Manny Ramirez and Hurricane Earl are both expected to arrive in Boston on Friday. So, too, might the news that Dustin Pedroia is officially going under the knife.
While all of that will be sure to make for a dramatic series opener with the Chicago White Sox, Clay Buchholz hopes to keep in cruising.
The AL Pitcher of the Month for August is in pursuit of his 16th win. If he gets it the Sox will be able to keep some degree of pressure on the Tampa Bay Rays, who come to town for three games next week.
First pitch is 7:10 p.m., provided Earl allows us to get it in.
Final, Red Sox 6-4: That wind you just heard outside your living room window was not the first few licks of Hurricane Earl, but rather a massive sigh of relief on the part of thousands of New Englanders. Jonathan Papelbon bends but does not break in the ninth.
Two singles and a perfect sacrifice bunt put the tying runs in scoring position with just one out. But Papelbon strikes out Cesar Izturis and Josh Bell to end it.
Great job by the Daniel Bard-less bullpen to close this one out.
The Sox win two of three and head home with a little bit of life.
Back in a bit to sum it all up for you.
Mid 9th, Red Sox 6-4: Here comes Jonathan Papelbon in search of his 35th save. If and when he gets it he will be the first pitcher in major league history to reach that mark in his first five seasons.
No other player had done it in more than three straight seasons to start a career. Pretty impressive milestone.
End 8th, Red Sox 6-4: Hideki Okajima gets his man and the Red Sox are three outs from winning the series.
Some of you may be wondering why take out Scott Atchison in favor of Hideki Okajima. It is a reasonable question, but they do want to get Okajima right.
If the Sox are going to have any chance to win seven or eight straight games at some point and get back in this thing they will need Okajima to be part of the bullpen mix, especially with every day that Felix Doubront remains sidelined.
It may be a painful sight to see Okajima in a key spot but get used to it.
9:43 p.m.: Scott Atchison retires all six men he faces before giving way to Hideki Okajima with two gone in the eight. Well done, Atchy!
Mid 8th, Red Sox 6-4: Manny Ramirez is somewhere in Boston right now. Just wanted to remind you in case you had forgotten what the next three days hold.
Red Sox players and coaches seemed to get a bit tired of answering Manny-related questions when he came in June while with the Dodgers. On their end of things it won't matter one bit. But there will be a few more fans who missed out on the LA series who will want to get a glimpse of the dreadlocked one.
Of course, he is supposed to get his hair cut Friday in Boston. So maybe nobody will even recognize him.
End 7th, Red Sox 6-4: Scott Atchison has given a handful of clutch performances for the Red Sox this year and this one can be lumped in.
He entered with the tying run on second base in the sixth and got his team out of that mess before retiring the side in quick fashion in the seventh.
It's not out of the realm of possibility for Atchison to start the eighth. He is at 15 pitches.
Mid 7th, Red Sox 6-4: The Orioles' inability to turn a double play with the slow-footed Mike Lowell running to first allows David Ortiz to score from third. The Red Sox did not have a hit in the inning.
Ortiz walked and Adrian Beltre was hit by a pitch. A deep fly off the bat of Jed Lowrie moved Ortiz to third and he came in on the botched DP.
Beltre went in hard at second base, causing Brian Roberts to get off a weak throw to first. Still, Ty Wigginton has to pick that one out of the dirt. It was coming in soft and slow.
End 6th, Red Sox 5-4: Scott Atchison freezes Nolan Reimold on a slider to end the sixth and get the Red Sox to the late innings with the lead.
Remember, no Felix Doubront in this one and Daniel Bard threw 28 pitches Wednesday night. Atchison may get another inning of work and perhaps Jonathan Papelbon will be called upon to get more than three outs.
That's a bit down the road. Would be nice to see the offense get going again.
9:07 p.m.: OK, we did say earlier that Daisuke Matsuzaka may have another eight-inning outing in him, which looks like a pretty bad prediction right now. But we also said that the Red Sox may regret not getting more runs early on when they had their chances. You just never know with Dice-K, who is removed in favor of Scott Atchison.
The Orioles have two singles and two doubles in a four-run inning and are still batting. Nolan Reimold will be facing Atchison with the tying run on second base and two outs.
Mid 6th, Red Sox 5-0: Rick VandenHurk comes out of the bullpen and gets two outs in a matter of moments on a Victor Martinez double play.
8:47 p.m.: Brad Bergesen gets the first out in the top of the sixth and then departs after J.D. Drew lines a single to right. Give Bergesen credit for at least sticking around in this one.
End 5th, Red Sox 5-0: There was some question as to how long Daisuke Matsuzaka would last in this one. OK, so I was the one asking the question. Regardless, he may have another eight-inning outing in him at this pace.
Matsuzaka picks up his fourth and fifth strikeouts (he has yet to walk a batter) in the fifth and has a pitch count of just 70.
The bulk of the bullpen may get a nice night off.
Mid 5th, Red Sox 5-0: Somewhat surprising to see Brad Bergesen still out there with the way the Red Sox had runners all over the place early on. He has settled down rather nicely and gets his first 1-2-3 inning in the fifth.
End 4th, Red Sox 5-0: The Orioles' first hit comes in the form of a Nick Markakis double with one out in the fourth. He is stranded at third base and Daisuke Matsuzaka is through four innings in 58 pitches.
Mid 4th, Red Sox 5-0: Another hit and an intentional walk set the Red Sox up again in the fourth but a Jed Lowrie drive to right dies at the track.
Tampa Bay is off so if Boston can hold on here it would be within 6 1/2 games entering a six-game homestand. The final three games of that run is against the Rays, so getting within 5 1/2 or 4 1/2 before that series might make things interesting again.
End 3rd, Red Sox 5-0: Thanks to a double play that erased a Mike Lowell error in the second Daisuke Matsuzaka has faced the minimum through three innings. No issues with the back, it seems.
Mid 3rd, Red Sox 5-0: The Sox have six hits, four walks and have had one man reach on an error in just three innings. You wonder if they will regret not getting a few more in against Brad Bergesen early. Doubtful, but you never know.
End 2nd, Red Sox 5-0: Only Daisuke Matsuzaka could do this. He has thrown exactly 10 pitches in both innings, yet has thrown as many balls as he has strikes, usually a recipe for disaster. He has the ability to flirt with danger and appear dominant at the same time.
Mid 2nd, Red Sox 5-0: Adrian Beltre crushes the first pitch of the second inning for his 25th home run but it was just the beginning for Boston in the second. Beltre actually struck out in his second at-bat of the inning to end it as the Red Sox have another big inning.
A walk, single, error and double led to two more runs before Brad Bergesen could even record an out. Two weak pop outs gave him a chance to escape with just three runs scored, but David Ortiz took Bergesen the other way for a two-run single.
Beltre and his future with the club was one of several topics I discussed today with the great Danny Picard on his I'm Just Sayin radio show. Take a listen.
End 1st, 0-0: No first-inning issues for Daisuke Matsuzaka in this one. He gets two weak grounders and a fly to left to coast through the first in 10 pitches.
Mid 1st, 0-0: The Red Sox get a single, a walk and another ball grounded well into right field yet nobody reaches second base.
Marco Scutaro leads it off with an infield hit but is erased on a 4-6-3 double play. Following a two-out walk to Victor Martinez, Brad Bergesen gets David Ortiz to ground deep into the shift.
Brian Roberts fielded it in shallow right and threw to first for the last out.
6:50 p.m.: When the Red Sox left Tampa Bay having lost two of three there was this notion that Boston had to stay within striking distance of New York since there were only three head-to-heads left against the Rays and six with the Yankees. Catching Tampa Bay suddenly seemed less likely.
With a 6 1/2-game deficit behind New York it was feasible that if the Sox chipped a game or two away before those last six meetings maybe something crazy might happen.
Heck, I've been ripped by some of you for still holding out hope of that taking place. But the Yankees have decided to stop losing and with each day that goes by those final six games in the bitter rivalry are looking less and less like they will mean anything at all.
New York won its sixth straight earlier Thursday and is now up 8 1/2 on Boston and 1 1/2 on Tampa Bay.
My wife is a Twins fan. I told her that her team was done when they were down seven games behind Detroit at about this time last year. Minnesota, of course, came all the way back to tie the Tigers before winning a one-game playoff.
She didn't let me live that down. Perhaps that's why I am a bit slower to raise the white flag. However, NY's recent run is making that possible scenario an impossibility. Maybe another will arise if Tampa Bay collapses. Until then, the flag is on the pole…just waiting for the trumpets to arrive to provide some ambiance.
6:03 p.m.: So, what do you think we will get from Daisuke Matsuzaka on Thursday night? Coming off a skipped start and with a tender lower back his effectiveness is uncertain.
When Matsuzaka returned from a neck injury early in the season he was also pitching at Camden Yards. It did not go very well. He gave up seven runs and failed to get through five innings.
When he came off the DL a second time in June he threw five innings in a wild win over Colorado. He did not look very good in that start, the first of seven in a row in which and failed to last as long as seven innings. He was a six-inning guy, at best.
In August, the righty lasted eight innings in two of his four starts but he has allowed four runs in each of his past three outings.
He hasn't been bad. He hasn't necessarily been great. But he has remained hard to predict.
We should know early on if Dice-K has it or not. He has often struggled in the first inning, particularly in his return-to-health starts.
4:06 p.m.: Reports came in earlier today that Dustin Pedroia will in fact have surgery on his broken left foot Friday, thus ending his season.
This comes as no surprise. Pedroia gave indications that he was hoping to remedy the situation as quickly as possible in order to get ready for 2011. He and the team held out a tiny bit of hope that the healing would progress to the point where he might be able to be a part-time player over the final few weeks.
Hard to imagine that a foul ball off a foot in San Francisco in June could cause so much damage to the Red Sox' season. If they do indeed miss the playoffs you could make a case that Pedroia's injury was the biggest reason why.
The Red Sox went 45-30 with Pedroia in the lineup. They are 30-28 without him. Hard to argue with those numbers.
Pedroia finishes the season with 75 games played. He hit .288 with 12 home runs, 41 RBIs and nine stolen bases, which is still tops on the team.
Here is the Orioles lineup Thursday night:
Brian Roberts, 2B
Nick Markakis, RF
Ty Wigginton, 1B
Luke Scott, DH
Felix Pie, CF
Matt Wieters, C
Nolan Reimold, LF
Cesar Izturis, SS
Josh Bell, 3B
3:45 p.m.: As the Yankees roll to another win, the Red Sox look to just keep pace. To do so they will throw out the same starting lineup for the second straight day, a rarity in this injury-marred campaign.
In case you don't recall the order in Wednesday's 9-6 win, here it is:
Marco Scutaro, SS
J.D. Drew, RF
Victor Martinez, C
David Ortiz, DH
Adrian Beltre, 3B
Jed Lowrie, 2B
Mike Lowell, 1B
Daniel Nava, LF
Ryan Kalish, CF
9 a.m.: The Red Sox will aim for a split of their six-game road trip when they finish a three-game series in Baltimore on Thursday night.
Boston improved to 2-3 on the excursion with a comeback 9-6 win over the Orioles on Wednesday. Jon Lester survived a rough beginning to improve to 13-0 against Baltimore as the Sox kept pace with the Tampa Bay Rays and the New York Yankees.
Daisuke Matsuzaka will be making his first start for Boston since Aug. 21. He was skipped in the rotation six days ago in Tampa due to a sore back.
Brad Bergesen is on the mound for Baltimore. First pitch is 7:05 p.m.