RESTED AND READY: Jon Lester (above) hadn't pitched in almost two weeks, and it was six days between appearances for Jonathan Papelbon. So they were both at the top of their game against the Mariners last night . . . and, as a result, so were the Red Sox. Lester went the first 7 1/3 and Papelbon recorded the final five outs to lead the Sox to a 4-0 win that, Sean McAdam notes, broke an overall three-game losing streak and was the first win in their last six tries on the road. Papelbon only needed 15 pitches for his five outs, which shouldn't compromise his availability tonight. (Boston Herald) And that's a good thing, since last night's victory didn't really address any of the issues that have been plaguing the Sox on the road this year, especially the lack of an effective bridge between the starter and Papelbon. (Boston Herald)
BASEBALL TEAM, HEAL THYSELF: McAdam spoke to Theo Epstein about potential trade-deadline moves, and Epstein said the cost of relief pitching is so prohibitive that the Red Sox may be spectators this time around. And if the asking price for Brian Fuentes is Clay Buchholz, as McAdam reports, they should be.
NEVER HURTS TO LOOK: But that doesn't stop them from asking, and the Beaver County Times is the latest publication to report on the Red Sox' interest in Pirates reliever Damaso Marte.
WHOA! While they may have gotten what they expected from Lester and Papelbon, the big blow of the night for the Sox came from out of nowhere: A two-run homer from Jason Varitek, his first home run since June 11. McAdam tells us all about it. In an unrelated, but fascinating note: The Globe reports Varitek played the final game before the All-Star Game with an eye infection so severe he couldn't see out of his right eye.
KEEPING THE FAITH: McAdam reports Terry Francona hasn't lost confidence in the slumping Jacoby Ellsbury. He went 1-for-4 last night.
FAITH REWARDED: Francona got a big payoff last year when he hung in with Dustin Pedroia, and now, writes Dan Shaughnessy, no one can get Pedroia out.
WORKING HIS WAY BACK: McAdam has news that Bartolo Colon has been "feeling great" (Francona's words) and could be back in the rotation by mid-August.
PORTLAND'S PAPI: The David Ortiz Road Show moved to southern Maine, where Big Papi (right) went 2-for-3 with a walk and an RBI for the Sea Dogs before a packed house last night. (projo.com) Ortiz' self-assessment: "I'm very close to being 100 percent. Very close. Not too far away."
PAWSOX DEBUT: Michael Bowden worked four-plus innings and allowed three earned runs in his first Triple-A start. (projo.com)
REALITY CHECK: The negative vibes emanating from Red Sox Nation apparently stop at the borders of Litchfield and Fairfield Counties in Connecticut. Yahoo! Sports' Jeff Passan lists the odds of the Sox' making the postseason as 2-1, which trails only the Angels and Cubs (both at 4-5) and is well ahead of the Rays (4-1) and Yankees (10-1). Baseball Prospectus' Joe Sheehan, writing on SI.com, calls the Red Sox "the best organization and the best team in baseball" and says "they should hold off the Rays and Yankees down the stretch." Although he stresses the Rays aren't a fluke, Sheehan thinks they'll falter and will be overtaken by the Yankees for the wild card.
RELAX: Yahoo.com's Tim Brown says the Red Sox "will be fine."
DETAILS, DETAILS: Jim Rice talks about what a great time he had Sunday at McCoy Stadium and he, Ben Mondor and Joe Morgan were "honored by the Independent League Hall of Fame." Uh, Jim? That's the International League Hall of Fame. (ask14.sullivantire.com)
GLOBAL BRAND: Old friend Seth Mnookin is back from Iraq, where counterfeit Red Sox hats were sold at a local market. "For what it's worth," he adds, "there were no Yankees hats to be seen."
THE REAL VICTORY: Beating the star-deprived A's is no big trick these days, but the big news coming out of the Rays' 4-0 win over Oakland was a dominant performance by Scott Kazmir, who had a 1-4 record in his last seven starts prior to the All-Star break. More good news for Tampa Bay: Jason Bartlett looks like he's about ready to return. (Both stories St. Petersburg Times)
X MEN: The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports the Rays remain the "prime suitor" for the Pirates' Xavier Nady.
I'M WITH YOU, JOE: Salon.com's King Kaufman thinks Joe Maddon was right for being angry with the Blue Jays after they intentionally hit Dioner Navarro in retaliation for Navarro's bunting for a hit with a 5-0 lead. Kaufman points out that 5-0 is hardly an insurmountable advantage and that teams need to "keep playing" and forget all of baseball's unwritten rules.
NEWS OF THE DAY: The good news is they won (New York Post), their fourth victory in a row. The bad news is Jorge Posada is headed to the disabled list and may be lost for the season. (New York Daily News) The unmistakable news, says the Post's Jay Greenberg, is that what you see (in the Bronx) is what you get (for the rest of the season), because the Yanks aren't going to "[drain] the farm system for one more October." And if that means Jose Molina behind the plate the rest of the way, so be it.
MAYBE SO, BUT THAT'S NOT THE POINT: Depressed Fan lives up to his name by declaring the loss of Posada to be "a critical blow to the Yanks." But the Daily News' John Harper says the time has come for Posada to succumb to the obvious and have the surgery that may end his season but will finally fix his shoulder, since he's pretty much useless as is.
AND AS FOR THE OTHER WALKING WOUNDED . . . Hideki Matsui is going to give rehab one more shot. (New York Daily News) If it fails, he, too, will go under the knife and be lost until 2009.
STRANGE TIMING: The Yanks' winning streak has breathed some life into their season, so it seems odd the New York Times' Harvey Araton would choose now to compare the 2008 Yankees to their 1965 dynasty-killing predecessors.
EVER VIGILANT: The New York Post reports the Yankees have been confiscating sun screen from fans entering Yankee Stadium, "a move team officials said was to protect the Stadium from terrorism." (They would, however, sell you their own brand of sun screen at $5 an ounce.) But after complaints from furious -- and sun-burned -- patrons, not to mention health officials, the Yanks relented and said they would now allow three-ounce containers into the park.
PUTTING ASIDE THE RIVALRY: SI.com has a Q-and-A with Joba Chamberlain in which he expresses his affection for Aerosmith . . . which, as we all know, is a Boston-based band.
DIVISION PROBLEM: The Blue Jays and Yankees, as division mates, would seem to be unlikely trade partners. But CBSSports.com reports the Yanks have scouts looking at A.J. Burnett.
PASSAGES: Jerome Holtzman, one of the most influential baseball writers of the last 50 years, has died at age 81. (Chicago Tribune) Interesting that the Tribune obit put the mention of Holtzman's responsibility in developing the modern "save" rule -- which was the lead item in most national reports of his death -- in the eighth paragraph.
CENTRAL NERVOUS SYSTEM: SI.com's John Donovan says the race to watch over the last two-plus months will be the N.L. Central, which is shaping up as a three-team battle between the Cubs, Brewers and Cardinals.
IF YOU CAN'T BE HONEST WITH YOUR FRIENDS . . . Freddy Garcia is auditioning himself for a major-league job in the hopes he can provide pitching help for a contender down the stretch. Close friend Ozzie Guillen, noting Garcia hasn't even thrown off a mound yet as he recovers from shoulder surgery, says, "I don't see that happening." And Garcia, reports ESPN.com's Buster Olney, "very, very upset" with Guillen's comments.
GIVING BACK: Darryl Strawberry's journey back to the major leagues started in 1996 with the independent league St. Paul Saints. Today he returns to Minnesota as honorary captain of the North Division team competing in the American Association All-Star Game at Midway Stadium, saying he's doing it as a favor to the Saints, because "St. Paul reminded me how much fun baseball was." (St. Paul Pioneer Press)
PUT YOUR HANDS TOGETHER FOR . . . your second-place Texas Rangers. (Dallas Morning News)
DUEL IN THE DESERT: Randy Johnson stared down Rich Harden as the Diamondbacks beat the Cubs, 2-0. (Arizona Republic)
I URGE YOU TO RECONSIDER: Numerous media reports say a potential blockbuster between the Rockies and Phillies, which would have sent Matt Holliday to Philadelphia, has broken down. Philly.com's Morning Report says the Phils should "rethink this."
LOCAL BOYS: The Dodgers may attempt to fill their shortstop hole with John McDonald. (foxsports.com)
IN A PERFECT WORLD . . . these eight trades, all proposed by Sheehan (again, writing on SI.com), would be made.
WHISPERS: Most trade rumors are nebulous -- Team X reportedly interested in so-and-so -- but the St. Paul Pioneer-Press' Charley Walters couldn't be more specific when he reports the Angels may send Robb Quinlan and Brandon Wood to the Braves for Mark Teixeira. How would a Minnesota writer know about a proposed deal between teams from California and Georgia, you ask? Because Quinlan is a St. Paul native . . . The Los Angeles Times reports the Dodgers "don't appear to be interested" in either the Mariners' Adrian Beltre or the A's Bobby Crosby . . . The Mets' search for outfield help may lead them to Seattle's Raul Ibanez or Cleveland's Casey Blake (Newsday) . . . The Astros may be on the outskirts of the postseason chase, but they're still interested in the Padres' Randy Wolf (espn.com) . . . The Padres plan to ask Greg Maddux to waive the clause that prohibits them from trading him to a non-West Coast team, but he's unlikely to agree. (foxsports.com)
DON'T SIT UP NIGHTS WAITING: SI.com's Jon Heyman says any big deals between now the trade deadline aren't likely to happen until the last minute.
HERE AND THERE: J.P. Ricciardi says he doesn't "see any reason" why Cito Gaston wouldn't return as Blue Jays manager in 2009 (National Post) . . . Frank Thomas is taking batting practice again as he recovers from a severe quad strain (San Francisco Chronicle) . . . Alfonso Soriano is playing rehab games as he recovers from his broken hand (mlb.com) . . . Fausto Carmona will return to the Indians' rotation this weekend. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
OLD FRIENDS: FoxSports.com's Ken Rosenthal reports Cla Meredith is one of the two Padres drawing the most trade interest . . . The Toronto Star reports David Eckstein is "officially" the Blue Jays' backup shortstop now . . . If it's any consolation, Eckstein is on Newsday's Ken Davidoff's All-Nice Guy Team . . . There's still no word when Tom Gordon, recovering from a strained rotator cuff, will begin throwing off a mound and thus no word on when he'll return to the Phillies (Philadelphia Daily News) . . . Johnny Damon is back in the Yankee lineup. (New York Daily News)
AND FINALLY . . . Boston Dirt Dogs has a picture that may show why New Yorkers were so mean to Jonathan Papelbon during the All-Star parade.
-- ART MARTONE