Eighty-one games…that is the midpoint of the season.

Admit it, Red Sox Nation, if you knew what you know right now back on Opening Day you would have been thrilled to be 17 games over .500 and just a half game behind the NY Yankees on Independence Day (by the way, happy 4th of July to everyone!).

On April 4, we knew about Daisuke Matsuzaka’s injury…but what we didn’t know about was the impending glut of injuries that have somewhat gutted an oft-maligned lineup, not to mention the starting rotation. Mike Cameron, J D Drew, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jeremy Hermida, Mike Lowell, Victor Martinez, Dustin Pedroia, Jason Varitek, Josh Beckett, Clay Buchholz, and most recently, Manny Delcarmen.

Did I miss anyone?

And yet, here they are on July 4, just 1/2 game behind the Yankees. I’ll take it!

Tonight, a lineup dotted with a bunch of guys you had never heard of before the season began put a big hurting on the Orioles, 9-3. The nine runs supported southpaw Jon Lester, who improved to 12-0 in his career against the Orioles.

Kevin Cash, Darnell McDonald, Daniel Nava, Eric Patterson, and Niumann Romero. Okay, so you had heard of Cash before, but you were probably still trying to forget him.

Sure, the offense was led by Drew (3-for-3, 2 RBI), David Ortiz (3-for-4, 1 RBI), and Kevin Youkilis (2-for-5, 3 RBI, including his 16th home run), but the other guys were 4-for-12, with two RBI and two runs scored.

Meanwhile, Lester continues to dominate opposing hitters, going seven innings and allowing just one run on five hits and a walk while fanning seven. He improved to 10-3 while lowering his ERA to 2.76. Ramon Ramirez and Robert Manuel performed mop-up duty tonight.

And so the question must be asked: Will Yankees manager Joe Girardi select two Red Sox pitchers for the American League All-Star team because there are no more deserving hurlers in the league than Buchholz and Lester—neither of whom have been selected previously for the Mid-Summer Classic?

Of such chatter, Lester said, “Obviously it would be nice. Never been. I would like to go. If I end up going I’ll be very excited and it’ll be an honor.”

It would be a DESERVED honor for BOTH Red Sox pitchers!

The Red Sox jumped ahead 4-0 in the first inning. Youkilis drove in the first run with an RBI-double. Drew followed with a two-run double into right-center field, and one out later Nava drove a run-scoring double over the head of right fielder Nick Markakis.

After the Orioles cut it to 4-1 on Corey Patterson’s RBI single in the top of the fifth inning, Youkilis answered with a two-run home run over the Green Monster in the bottom of the inning. They added three runs off reliever Frank Mata in the eighth inning.

Baltimore finished the scoring in the ninth inning when Jake Fox hit a two-run shot off Manuel that barely cleared the wall in left field.


RHP Clay Buchholz, who strained his left hamstring last weekend in San Francisco, threw from 90 feet and is tentatively scheduled to pitch on either Monday or Tuesday, but Francona said, “He’s going to have to be as close to 100 percent as he can be.”


CF Mike Cameron was back in the lineup after being scratched Friday with abdominal soreness. His manager said, “He’s not 100 percent. I don’t think people realize what he’s going through to be able to play.”


Francona said an MRI on RHP Manny Delcarmen’s strained right forearm showed no structural damage.

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