Friday August 30, 2013 | 05:35 AM

BOSTON — Third inning: Second baseman Dustin Pedroia just made a heads-up play to throw out Danny Valencia at third, leaving a runner on first base, with one out. Jon Lester then walked left-hander Nat McLouth (who had been 0-for-5 against Lester). That set up Manny Machado's 2-run double.

Fifth inning: Two outs, no one on. Lester walks Adam Jones, but gets ahead of left-hander Chris Davis 0-2. Lester leaves a fastball over the plate and Davis doubles in Jones.

That is all Chris Tillman needed as the Orioles won 3-2.

It may be picky to point out a couple of Lester's mistakes. He is not collapsing. But he's not consistent enough. In big games, when Boston is facing a tough opposing pitcher, the Red Sox need their ace. See today's column.

David Ortiz left a few runners on base, going 0-for-4, deepening his slump to 0-for-22. Ortiz faced the media afterward and simply stated, "I'll be back."

And apparently he will be back in the lineup tonight, according to John Farrell, against left-hander Hector Santiago (4-7, 3.25). Boston counters with the well-rested Ryan Dempster (6-9, 4.77).

The Orioles move on to the Bronx. The Rays are in Oakland.

Red Sox 79-56
Rays 75-57 (2.5 games back)
Orioles 71-61 (6.5)
Yankees 70-63 (8)

Matt Barnes' Triple-A debut was a good one: 5 1/3 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 7 K. 86 pitches/56 strikes.

Keith Couch (11-3, 3.47) finished a fine 2013 season in a 9-2 Sea Dogs win. Couch went 6 innings: 7 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 5 K ... Juan Carlos Linares (.270) was 4-for-5 with a triple and two doubles. In the four-game series in New Hampshire, Linares batted .579 (11-for-19) with three home runs ... Garin Cecchini went 1-for-4 to extend his on-base streak to 38 games, tying Jed Lowrie for the third-best in team history.

The Sea Dogs' mission is simple (but not easy). If they sweep Trenton at Hadlock Field this weekend, they make the Eastern League playoffs. Only problem is Portland plays five games against Trenton in four days, starting tonight at 6.

EL East Wild Card Race
Trenton 71-66
Portland 67-70 (4 games back)

Salem clinched a Carolina League playoff spot. Both second-baseman Mookie Betts (.326) and catcher Blake Swihart (.296) went 2-for-4 ... Luis Diaz (2-0, 1.38) made his second start since his promotion from Greenville: 7 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 6 K.





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.

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