The Red (hot) Sox returned home Friday dowsed down a bit, but not quite out. After a spectacular offensive showing in Chicago against the struggling White Sox, the team made a short stop in the Bronx to face the second place Yankees.

Looking for a little retribution from New York for ending their season last August, the Red Sox were poised to knock the Yankees out of contention for the Eastern Division championship this year with a three game sweep. Just about all of New England were wishing for one, but as they say, be careful what you wish for. While we got the sweep all right, it was not exactly the way we all had it in mind.

The series started with Daisuke Matsuzaka facing Andy Pettitte. The Yankees put up two first inning runs as Dice-K then settled in and the Sox tied the score with single runs in the second and third innings. The Yanks scored again in the bottom of the fifth, while the Red Sox waited until the top of the seventh to retie. Matsuzaka looked good until the bottom of the seventh when he gave up a two run shot to Johnny Damon that just made the short right fence in fair territory. The revamped Yankee bullpen looked great as new setup man Joba Chamberlain and Mo Rivera closed the deal. Manny Ramirez left the game in the eighth due to a left oblique strain suffered during his last at bat.

The second match up pitted Red Sox ace Josh Beckett against the legendary Roger Clemens. Maybe Beckett was in awe, because he certainly was not on his game as he clearly battled with control the whole outing. He gave up four runs on 13 hits in only his sixth loss of the season. Clemens also showed some age and control issues as he walked five, but he only allowed one run on two hits in six innings. While the Sox managed to plate a couple more off Farnsworth in the eighth, they came up short as Rivera once again slammed the door in the ninth.

The finale featured Curt Schilling against Chien-Ming Wang, the Yankees’ staff ace. Schill threw well enough to keep the squad in the game thru seven, surrendering only two runs on six hits and a walk, but the Red Sox offense floundered. Wang provided the Boston bats with only one hit thru seven and once again the new bullpen additions paid off for the Yankees. Joba Chaberlain was ejected after throwing twice at Kevin Youkilis in the eighth with two out, but Edwar Rameriz closed it out for the win and the sweep.

If nothing else, all these little subplots and many more will be relived once again in the last and final regular season match up of these two teams in Boston on Sept. 14 thru 16. The Sox missed an opportunity here and dropped three games in the standings to New York. One win would have only made it a single game change and not such a demoralizing series. Overall, they did come away from their last tough ten game road trip with a 6-4 record.

The Red Sox returned to Fenway for three against the Baltimore Orioles. The injury bug seems to have started up in the Sox clubhouse, as joining Manny on the bench was the scheduled starter and 16-game winner Tim Wakefield with a bad back. This set the stage for Julian Tavarez to make yet another start. He battled control issues in the fourth inning as six Orioles reached and four scored giving Baltimore a lead they added five more to in the sixth, but struggled to hold. A three run seventh for the Sox gave them hope and two in the ninth came up a run short in the loss. This loss was further exacerbated by injuries to Big Papi (hit in ribs by a pitch), J.D. Drew (foul tip off the foot) and Coco Crisp’s collision with the centerfield wall.

With many players banged up badly, the Sox reached into their reserves from Pawtucket as the September call-ups came none too soon. Pressed into service by the injury to Wakefield on Friday, Tavarez’s scheduled start went to rookie prodigy Clay Buchholtz. We saw the rookie turn in a fine win against the Angels in Anaheim, but no one was prepared for him to go the distance and the first no hitter by a rookie in Red Sox history in just his second major league start.

This may prove to be the pivotal moment in this Red Sox season. As the squad had lost four in a row, including a sweep at the hands of their dreaded rivals, it took a rookie to stop the bleeding and to do it with such a phenomenal performance. At least it gave them the drive to gut out a 3-2 win Sunday for Jon Lester while fielding until recently former PawSox Kevin Cash, Brandon Moss and Jacoby Ellsbury. These kids are all right. The Sox remain in the division lead by six games as the Yankees only managed one of three from Tampa Bay.

The next ten games are theirs to win with Toronto, Baltimore and Tampa as opposition. Time to make hay boys.

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