Tuesday August 30, 2011 | 10:41 AM

Saw one daughter off to college in Washington (and drove back with Irene in our rear view mirror). Say goodbye to another daughter today in Boston (before she goes for a semester in Italy).

Think I'll hang around Boston for a few more hours tonight. Heard there is a pretty good series starting at Fenway Park.

The first-place Red Sox are inching towards the playoffs. And they can take big strides toward a division title with success against the Yankees over the next three days.

The standings:

AL East
Boston 82-51
New York 80-52 (1.5 back)
Tampa Bay 73-60 (9)

Wild Card
New York 80-52
Tampa Bay 73-60 (7.5 back)
LA Angels 72-62 (9)

Boston has 29 games left. The magic number for the Red Sox to finish ahead of Tampa Bay in the wild card standings is 21 (combination of Boston wins and Rays losses).

The magic number to win the division is 29 (combination of Boston wins and New York losses).

The Yankees will likely be without Alex Rodriguez because of a sore left thumb.

New sends ace C.C. Sabathia (17-7, 2.99) against the Red Sox and John Lackey (12-9, 5.98) tonight. Sabathia has solid numbers - except when he pitches against the Red Sox.

Against Boston, Sabathia is 0-4 this year with a 7.20 ERA. The Red Sox are bating .324 against him, and .367 in two games at Fenway.

Wednesday's match-up: Phil Hughes (4-4, 6.46) vs. Josh Beckett (11-5, 2.43). Thursday: A.J. Burnett (9-11, 5.31) vs. Jon Lester (14-6, 3.09).

We will be covering the series, in the paper, on the blog and through twitter (@ClearTheBases)

In the minors, Alex Wilson earned his first Triple-A win, striking out 9 in 5 innings: 5 H, 0 R, 1 BB ... Ryan Lavarnway hit his 17th home run.

On Monday, both Junichi Tazawa (1 IP, 1 K) and Felix Doubront (1 1/3 IP, 2 BB) made relief appearances for Pawtucket ... getting ready for September call-ups?

When the Sea Dogs recently lost all six games of a home stand, they looked resigned to have the worst record in franchise history (which is 60-81).

But Portland has won four of its last five road games, improving to 57-78. The Sea Dogs have three games left in Harrisburg - including a Thursday encounter with Stephen Strasburg - before finishing with four home games.

Portland outfielder Jeremy Hazelbaker was named Eastern League Player of the Week after batting .444 (12-for-27) with three home runs, four stolen bases and seven RBI.

 

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

Follow his thoughts on the Boston Celtics and Maine Red Claws on Holding Court


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