Friday July 20, 2012 | 09:53 AM

The Red Sox won with three runs in the ninth, thanks to their $20-million table-setters (Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez) and their $3-million bargain basher (Cody Ross).

And the Yankees lost ... but don't get your hopes up over a collapse in the Bronx. New York (57-35) still holds a sizable lead in the AL East.

Unless the Yankees fall apart, the Red Sox are racing for a Wild Card spot.

Here is how things look.


Yankees 57-35
Orioles 48-44 (9 back)
Red Sox 48-45 (9.5)
Rays 48-45 (9.5)
Blue Jays 45-47 (12)


Angels 50-43
Tigers 49-44
Orioles 48-44 (0.5 back)
A’s 48-44 (0.5)
Red Sox 48-45 (1)
Rays 48-45 (1)
Indians 47-45 (1.5)
Blue Jays 45-47 (3.5)

Notice the Blue Jays are still in it? Toronto comes to Fenway tonight (Aaron Laffey 1-1, 3.38 vs. Josh Beckett 5-7, 4.44)

When Juan Carlos (J.C.) Linares was playing in Portland at the start of the season, the natural question was: What are you doing here? Linares always was diplomatic and said he was grateful for the opportunity to play.

But Linares, who turned 28 in September, belonged in Triple-A. And he is showing it, having batted .432 with four home runs in his last 10 games. He went 2-for-4 Thursday with two homers. Through 23 games, he has a .322 average.

Pawtucket got some encouraging pitching on Thursday. Zach Stewart (obtained in the Youkilis deal) went 6 2/3 innings (5 H, 3 R, 1 BB, 4 K). All three run came on two homers ... Daniel Bard gave up a hit and a walk in one inning, striking out two ... Chris Carpenter (acquired in the Theo Epstein "trade") got the save, recording a walk and two strikeouts in one inning.

Stolmy Pimentel put in his second straight solid start for the Sea Dogs (7 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 7 K). Pimentel has faced the New Hampshire Fisher Cats four straight times. His next start will be against Trenton, which rattled Pimentel on June 23 (11 H, 7 R).

Jeremy Hazelbaker now leads the Sea Dogs with 14 home runs. He hit his third in two games on Thursday.

Salem has sent Portland Jackie Bradley Jr., and more prospects are coming, at least by next year ... On Thursday, Brandon Jacobs (.285) went 4-for-5 with his 8th HR ... Michael Almanzar (.292) hit his 8th HR ... and Travis Shaw (.313) went 1-for-3 ... Interesting to note that Almanzar and Shaw switched positions, with Shaw playing third base, and Almanzar first.

Matt Barnes started for Salem. His command was not there, but he still gave up only two hits and one run (unearned), walking one, and striking out five. But Barnes left after three innings, having thrown 73 pitches (43 strikes).

Greenville won in 15 innings on a walk-off RBI single from third baseman Garin Cecchini (.305), but the impressive stat belonged to catcher Blake Swihart, who served as the DH. He was 2-for-5 with a home run.

Swihart, 20, is in his first pro season, having been drafted last year out of high school ($2.5-million bonus). He is batting .268 with five home runs, but what is impressive is his progression.

In April, Swihart batted .178 with a .527 OPS (combined on-base and slugging averages).

In May: .289/.737. In June: .322/.779. In July so far: .304/.894.



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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