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We barely squeaked by in this one.  Still, we completed the sweep, and we, the team, and our record can all certainly feel mighty good about that.  Also, pretty much the entire bullpen was rolled out to secure the victory; we’ll get to their performance later.

Buchholz didn’t pitch that well, even though he got the W.  He allowed five runs on ten hits in five and one-third innings while walking three and striking out two.  He threw four pitches; most of them were four-seams, but he threw a substantial number of curveballs and cutters.  He threw only a handful of changeups; he himself admitted to lacking confidence in that particular pitch.  In total, it came to 107 pitches, sixty-nine for strikes.  It was obviously not his best work in the least.  But thanks to the offense and the bullpen, it was enough.

Ironically, he faced the minimum in the fifth, the inning right before most of his problems started.  See, he had allowed only one run previously; the other four were inherited runners that Atchison, Thomas, and Albers allowed to score.  You read right.  There were four pitches in that inning alone.  What is it with the starters and their bad innings lately?

The inning began with a strikeout that was followed by two consecutive singles, an RBI double, and a walk.  Then Atchison came on and allowed a two-RBI single.  Then Thomas came on and allowed an RBI double and hit a batter.  Then Albers came on and allowed an RBI single.  And then, and only then, did he manage to induce a double play to end it.  Padilla then pitched the seventh, Morales pitched the eighth, and Aceves pitched the ninth.  Albers, Padilla, and Morales received holds, with Aceves obviously receiving the save.

So here’s the problem, and it’s a problem I’ve often spoken of in the past.  You can’t afford to take the attitude that, since this one time they only allowed the maximum number of runs that they could possibly allow and still keep a lead intact, the bullpen was successful.  The bullpen was not successful.  Making a mess that your offense has to clean up is not success.  Making a mess that your offense has to clean up is failure.  We were fortunate that we scored one more run than they did in the end, but what if we didn’t? It’s not like the bullpen made a conscious decision to not allow one more run.  If the offense hadn’t scored seven runs, we may have lost.  It doesn’t matter if runs scored by inherited runners are charged to the starter; when a reliever inherits a bases-loaded situation, damage should not be expected, and we should not have to be surprised if the reliever is indeed lights-out.  I’m just saying.

Anyway, the offense didn’t waste much time getting on the board.  Papi opened the second with a walk, and then Youk singled, Salty struck out, Ross hit an RBI single, Byrd lined out, and Aviles smacked a three-run shot to left on a slider, the second pitch of the at-bat.  With that one swing, we had a four-run lead.  He crushed that ball.  He is absolutely on fire.

The very next inning, Salty hit a two-RBI single.  Pedroia led off the fifth with a triple and scored on a single by Gonzalez.  We went down in order in the last four innings of the game.  Fortunately, we’d already scored all the runs we’d need.

The final score was 7-6, and we posted ten hits.  Only three of those were for extra bases, and two of them, a double and a triple, were hit by Pedroia, who went three for four and was one homer shy of the cycle.  That was our only multi-hit performance.  So we were fortunate that, last night, it was enough.  Although the absolute last thing that we needed was Ross leaving in the sixth due to soreness in his left knee.  He better not be out for long.

In other news, the season, the playoffs, and the aspirations of the Bruins were officially ended by a positively heart-wrenching Game Seven.  We lost, 2-1, in sudden death overtime at 2:57.  Tyler Seguin scored our only goal, and Tim Thomas made twenty-six saves.  For the first time in the history of the playoffs of the National Hockey League, an entire seven-game series was ecided by one goal.  The three Game Sevens that we played in order to win the Stanley Cup last year was a record; since I was hoping for a repeat, I was hoping that this Game Seven would prove to be just as joyous as the others.  Clearly I was sorely and sadly mistaken.  Well, it’s been both frustrating and fun.  It’s a painful, painful way to go out, but as we’re used to saying in Boston, there’s always next year.

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While Theo is busy taking kudos in Chicago, we still don’t have any news on his compensation, but life goes on.  Eight members of the team filed for free agency; none of the filings are surprising: Conor Jackson, Trever Miller, Bedard, Drew, Wake, Tek, Papi, and Paps.  Okay, maybe I was surprised that Drew chose to file instead of retire.  But everyone knew the rest of them were going to be filing.

Obviously there’s been a lot of talk about whether to keep Papi and Paps on board.  The difficulty with Papi is that he’ll want more money for more years, although his recent performance, certainly in the last season, suggests that that’s warranted.  Paps wants more money.  Like, a lot more money.  You might say we can afford to lose him because we have Bard, but I have a feeling that you won’t know how valuable it was having Bard as a closer-esque setup man packing that one-two punch with Paps unless Paps were to leave and then you’d be fishing around for an eighth inning guy as good as all that.  Trust me, it wouldn’t be Jenks, folks.

As far as Wake and Tek go, we don’t have much to lose by keeping them.  Their market value is relatively low as it is; it’s not like they can leverage high demand to induce a bigger deal from us.  Tek’s powers of leadership are here with this team; it’s unclear how valuable he’d be in another clubhouse since that was always his main contributor anyway, especially in recent years when his plate production has markedly decreased, although it is worth noting that he seemed to share in Tito’s experience of having his leadership be less effective this past year.  Either that or he pulled back on his leadership.  Either way, the results were the results; how much that had to do with Tek is unclear.  Regarding Wake, he’s still an effective pitcher, more so in the bullpen now than as a starter; I guess age does eventually take its toll even on a knuckleballer.  So Wake will have to figure out if he’d be satisfied as a reliever.  Ben, like Theo, will be unlikely to dish out coin if he’s not absolutely sure that he’s paying for the player’s worth alone; if Ben is interested in retaining Wake as a reliever but Wake wants to start and demands a starter’s salary, that could potentially be a problem.

Speaking of Ben, apparently he graduated from Lebanon High School in 1992, so the school has reportedly posted a sign out front that says, “Congratulations Ben Cherington Class of ’92 Free Tickets?” Hey, it doesn’t hurt to ask.

Jackson, Miller, and Bedard were late-season playoff fixes that we obviously didn’t end up needing.  The decision of whether to retain them doesn’t strike me as epically impactful, although given the fact that we’re technically short a starter now, Bedard may make sense if there’s no one better out there.

We picked up Scutaro’s option, probably as insurance until Jose Iglesias is ready to permanently assume the starter’s role.  We declined options on Wheeler and Atchison.

Congratulations to Ellsbury, Gonzalez, and Pedroia on their Gold Gloves! And congratulations to Ellsbury, Gonzalez, and Papi on their Silver Sluggers! All very well deserved; I can’t think of anyone who deserved them more.  Finally, congratulations to Luis Tiant for landing on this year’s Hall of Fame ballot.  It’s about time!

Lackey had his Tommy John surgery on Tuesday.  Supposedly it went well.

This week, the managerial interviews began.  First up was Phillies hitting coach Pete Mackanin.  Then we had Brewers hitting coach Dale Sveum, our former third base coach.  We’ve got Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux and Cleveland bench coach Sandy Alomar, Jr.  Of those four, Mackanin and Maddux would obviously be preferable, which is why Theo is interviewing them also.

Add to our growing list of vacancies a strength and conditioning coach and an assistant athletic trainer.  Apparently we fired Dave Page and Greg Barajas.

Also worth noting is the fact that the Mets will construct a few walls in Citi Field for the explicit purpose of decreasing the size of the field.  Among those walls will be an eight-foot installment in front of the sixteen-foot Great Wall of Flushing, between which will be built a new section of seats a la the Green Monster.  As far as I’m concerned, this is one of the most blatant agenda-pushing moves I’ve ever seen.  So they constructed an enormous ballpark that is forcing well-paid power hitters, like David Wright and, oh, yeah, Jason Bay, to struggle.  Big deal.  You don’t see any other ballclub undergoing offseason construction to shrink the field size just to increase home run production to make more money.  That is ridiculous, and I’m surprised that it’s being allowed.  Maybe Bud Selig is considering it yet another step forward toward making baseball even more popular; we all know how much he praises the home run as a tool to accomplish that.  But still.  I can’t believe this is flying under the radar.

In other news, the Pats lost to the Steelers, 25-17.  Before the season started, I think we all picked that one as a possible loss.  At least the score was respectable.  The Bruins scored a ton of goals this week.  We beat the Sens, 5-3, and then we absolutely buried the Leafs, 7-0.  Tyler Seguin posted his first-ever NHL hat trick en route.

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin

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Finally, it starts to get interesting.

Pitching is Theo’s top priority at the Winter Meetings.  It looks like we’re shifting our focus from Roy Halladay to John Lackey.  That’s very good news.  I don’t want to give up both Clay Buchholz and Casey Kelly for a pitcher who is, in all likelihood, past his prime.  Yes, it’s possible he could be another Randy Johnson, who won four straight Cy Youngs after turning thirty-five, or Curt Schilling, who was a Cy Young runner-up three times after turning thirty-three.  But it’s also possible that he just won’t deliver or that he’ll become a medical liability or, worse yet, the dreaded combination of both.  (See Randy Johnson in pinstripes.  Talk about disasters.) And if you compare the two, Roy Halladay doesn’t even enjoy a complete edge in the numbers.  In his career, he started and won more games, struck out more batters, and had a lower ERA, OPP AVG, and WHIP.  But Lackey’s gone the distance more often (which translates to durability, one of Lackey’s strongest assets) and has allowed fewer earned runs, home runs, bases on balls, and hit batters.  And we land Lackey this offseason, it would be through a signing, not a trade, so we wouldn’t have to mortgage our future.  Besides, we theoretically have some money left over from our decision to not pick up Alex Gonzalez’s option.

Supposedly, we’re also seriously pursuing Rich Harden.  I like that less.  He’s got a 3.39 career ERA with 783 strikeouts and a record of fifty and twenty-nine, but he’s never thrown two hundred innings in a season and has only made more than twenty-six starts once.  Durability? Not so much.  But he’d be a good bargain option, arguably a better one than Smoltz or Penny, because he’s pitched in the American League.

Speaking of pitching, the Braves cleaned out two of our peripheral relievers.  Wagner signed a one-year deal worth seven million dollars to close for them.  I would’ve liked to see him come back to Boston, but he did give us fair warning that he wanted to close, and we don’t exactly have a vacancy in that position.  One day later, the Braves signed Saito also, to a one year deal worth just over three million plus incentives.  I’m not too torn up about it.

Say hello to the latest shortstop to don a Boston uniform: Marco Scutaro.  If I sound cynical, it’s because I am.  He’s wearing Number 16; the last Boston shortstop to wear Number 16 was Edgar Renteria, so here’s hoping this time around will work out a little bit better.  Let’s not kid ourselves: he’s a veteran.  He’s a career .265 hitter with fifty home runs, 294 RBIs, and 297 walks to his credit.  But he’s thirty-four years old.  There’s a reason why the deal was only for two years.  It’s worth eleven million dollars plus a dual option.  Things that made this possible: the draft pick we’re getting from the Braves that will offset the one we have to give to the Jays, another undisclosed team pushing hard for Scutaro that forced the issue, and Scurato has reached that point in his career when he really wants a ring.  (Ironically, Alex Gonzalez signed a one-year deal with the Jays earlier, worth close to three million plus an option.) Either way, we now have a shortstop who is not Dustin Pedroia.

That needs to be cleared up once and for all.  Dustin Pedroia said he would be willing to play shortstop if the team needed him to.  But the team wasn’t about to let that happen.  Trust me.  You don’t move a Gold Glove second baseman to short because you don’t want to spend some money.  You don’t do that for a number of reasons.  Not the least of which is the fact that it doesn’t solve anything.  Fine; you move your second baseman to short.  Now you need a second baseman.  Sure, the market for second basemen is more fluid than that for shortstops, but not when you’re talking about second basemen as good as Dustin Pedroia.  Also, the caliber of Pedroia’s defense at short would be comparable to, if not worse than, any career shortstop on the market, with the obvious exception of Julio Lugo.  Thirdly, shortstop is no defensive walk in the park.  It’s the most difficult infield position.  And that means it carries a higher probability of injury, especially for someone who’s not used to it.  So we would have lost valuable playing time from him, both in the field and at the plate, had he made the switch.  Would he have been capable of doing so? Absolutely.  If anyone could, Dustin Pedroia could.  If there’s one ballplayer who embodies the don’t-tell-me-I-can’t-‘cause-I’ll-show-you-I-can attitude, it’s him.  Not to mention the fact that in 2003 he was the NCAA National Defensive Player of the Year at short.  And he’s actually in a better position to play shortstop at the Major League level now than he was when he first came up, due to his offseason workouts and in-season conditioning that have made him lighter and faster.  But even though he’d use his baseball acumen to compensate, his range would leave much to be desired.  And sometimes, in pressure situations in that part of the field, the range of the shortstop is what it comes down to.  It would have put considerable pressure on Mike Lowell to improve his range as compensation, that’s for sure.  So while I’m not doubting Pedroia’s ability to make the switch, I don’t think it would be a good for him or the team in the long run.  The team wasn’t actually serious about that possibility anyway.  Ultimately, Theo never would have allowed it.  Thankfully, it’s a moot point now either way.

But that would explain our earlier interest in Placido Polanco.  After the Tigers declined to offer him arbitration, we made a call or two.  But like I said, we don’t need a second baseman, and even if we did, he was all but off-limits.  The Phillies have since closed the deal.  So much for Chone Figgins, who ended up signing a four-year deal with Seattle.

Last but not least, we extended arbitration to Bay earlier this week.  (We declined offers to Baldelli and Byrd.) That means that, even if he signs with someone else, we get compensatory draft picks.  So the saga continues.

Congratulations to Joe Castiglione, Dave O’Brien, and Jerry Remy for landing on the ballot for the Hall of Fame’s Frick Award, honoring the baseball’s best announcers.  They definitely deserve it.

We beat the Lightning and the Leafs.  Not so much the Habs.  We lost, 1-5, to Montreal.  Ugh.  That was just an awful game to watch.  Even with that loss, though, we’re in first place in the Northeast! Finally! One point ahead of the Sabres, but I’ll take it.  But the most significant B’s news this week has nothing to do with wins and losses.  Marc Savard signed a seven-year extension.  Ladies and gentlemen, that could very well be the highlight of the regular season.  It’s going to have a hugely positive impact it’s going to have on our future.  There is arguably no other center in the league who is as multi-faceted and deeply talented as Marc Savard.  Things aren’t as cheerful on the football front.  Talk about awful games to watch.  The Saints defeated us, 38-17.  Yeah.  Awful.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

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We won, 0-1.  Tim Wakefield pitched six shutout innings.  Only three hits, all of them singles.  No Brave got past first on his watch.  Only one walk.  One strikeout.  Wrap it up.  Not to mention the fact that he got his first hit since 2005, something about which I was not happy.  Think about it.  We’re in Atlanta.  In the summer.  It was one hundred degrees.  You don’t want your pitcher standing around or running the bases in that kind of heat.  But apparently Wake was completely unphased.  We scored that run in the sixth inning on an RBI single by Kotsay (Youk, who finished his day two for three, scored the run), so Wake only pitched with a lead for half a frame.  The fact that he was able to keep the Braves at bay with no score in the game is very impressive.  And very timely.  If he pitches like this for the rest of his starts before the All-Star break, he’s going to St. Louis for sure.

But this wasn’t just a game.  This wasn’t even just a really great game.  This wasn’t just a solidification of Wake’s potential All-Star appearance, or a blatant message that unfortunately Javier Vazquez didn’t pitch too badly, either.  With this win, Wake becomes just one of three American League pitchers to reach double digits in the win column this season.  With this start, Wake tied Roger Clemens for most career starts by a pitcher in Red Sox letters; he now stands at 382.  He’s been pitching for us since 1995.  That’s a lot of starts.  And that’s a lot of seasons; his fifteen seasons with us are the most for any pitcher.  Speaks volumes about his consistency and ability to work through innings and rack up wins.  Even if he sometimes infuriates us every once in a while.  His 174 wins make him good for third on the Red Sox all-time list; eighteen more and he’d reach Cy Young and Roger Clemens.  And that’s entirely within his reach.  If he continues at his current rate, he’ll absolutely get there by the end of next season, and he might win twenty games this season and become the oldest pitcher ever to do so.  And if he does in fact fly out to St. Louis, he’d be the second-oldest first-timer in the history of the sport, behind Satchel Paige.  To be completely honest, the way things work in Boston, if he continues tearing through his starts like this he’ll go.  It’s basically sure-fire that he’ll go.  We take care of our own in Boston, and he deserves it.  He’ll go.

One more thing.  He’s doing it all with a torn labrum in his shoulder.  Dirt dog all the way.

Delcarmen and Masterson took care of the seventh and eighth, and despite allowing a double, Paps collected a save after finishing the ninth.  That was his eighteenth of the season and 131st of his career, one shy of Bob Stanley’s franchise record.  So give it a few days and he’ll break it.  His 131 saves are also tied for fifth-most by a pitcher in his first five seasons.  Depending on how many saves he finishes the season with, he could move up considerably on that list.

In other news, the Bruins picked five in the NHL Entry Draft: forward Jordan Caron in the first round, and defenseman Ryan Button, forward Lane Macdermid, forward Tyler Randell, and forward Ben Sexton in the second round.

Penny at Tommy Hanson this afternoon.  I love Interleague.  That’s all I have to say about it.

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With our win last night, our streak reaches eleven games, our longest since the twelve-gamer from June 16 to June 29 in 2006.  Hopefully we’ll be able to overtake that in more ways than one; make this streak even longer and, at the very least, make the playoffs this year, something that didn’t happen three years ago.  That was just a bad second half.  I love baseball just as much as anybody, but that was ugly.  I’m telling you, you just couldn’t wait for that to be over.

Last night was a good game.  It was a pitchers’ duel, that’s for sure.  At least for a while.  And this is Wakefield’s third quality start.  I don’t know how it happens, but he seems to be getting better with age.  Every outing for the last three he’s become more consistent.  There’s a trend I’d love to see continue.  He one-hit the Tribe for seven shutout innings with four walks and five K’s.  His ERA is 1.86.  I can’t remember the last time I saw the name “Tim Wakefield” associated with an ERA under 2.00.  I mean he’s fourth in the American League.  And if he keeps pitching like this the only place it has to go is down.  I mean it just keeps dropping.  It’s remarkable.  Which makes it that much more unfortunate that he didn’t get the win.

Delcarmen pitched a perfect eight and Papelbon a not-so-perfect ninth.  A run on three hits and two K’s will raise his ERA to 1.93.  His last few outings haven’t been great.  You might say it’s only one run, but think about that for a second.  Papelbon’s our closer.  If this game had been tied, that one run would’ve been a walkoff for Cleveland.  You can’t have that from your closer, even if you can afford it.  I don’t think this will last, though.  Papelbon has a rough patch or two every season and then it’s smooth sailing.  Delcarmen got the win, and Paps picked up another save.

As far as the offense goes, it was a one-man show.  Jason Bay, folks.  Jason Bay.  A ninth-inning rocket of a home run off Kerry Wood.  One out, two on, and then three in.  And that was the ballgame.  The final score was 3-1.  Bay actually had a great night, finishing at three for four, and every hit was hit hard.  Let’s go through his numbers, shall we? .344 average, .705 slugging percentage, five home runs, nineteen RBIs, twenty walks.  That is insane.  I mean, yes, that is just insane.  Ortiz finished at two for four, and those were the only two multi-hit performances of the game.  In fact, only three other guys got hits at all: Lowell, Bailey, and Green.  That was it.  So in the interest of sportsmanship I’ll tip my hat to Cliff Lee on holding us at bay.  Almost.  Wow, the puns just keep coming and coming.

Ellsbury did not get a hit and actually struck out three times, but he did make an absolutely spectacular catch in the sixth on the run.  Very tough play, but if anyone can do it, he can.

Julio Lugo is back in action for us.  And I’m glad he’s back, because you never want any of your guys to be injured.  But that’s pretty much the only reason why I’m glad he’s back.  Nick Green is great.  Jed Lowrie, once he gets out of his slump, will be great.  I just hope Lugo has it in him to be great.  Mike Dee, our Chief Operating Officer, is leaving to become the CEO of the Miami Dolphins.  I personally don’t understand why anyone would want to make a move like that, but hey.  Red Sox Nation and I thank you for all of your hard work, dedication, and service to our team.  You’ll be missed.  I just hope we have someone waiting in the wings who’s good.  Curt Smith of the Norwich Bulletin called the new Yankee Stadium “The House that Greed Built.” Brilliant.  I love it.

In other news, Timmy Thomas is a finalist for the Vezina Trophy along with the Wild’s Niklas Backstrom and the Blue Jackets’ Steve Mason.  They’re all worthy opponents.  Backstrom basically carried the Wild on his back for most of the season, and you could argue that Mason is the only reason why the Blue Jackets are even in the playoffs at all.  But Timmy Thomas is the best goalie in the entire National Hockey League.  So in the interest of sportsmanship I tip my hat, but it’s a lock.

So onward and forward we go.  If we win tonight we tie our longest winning streak in three years, but I think we have it in us to extend it much longer than that.  Maybe break the all-time record? We’ll see.  One game at a time; Penny at Reyes first.

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When one of your aces goes down, that’s what you need, you need your backup to step up and hold the fort so that you can get in, score runs, and get out.  And that’s exactly what Masterson did.  Now, he’s a young guy yet, so the length of his start was an issue.  Terry Francona was thinking four, maybe five innings, but Masterson pitched five and a third.  One run on four his with two walks and three K’s.  The sinker was on.  It was beautiful.  And that, my friends, is why he needs to come out of the bullpen and enter the rotation.  He’s a starter by trade.  He has all the skills and gifts of a starter.  And not only that, he has all the trappings of a great starter.  He can and will excel as a member of the rotation in the future; they’re not going to keep him in the bullpen forever.  But in the meantime it just seems like such a waste.

The relief corps continues to be top-notch, right down to Hideki Okajima.  Delcarmen, Okajima, Lopez, and Hunter Jones were spic-and-span through four.  But it was really our offensive performance that stole the show.  We swept the four-game series with Baltimore and went out with a pretty significant bang, absolutely burying the Orioles with twelve runs and fifteen hits.  With the exception of Nick Green, every member of the starting lineup either had a hit, an RBI, or both.  Jacoby Ellsbury went three for six with an RBI and a stolen base.  Basically, he did everything he does best.  I don’t want to jinx it and say he’s back yet but he’s getting there.  Dustin Pedroia the Destroyah went four for six with three (count ’em: three) RBIs.  Ortiz went two for four with two RBIs, and guess what? Those two hits were for extra bases! A double and a two-out, stand-up triple for Big Papi.  With that triple he tied Joe Cronin for tenth place on the Red Sox all-time RBI list with 737.  Again, I really don’t want to jinx this, but if he keeps this up we’re golden; our first three batters collected nine hits on the day.  Youk went one for two with three walks, something he was always good at.  Baldelli had RBI.  Bay was perfect at the plate with an RBI.  Mikey Lowell was two for five with two RBIs.  And Jason Varitek.  The captain.  Two for five with a solo home run in the second that he crushed into the Monster seats.  I mean there was no way that ball was staying anywhere near the field.  The man made contact, and it was out.  It was one of those swings where the ball meets the bat, you hear the crack, and you know Tek will take a jog around the bases.  An excellent piece of hitting.  And did I mention it’s his third of the year?

It looks like Jed Lowrie will opt to have surgery on his wrist, but it won’t be season-ending.  He should be back by the All-Star break.  All I want is for him to do what’s best for his long-term health.  He’s the future of Boston at shortstop, and in the meantime Nick Green’s been doing great and we’ll have Julio Lugo waiting in the wings, so he should take his time and get himself right.

So we continue our climb to the top of the AL East.  Our four-game sweep of the O’s puts our record at seven and six and ties us for second place with the Yankees, just two and a half games out of first.  That’ll all change this weekend, starting on Friday, when we play New York for the first time this year.  And we’ll be at home.  The one thing I’m sad about is that Girardi decided to push back Wang’s next start, so we won’t get to face him.  See, I think that’s completely unfair.  Everyone else in the league gets to tee off against him and we don’t? Completely unfair.  At least we won’t have to face Nick Swisher, because then I’d really be scared.  But in the meantime, we have the Twins to contend with.  I’m not worried.  Right now, we’re playing the best baseball we’ve played since the season started.  We’re on a five-game winning streak and our lineup’s getting hot.  Baker at Wakefield.  I’m psyched.  Seriously.

In other news, the Bruins continued their total domination of the Canadiens yesterday with a 4-2 victory in Montreal.  For the past few years, the Bell Centre has had the best attendance in the National Hockey League but was beaten this season by the Chicago Blackhawks.  Let me just paint a picture for you.  With between five and ten minutes left in the game, the Habs fans start leaving.  They just get up and start walking out of the arena.  So they boo the American national anthem, and then they get up and they leave when they don’t like what they see.  I come from Red Sox Nation, and we do things differently in Boston, but even objectively speaking, what kind of fans are those? And I would also like to point out that what Gregory Stewart did to Patrice Bergeron wasn’t just roughing, it was reckless force.  I mean he was covering Bergeron’s face with his glove, almost choking the man, while the referees stand by and just watch.  Eventually, they come in and interfere.  But I mean really.  Anyway, the point is we’re up three-zip in the series, which should be in the bag at this point.  If we can win against the Habs in their house with some key guys missing, then we’re deeper than deep and we have what it takes to go all the way.  Game four tomorrow in Montreal at 7:00PM.  Can’t wait!

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Not gonna lie.  I was never a fan of the World Baseball Classic.  When I said I wasn’t concerned about it, I meant that I wasn’t worried about it interfering with players’ ability to get playing time.  I did not mean that I wasn’t worried that players would come back with a host of injuries.  And guess what.  That’s exactly what’s happening now.  Quite frankly, it’s one of our worst nightmares come true, because we’re not just talking injured prospects here.  We’re talking Dustin Pedroia, who strained his left abdominal.  That’s bad.  That’s really bad.  We need him in there.  I’m telling you, if he misses playing time in the beginning of the season, or if his rhythm throughout the season is completely thrown off like Beckett last year, it won’t be the end of the world but it’ll be one epically uphill battle.  The World Baseball Classic is fun and all, but once injuries come into the picture, I could do without it.  Bud Selig had good intentions, I’m sure, but baseball is baseball.  If a guy is going to get injured, let him get injured during the regular season after he’s at least got a game or two under his belt.

Very unfortunately for us, the injury list doesn’t stop there.  Jacoby Ellsbury tweaked his hamstring last weekend, and Jonathan Van Every sprained his right ankle on Thursday.  But these are pretty minor; Tito isn’t concerned about Ellsbury at all, so that’s good.  There is only one positive in all of this, and I hate to say it, but it’s that Lugo will have surgery on his right knee on Tuesday.  No timetable for his return, and that surgery usually requires weeks of rehab.  And we all know what that means: Jed Lowrie at short! Definitely something to smile about.  And by this time, we all know why.  Who knows? Maybe if he handles the job well, he’ll start permanently, and we’ll be able to find another home for Lugo while bringing up one of our other prospects to serve as Lowrie’s back up.  Hey, I can dream, can’t I?

Brad Penny’s throwing again, and Mikey Lowell is making an excellent recovery.  In his debut against the Orioles, he went one for three with a nice single, and he started at third for the first time since the playoffs on Friday against the Yankees, homering, singling, and executing his first defensive play more or less without incident.  I’d also like to mention that we clobbered the Yankees, 8-4.  Yeah, I know, Spring Training games don’t matter, but if we beat the Yankees in any context, I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation that we are most definitely going to be happy about it.  We’re also going to be happy when we beat Tampa Bay, which we did, burying them, 8-2, last weekend.  Masterson pitched three fantastic innings, allowing one hit, striking out three, and throwing 43 pitches, 27 of which were strikes.  We’ll probably end up using him in relief this year, which I personally think is a total waste, but that’s where we’ll need him most.  But if we need another starter, it’s great to know he’s ready for that role as well.

As far as roster moves go, we reassigned knuckleballer Charlie Zink, catcher Carlos Maldanado, and pitchers Kris Johnson and Dustin Richardson, and we optioned shortstop Argenis Diaz.  Nothing too groundbreaking.  Zink and the others had good camps, but at the end of the day we just didn’t have the space.  And Zink I think could use more time in development.

Probably the best piece of news all weeks is that we locked up Jon Lester for five more seasons.  He signed a five-year contract extension worth $30 million, with a $13 million option for 2014.  And get this: he’s only 25 years old.  This is the third long extension granted by the Red Sox to homegrown talent in the past three months (Pedroia was first, followed by Youk).  Good job, Theo, in keeping our boys home.

Last but certainly not least, Paps had some words for Manny Ramirez.  He described Manny as a “cancer” in the clubhouse.  I mean, I get what he was trying to say, and I agree, and I think that describing it as a cancer was a good analogy, but we know Paps, and we know that he doesn’t always say things as tactfully or as gently as possible.  So while I think the cancer analogy was a good way to explain the fact that Manny was infecting the clubhouse like a virus and it just kept spreading and spreading until it finally had to be eliminated altogether, I also think that if Paps explained the analogy a little more, he would’ve seemed less brash.  Those are my two cents, anyway.

In other news, the Bruins didn’t fare much better this week, collecting two losses and two wins to bring their point total to 99, still good for first in the Eastern Conference but tied for best overall with the Red Wings, who have overtaken the Sharks’ 98 points.  So the plot thickens, as they say.  Looks like we’ll have to do battle with Detroit as well.  Again, I’m not worried.  There are only twelve games left in the regular season, which ends for us on April 12.  We’re comfortably in first place in our division, we’re comfortably in first place in our Conference, we’re tied for first place in the League, and we are absolutely going to the playoffs.  All we have to do is maintain our momentum and finish the season in style.

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