Tuesday September 07, 2010 | 08:45 AM

At 77-61, with 24 games to play, and 6.5 games behind the Tampa Bay Rays, tonight's game for is the biggest of the year so far for Boston. (and, yes, if Boston wins tonight, then Wednesday's game is the biggest).

Tonight is important because the Red Sox are facing David Price (16-6, 2.92). Beating Price is a blow to Tampa Bay, while keeping Boston's slim hopes alive. If the Red Sox still believe they are in contention, they will start Clay Buchholz on Wednesday (on three days' rest).

Monday's game was special, not only because Boston won, but because three starters and one reliever in the game had begun the season in Portland. Ryan Kalish shined with two hits, including a grand slam. Yamaico Navarro had a sacrifice fly. Lars Anderson went 0-for-4 in his debut, and Robert Coello retired only one of six batters, allowing three runs.

Only lefty Felix Doubront did not appear. But he could see action today.

Former Sea Dogs outfielder Josh Reddick joined Boston after finishing his season in Pawtucket. Reddick hit his 18th homer for the PawSox on Monday, finishing with a .266 average. But remember that Reddick was batting .196 on June 14. Since then, he's batted .319 (82-of-257) ... reliever Tommy Hottovy pitched 1 1/3 innings in relief (1 hit) in what may be his final appearance with the Red Sox organization. Hottovy becomes a minor league free agent this off-season.

In Portland, both Anthony Rizzo and Nate Spears hit their 20th home run.

Dan Butler appears to be an emerging catching prospect. He played 35 games in Salem and, after going 3-for-5 Monday, Butler finished with a .292 average ... Infielder Oscar Tejeda (.307, 11 home runs, 69 RBI) and Will Middlebrooks (.276, 12, 70) did not play Monday. Look for them in Portland next year.

I'll check in from Fenway later.

About this Blog

Kevin Thomas covers baseball and basketball for the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram. He wisely moved to Maine in 1994 after working for the St. Petersburg Times. He is married to Nancy and they have nine children.

Follow his thoughts on the Boston Red Sox and Portland Sea Dogs on Clearing the Bases

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