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Red Sox Continue Battling Injuries And Division Rivals For Playoff Spots

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Note: There will be no Dead Red column during All-Star week

The Red Sox lost last night 6-5 at the Trop to Tampa Bay and as a result, its place atop the AL Wild Card standings and now sit in second in that playoff chase. Worse, the BoSox now sit in third place in the AL East for the first time since June 26, when they were percentage points behind the Rays for second place, and have fallen to two-and-a-half games back of AL East-leading New York.

The fact that it took this long for the Sox to show signs of wear and tear is simply amazing. With Clay Buchholz, Manny Delcarmen and Jason Varitek joining Mike Lowell, Dustin Pedroia, Jeremy Hermida, Jacoby Ellsbury, Victor Martinez and Josh Beckett on the disabled list last week, that gives Boston nine players out of action until at least the All-Star break. That’s an amount that could field almost an entire other team’s starting lineup.

You’d be hard–pressed to find another major league team missing that much talent and still find itself at or near the top of two playoff races for as long as Boston has been. Last night, the injuries finally began to take its toll on Boston – second baseman Bill Hall and shortstop Marco Scutaro failed to convert a key double play that surely the main combo of Scutaro and Dustin Pedroia would have taking care of if not for the latter’s broken foot – as it began its final two series before the All-Star break against divisional foes Tampa Bay and Toronto.

Now, here’s more of my take and highlights of last week’s happenings in Red Sox Nation.

If The Devil Is Six, Then God (And Youkilis) Is Seven

Forgive my play on a Pixies lyric for a minute and vent along with me that two possible MVP candidates, Boston’s Kevin Youkilis and Cincinnati’s Joey Votto, did not get selected by fans, the AL and NL league managers and peers to next week’s All-Star game in Anaheim. True, the Sox already have six all-stars and Youk would be number a league-leading seventh all-star, but even with the stupid one all-star player per team rule, there is no excuse for his or Votto’s absence.

Phillies manager Charlie Manuel’s inclusion of Braves light-hitting utility man Omar Infante as an NL all-star, when Atlanta already had its representative Jason Heyward is also a head scratcher, as is Yankees skipper Joe Girardi’s selection of Ty Wigginton of the Orioles when outfielder Nick Markakis was the obvious choice from that sorry franchise for the AL squad. Who would’ve been taken off if Markakis made the squad instead of Wigginton? Rangers up-and-coming outfielder Elvis Andrus, who didn’t need to represent his team since Josh Hamilton already made it.

Thankfully, both Youk, a Cincy native, and Votto are among the five nominees in each league’s final roster spot contest on MLB.com. In an unusual but cool spirit of unity, both teams are helping each other vote these two players onto their respective AL and NL All-Star teams, taking to radio and TV promos, interviews and club newsletters to get the word out. Voting ends on Thursday at 4pm ET.

More New Faces

You know of the successes of previously unknown talents Darnell McDonald and Daniel Nava. With more injuries come another set of new faces. Last week, Sox fans saw the debuts of minor league call-ups like pitcher Robert Manuel and infielder Niuman Romero, outfielder Eric Patterson – Baltimore’s Corey Patterson’s brother – whom the Sox acquired from Oakland, and a familiar face to Sox fans, catcher Kevin Cash.

In a surprise to many, the Sox also signed lefty and Milton, MA native Rich Hill to a minor league deal. The former Cub and Oriole pitcher will hurl for the PawSox in relief and hopefully help the big club’s bullpen soon, which finished last in the big leagues in ERA in June at 6.14 and just lost a key member to the DL in Delcarmen, another Boston native.

Cashing In

Cash is in his second go-around with Boston, courtesy of a deal that sent him here from Houston for Angel Sanchez. Cash was the heir to Doug Mirabelli in 2007 and 2008 as knuckleballer Tim Wakefield’s primary catcher. He batted just a meager .207 in that time but that was not much of a concern, as he was paid to catch, not to hit.

He got that call of duty to catch Wake for the first time in two years last Friday, July 2 and other than one passed ball was terrific behind the plate in Boston’s tough 3-2 win over Baltimore. He called a great game, threw out a runner (Adam Jones) and guided Wake as he went eight strong innings, allowing just two earned runs and threw a lot of strikes with movement, 66 of them among his 96 pitches.

Nava Wins It For Wakefield, Who Passes The Rocket Again

J.D. Drew, who was battling a “real stiff neck” problem around this time last week, blasted two solo homers in Friday night’s game. But it was LF Daniel Nava, in his first-ever pinch-hit appearance, who delivered the game-deciding looper to right for Boston’s third run that helped Wakefield earn his first win at Fenway Park this season.

With the outing, Wake moved past Roger Clemens in games started at the legendary park, with Friday being his 201 start there, the most among any active pitcher in any ballpark. In early June against Cleveland, he passed The Rocket for the all-time record in innings pitched as a Red Sox.

Other highlights: With Boston’s 9-3 win on July 3 over Baltimore, starter Jon Lester improved to 12-0 in 15 career starts versus the Orioles. The Sox are 14-1 in those games and that streak is the longest active one of any pitcher against any team in the big leagues.

And of course, the six Red Sox that did make the AL All-Star team is the biggest bright spot of the week. Congrats to first-timers Clay Buchholz, Jon Lester and believe it or not, Adrian Beltre, along with David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia and Victor Martinez.

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About Charlie Doherty

Copy editor/content writer for Penn Multimedia; print/web journalist/freelancer, formerly for Boston Examiner, EMSI, Demand Media, Brookline TAB, Suite 101 and Helium.com; co-head sports editor & asst. music editor at Blogcritics Magazine; Media Nation independent newspaper staff writer, printed/published by the Boston Globe at 2004 DNC (Boston, MA); Featured in Guitar World May 2014. See me on twitter.com/chucko33, myspace.com/charlied, & Facebook.
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