September 13, 2007 ... No game scheduled ... The Sox have 15 games left. They have spent 136 days in first place. At 31 games above .500, they are at their high-water mark for the season. At the All-Star break, they were 9 1/2 games ahead of the Yankees, who on May 29 trailed by 14 1/2 games. They have lost 4 1/2 games off their lead since the break, but after playing at a .609 pace before the break (53-34), they have played .600 ball since (36-24). They have stayed the course.

The Yankees, after last night's 2-1 loss in Toronto, have 16 games left. Even if they do not catch the Sox in the American League East, they are leading the wild-card race by a comfortable 3 1/2-game margin over the Detroit Tigers, setting up a possible (likely?) meeting between the archrivals in the AL Championship Series for the third time in five years.

The Sox hope Manny Ramirez will be back in the lineup this weekend. He worked out yesterday at Fenway Park, hitting both in the cage and on the field, a strong indication his strained left oblique muscle has healed sufficiently for him to return. The Sox are 9-6 in the games Ramirez has missed, but with a .392 average (20 for 51), he is their leading hitter against the Yankees. His four home runs tie him with Mike Lowell and Jason Varitek for the most against the Bombers this season.

The Sox have ostensibly their three best pitchers, Daisuke Matsuzaka, 18-game winner Josh Beckett, and Curt Schilling, lined up to face the Yankees, just as they did in New York when they were swept. None of the three has good numbers against the Yankees this season: Matsuzaka is 2-1 with a 6.98 ERA, Schilling is 0-2 with a 5.76 ERA and has given up eight home runs in 25 innings, and Beckett is 1-1 with a 5.49 ERA.

Daniel Bard, the Sox' first-round draft choice in 2006 who suffered through a miserable season in his professional debut, will be among the minor leaguers playing in the Hawaii Winter League, starting Sept. 29. He was 3-7 with a 7.08 ERA in 22 starts divided between Lancaster in the Single A California League, where he began the season, and Greenville in the lower-level South Atlantic League. Bard, who excited Sox officials by hitting 100 miles an hour on the radar gun last fall, had horrific problems with his control, walking more than a batter an inning (78 walks in 76 innings). He struck out just 47, but at 22, he is still at an age and has the type of arm that make him a worthy reclamation project.

J.D. Drew, who has just two home runs and 17 RBIs in the second half but is batting .270 with a .365 on-base percentage in that time, is on a mini-roll. In his last five games, Drew has eight hits in 14 at-bats, a .571 clip, with three doubles, a home run, an RBI, and seven runs.









New York Yankees 83 63 5 1/2



Toronto Blue Jays 73 73 15 1/2



Baltimore Orioles 62 83 26



Tampa Bay Rays 61 86 28



Number to clinch - 11