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Thanks for the memories

Moss gets sent back to PawSox

BALTIMORE -- Brandon Moss's big league adventure ended, for the time being, when he was optioned back to Pawtucket yesterday. First baseman-outfielder Eric Hinske, father of a new baby girl, Ava, is rejoining the club in time for the opener of a three-game series tonight.

But Moss squeezed in plenty while he was here. There was a perilous debut Monday night after Manny Ramírez was ejected. Moss entered in midgame and lost a ball in the lights in left field, then struck out while batting in Ramírez's cleanup spot with the tying runs on base for the final out. There was a cameo appearance as a defensive replacement Tuesday, and finally, his first big league start Wednesday, which he capped by delivering a single that helped the Red Sox score two insurance runs in their 9-6 win over the Angels, which enabled them to avoid a three-game sweep.

"This one's going in the trophy case at home," Moss said of the ball that Angels shortstop Orlando Cabrera tossed to Sox first base coach Luis Alicea after Moss lined a clean single to center in the eighth. Thus, the Sox could give the ball a proper inscription, date, name, and pitcher printed in neat letters. "To help the team win, that's what you want to do," Moss added.

Moss admitted he battled nerves his first day. "Gripping the bat was like carrying sandpaper," he said. "[Wednesday] I was a lot more relaxed."

Moss's wife, Allison, and his parents made the trip to see the native of Logansville, Ga., an eighth-round choice in the 2002 draft. A return for Moss as a September call-up is hardly out of the question. "Mossie added a big hit, his first major league hit, right in the middle of us doing something good," manager Terry Francona said.

Misleading mark
By one statistical measure created by club senior baseball operations adviser Bill James, the Sox shouldn't have a six-game lead over the Yankees in the American League East. Using the "Pythagorean winning percentage" devised by James, the teams should be tied for first place, with identical records of 70-44, according to Sean Forman's statistical website, Baseball-Reference.com.

Pythagorean winning percentage, as Forman explains, is an estimate of a team's winning percentage based on run differential: runs scored minus runs allowed. It was designed, among other things, to account for the luck factor. The Red Sox have a run differential of plus-129 (589 scored, 460 allowed). The Yankees are up to a plus-147 (678 for, 531 against). Even when they were a .500 club at the All-Star break, the Jamesian formula said the Yankees should have been at least a half-dozen games better.

We'll spare you the mathematical formula, but run differential as a barometer of a team's success has proven reliable.

"Well, I hadn't personally anticipated it," James said, "because I hadn't focused on the Yankees' shortfall. But yes, falling short of your projected won-lost record does tend to forecast improvement."

The Yankees, taking advantage of a soft schedule, have been 20-8 since the break to knock 3 1/2 games off the 9 1/2-game lead the Sox held at the time. But starting tonight in Cleveland, 17 of New York's next 20 games are against the three division leaders -- three against the Indians, three against the Angels, and three against the Red Sox -- plus eight against the AL champion Tigers.

Drew will do
J.D. Drew, playing center for the first time since 2005, made a throwing error on the first ball hit to him Wednesday but otherwise looked right at home, leaving little doubt that he could be a plausible option any time Francona chooses to give Coco Crisp a breather. His highlight play was outrunning Chone Figgins's drive toward the gap in left-center, making a catch on the warning track. "I thought he did great," Francona said. "I thought he looked very comfortable. And I think it was good for him, too. It certainly gives us a comfortable option. He said he was real excited to play out there." . . . Jon Lester allowed more base runners (11) than he registered outs (10) Wednesday, leaving with one out in the fourth and the Sox trailing by a run. He had thrown a staggering 93 pitches. Lester did not get the decision, but in his last three starts, he has pitched just 15 innings, allowing 22 hits, including 3 home runs, walking 6, and striking out 10. His ERA in this rough patch is 7.80, and underscores why the Sox left him for much of the season in Pawtucket to allow him to regain his stamina and stuff. "He's still a young player," Francona said. "We try not to forget that. He's a work in progress. His development got interrupted. The good thing is, he's a real hard worker and a good listener." Lester's next start is scheduled for Tuesday against the Devil Rays in Boston, his first in Fenway Park since his recall . . . The Sox announced a schedule change. ESPN has dropped the Red Sox-White Sox game Aug. 26 from its Sunday night schedule, choosing to air Dodgers-Mets. The Red Sox game will begin at 2:05 and will be televised by NESN.

Gordon Edes can be reached at edes@globe.com.

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