from Dorsey to ease the loss of Allen.

The newcomer declined to make any predictions on what might happen his rookie season in the NFL.

"It's a totally different world now, playing against everybody who's one of the best at what they do," he said. "I can't really tell you right now. I have to go through camp and see how it goes.

"I'm just going to have fun. I like to have fun when I play."

The money, he said, wasn't anything he'd thought much about yet.

"That's down the line," he said. "That's going to be way down the line. It's time to get down to business. I look forward to taking care of my family. But now it's time to get down to business."

Lester in command as Sox avoid sweep by thumping Yankees

Sanity, or what passes for it these days in Fenway Park, was restored last night on Yawkey Way.

related survey

Should the Red Sox trade Manny Ramirez?
Yes. His antics have crossed the line from funny to detrimental. If they're not going to pick up his option after the season (the team has not stated anything one way or the other), the Sox should at least get something in return.
No. You just can't replace that kind of a hitter. There's no trade out there that will give equal value in return, and the Sox need Manny's bat for a playoff push.

Manny Ramírez said before the game he wouldn't block a trade, then showed why the Red Sox will grin and bear him, doubling twice and hitting an RBI single in a 9-2 win over the Yankees that marked a revival of offense from the top to bottom of the order. The Sox avoided a three-game sweep, ended the Yankees' eight-game winning streak, and drew to within a game of the first-place Tampa Bay Rays in the American League East.

"He swung the bat great," manager Terry Francona said of Ramírez. "That's what we need, that shouldn't be a surprise. That part of it, that's why we want him out there."

It began, as it has so often in the last couple of months, with Dustin Pedroia, who from the leadoff spot singled to touch off a three-run Sox first, hit a sacrifice fly in the second, and doubled ahead of David Ortiz's fourth-inning home run, Big Papi finally putting a big bang in his return with his 14th home run to make it 7-0 after four innings.

The Sox had not scored in consecutive innings in their last nine games. They went 3, 1, 1, 2 in the first four innings last night after waiting out a 52-minute (no)rain delay, which gave Jon Lester plenty of breathing room to beat the Yankees for the second time in 24 days. This didn't look as effortless as the complete-game shutout he threw in Yankee Stadium - New York had nine hits in seven innings against Lester, and appeared to have him on the ropes in the fifth when they had two runs in and the bases loaded with no outs.

But Lester was equal to the challenge. Alex Rodriguez lined to third, Xavier Nady flied to shallow center, and Robinson Cano, the AL's hottest hitter since the All-Star break, tapped back to the mound. Lester walked just one and struck out eight in running his record to 9-3; Manny Delcarmen and Mike Timlin finished up.

"You just pitch your game, you can't worry about we lost two in a row, you can't worry about all the other distractions, you just go out and pitch," Lester said. "You hope you get some runs early.

"It was definitely a team effort. Guys swung the bats really well. It seemed like a different atmosphere in the dugout tonight. Guys were laughing, having fun, then going to the plate and putting together good at-bats."

Every player in the Sox lineup reached base - J.D. Drew didn't have a hit but walked twice - and Jacoby Ellsbury, dropped to the No. 9 spot, breathed life into a dormant bottom of the order with a double and two singles, as the Sox did a number on a familiar punching bag, Sidney Ponson. The Aruban righthander came in with a story line - and won-loss record (6-1) - that suggested that the Texas Rangers had made a mistake in releasing him earlier this season for the kind of off-field conduct that had made him a marked man with Baltimore, one of his previous employers.

But the Sox found him to be the same soft touch he has always been against them, racking up 10 hits and seven runs in four innings of a loss that dropped Ponson's record against Boston to 3-12 with a 6.92 ERA.

"Yeah, we're not too happy," said Yankee designated hitter Johnny Damon. "We knew we had a chance to tie them up in our division, gain a game on Tampa Bay, and we didn't quite do it. They were definitely better than us tonight. We came out ready to win this game, but unfortunately the first inning didn't work out the way we wanted to and a couple innings after that."

It won't show up in the box score, but Kevin Youkilis may have supplied the most energy with his aggressive play. Youkilis twice challenged the arms of outfielders successfully. He hustled from first to third on Ortiz's first-inning single, just beating a strong throw from right fielder Bobby Abreu.

"He went hard, he knew where the ball was, it was a good throw but that certainly helps set up the inning," Francona said. "It changes a lot of the dynamics of the inning."

In the sixth, after Ortiz's sacrifice fly had scored Ellsbury with Boston's eighth run of the night, Youkilis was still playing as if it was a one-run game, steaming home from second on base hit by Ramírez just ahead of a throw by left fielder Xavier Nady.

"That's how he plays," Francona said. "That's not lost on us. He gets down the line every single time."

Ellsbury, who has speed that Youkilis can only dream of, noticed.

"The big thing is, he makes good decisions on the bases," Ellsbury said. "You can have all the speed in the world and it means nothing if you don't make good decisions. Youks sees the situation, analyzes it very quickly, and makes a good decision."

Ramírez hit the ball hard in all five of his plate appearances. He doubled home Youkilis in the first, then ran through DeMarlo Hale's stop sign to score on Mike Lowell's two-run single. He doubled and scored on Jason Varitek's double in the third, flied to the triangle in center after Ortiz homered into the right-field seats, singled in a run in the sixth, and lined to right in the eighth.

The bottom three hitters in the Sox order - Varitek, Alex Cora, and Ellsbury -combined to go 6 for 12 with two doubles, two runs scored, and an RBI.

"Have good at-bats, it's going to happen, the hits are going to come," said Ellsbury, who had been hitting .212 in his last 32 games. "Eventually you're going to reap the benefits.

"Tonight the crowd was great from pitch 1, when Jon struck out Damon. The atmosphere of the crowd was different tonight, and maybe we fed off that."