It's overcast and a little drizzly here in Seattle, where the Sox have come to play the Mariners to open a three-city, nine-game trip that also includes stops in Anaheim and Baltimore. The Sox will be spending a lot of time living out of suitcases this month. They have two, three-city trips this month, sandwiched around a week-long homestand in the middle of the month in which they play three against the D-Rays and four against the Angels, including a makeup game against the Angels in a day-night double-header on the 17th.
The month ends with three games in New York against the Yanks, who are trying to bash their way back into contention but still trail the Sox by eight games, though they're now just three games behind Cleveland in the wild-card race. The Bombers scored 202 runs in July, an average of 7.2 runs per game and 49 more runs than the Sox (in 27 games), who were second in the league in runs scored. The Yanks outscored their opponents by a staggering 78 runs in the month (the Sox were a plus 46), and hit a ridiculous 45 home runs in July, and seven more in the first two days of August. The Bombers went 19-9 in the month, taking advantage of a schedule in which they've played only mediocrities -- D-Rays, Blue Jays, Orioles, Royals and White Sox -- and they get the Royals again this weekend.
The Sox, meanwhile, went 15-12 in July, batting .285 as a team with a staff ERA of 3.66 for the month that was second only to the Jays (3.40). The biggest development of the month, of course, was the re-emergence of Manny Ramirez as a dominant offensive force, Ramirez leading the team with a .340 average, 7 home runs and 25 RBIs, a sweep in all three categories. The other major positive development offensively was Julio Lugo finally resembling the player the Sox thought they'd signed last winter, Lugo batting .313 while driving in 15 runs.
Kevin Youkilis, who battled some leg problems, had a tough month, hitting .219, while J.D. Drew limped in at .213 and Alex Cora, whose playing time has dried up, hit just .152.
The Sox are hoping to reverse a trend this weekend. They've lost their last eight games in Safeco Field, which includes a three-game sweep in June. That came at the end of the team's second West Coast swing of the month, an exhausting one for the Sox.
The traveling on this trip should be civilized. The Sox left after beating the Orioles Thursday afternoon, they'll travel to Anaheim after another day game on Sunday, and they'll have an off-day in Baltimore before playing the Orioles next Friday.
Tonight promises to be an emotional one for local boy Jon Lester, the pride of Puyallup, who will have tons of family and friends rooting him on tonight. The Sox draw Horacio Ramirez, the left-hander who couldn't hold the 5-0, first-inning lead the M's gave him in Boston against Daisuke Matsuzaka, the Sox knocking Ramirez around for 11 hits and 7 runs in four innings. Tomorrow night we'll have the usual hoo-hah for Daisuke vs. Ichiro; the Dice-Man has held Ichiro to 1 hit and 2 walks in 10 plate appearances, though Ichiro knocked in a run against Matsuzaka in what ultimately turned into a 2-1, extra-inning defeat. The M's have called up their top prospect, 22-year-old OF Adam Jones, who was hitting .314 with 25 HRs and 84 RBIs in Triple-A. The M's are looking for an offensive boost; they've averaged just over 4 runs a game since July 1.
We'll check in later from the 'Co.