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The Red Sox are alive and kicking

Posted by Peter Abraham, Globe Staff  May 21, 2011 12:36 AM

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AP Photo/Elise Amendola

You blew it, Yankees.

You, too, Rays.

You had a chance to take a shovel, hit the Red Sox over the head it with it and bury them in the American League East. The Sox were perilously close to playing for the wild card had the Yankees or Rays pulled away.

But it never happened. And now, about a month later, the Sox are a half-game behind the Rays and a half-game ahead of the Yankees. They are 22-10 since April 16, the best record in baseball. They have won seven straight, 10 of 12 and 13 of the last 18 games.

First place by Memorial Day once seemed unrealistic. Now they could that by a week.

Tonight's 15-5 smackdown of the Cubs featured the most runs, hits (19) and doubles (six) of the season. Adrian Gonzalez had four more hits and four RBIs. He has driven in 41 runs in 44 games, a pace that would give him a ridiculous 151 on the season.

He is totally unsurprised the Sox are 24-20.

“I always have faith in my team. Look at our roster and the talent we have. I believe this is one of the best teams in the league. You can never lose your cool. You’ll never see me do that," Gonzalez said.

Kevin Youkilis is up to .271, having gone 12 of 31 in the last eight games with six extra-base hits and 11 RBIs.

David Ortiz is hitting .297, the highest he has been this late in the season since 2007.

Dustin Pedroia is also showing a little life, getting on base four times tonight and smacking a double.

There is some trouble with Jon Lester, who gave up five runs on 12 hits over six innings tonight. Lester has thrown 17.1 innings in his last three starts, giving up 14 earned runs on 24 hits and 11 walks. His earned run average has climbed from 2.52 to 3.68.

Lester said twice tonight that he was fine physically. His consistent velocity attests to that. It's a matter of execution, he said.

Scott Atchison did big work tonight, going three innings. That saved the bullpen for the rest of the weekend, a necessity given that Alfredo Aceves and Tim Wakefield are starting the next two games.

“What we did the first week of the season, we really can’t remedy that besides play good baseball,” Terry Francona said. “I think we feel we’re playing better baseball. … This isn’t our goal, in the middle of May to be four games over .500. But it does feel better.”

You've likely heard about that kooky preacher who is predicting the world will end tomorrow. WBZ's Jonny Miller asked Francona about it.

"I gotta tell you, John, if it ends tomorrow I'm not going to be that happy," Francona said, laughing along with the rest of the room. "I'm glad we won. But I would prefer it not to end. Maybe we can hold off one more day."

Yep, the Sox are very much alive.

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