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    USA Today: Bosox, fans brace for tough stretch without star

    Bosox, fans brace for tough stretch without star
    By Jeff Goodman, special for USA TODAY
    http://www.usatoday.com/sports/baseb...14-ramirez.htm

    BOSTON Grady Little has the Red Sox off to their best start in 56 years, but the reinvigorated New York Yankees are in town next week, and Boston's manager can't write Manny Ramirez's name on the lineup card.

    Ramirez is out at least four weeks after breaking his left index finger sliding headfirst into home plate Saturday during a loss to Seattle. So despite having a 25-9 record, best in the majors, the Red Sox enter a crucial period. A 13-game homestand starts Tuesday against four legitimate contenders: Oakland, Seattle, the Chicago White Sox and Yankees.

    "Manny will be a big hole in any team," staff ace Pedro Martinez said, "but we have to go forward and leave Manny behind for a little while and continue to try to pick up the team however we can."

    New York's six-game winning streak cut Boston's five-game lead to three in the AL East.

    Red Sox fans have been down this road before.

    "It's kind of like going to the dance with the prettiest girl in school, only to have her go home with your wealthy, better-looking friend from New York time and time again," said Dave Gagin of Waltham, Mass.

    One thing Red Sox fans don't have is patience.

    The radio call-in lines were jammed with proposals to deal Martinez when his opening-day start ended after three innings and a 21.00 ERA.

    Fans weren't much kinder to Manny Ramirez's silent bat (4-for-23) in the first seven games. Callers suggested his offense would pick up if he was moved out of left field and into the DH spot.

    Boston is long on history last World Series championship: 1918 and short on optimism.

    But the New England Patriots won the Super Bowl, and the Boston Celtics are one win away from reaching the Eastern Conference finals.

    The Fenway Faithful, however, won't be fooled. They learned long ago not to get caught up in the early-season successes of their beloved Red Sox.

    Last year the nose dive didn't occur until late August. Two years ago the New York Yankees didn't pull away until September.

    Yes, in Johnny Damon, Boston has a legitimate basestealer and leadoff hitter.

    Shortstop Nomar Garciparra's wrist is healthy, Jason Varitek's elbow is healed, the team is batting a majors-high .303, and Derek Lowe has made a successful transition from a closer who couldn't finish off games to the No. 2 starter who pitches a no-hitter.

    Yes, all those things are true. And there is only one conclusion a fan can make.

    "Things were going too smoothly for a Red Sox team," said Robert Mack of Andover, Mass. "Having been a longtime fan, I was just waiting for something bad to happen. Then came Manny's slide."

    The slide into home plate Saturday night jammed Ramirez's left index finger into the Seattle Mariners catcher's shinguard. The team physician decided Monday that surgery wasn't needed, though he recommended careful monitoring in case the fracture spreads. A second opinion will be sought Tuesday.

    "Hopefully, someone will step up to the plate in his absence and carry the team through until his return," Mack said.

    Martinez helped with a key outing Sunday to beat the Mariners and head off a three-game sweep.

    Ramirez was providing big numbers, however, especially after the slow start.

    In the past 26 games, he was 38-for-90 (.422) with 32 RBI. Ramirez takes his league-best .372 average and .673 slugging percentage with him to the 15-day disabled list.

    To make matters more tense, the Red Sox begin a 13-game homestand Tuesday that includes a four-game series against the Bronx Bombers and a three-game set against Seattle, which just took two of three from Boston. Fans are crossing their fingers.

    Brian Daubach will probably get the nod to take Ramirez's spot as the cleanup hitter, but the duties of patrolling the Green Monster will fall primarily to 43-year-old Rickey Henderson, who was complaining about a lack of playing time earlier this month.

    "Obviously, Manny was our cleanup hitter and the biggest part of what we do," Daubach said. "But we've got a lot of other guys swinging the bat well, too. Hopefully, we can keep them going."

  2. #2
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    Re: USA Today: Bosox, fans brace for tough stretch without star

    Originally posted by cdmirra
    "It's kind of like going to the dance with the prettiest girl in school, only to have her go home with your wealthy, better-looking friend from New York time and time again," said Dave Gagin of Waltham, Mass.
    win away from reaching the Eastern Conference finals.

    "Things were going too smoothly for a Red Sox team," said Robert Mack of Andover, Mass. "Having been a longtime fan, I was just waiting for something bad to happen. Then came Manny's slide."
    head off a three-game sweep.
    DAMN, thems Red Sox fans sho' is depressing! It is said that every downfall begins with a single mistake... I guess that slide's the one, eh?

    To make matters more tense, the Red Sox begin a 13-game homestand Tuesday that includes a four-game series against the Bronx Bombers and a three-game set against Seattle, which just took two of three from Boston. Fans are crossing their fingers.
    The way we're playing right now, I really'd rather we face the Sox with Ramirez in the lineup. At this point, I'm sure we could walk all over them, with or without Ramirez...

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