Adrian Gonzalez, David Ortiz in lineup as Rays-Red Sox showdown begins

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Adrian Gonzalez, who exited Wednesday’s game against the Blue Jays with a calf injury after homering, is starting at first base and batting third as the Rays and Red Sox begin a crucial four-game series at Fenway Park on Thursday night.

The Red Sox lead the Rays by four games in the wild card race.

With Gonzalez and David Ortiz in there, there are no surprises in either team’s lineups.  Ortiz missed Boston’s previous two games due to back spasms.

The Rays are using the same nine they did Wednesday with the exception of having Desmond Jennings back in the leadoff spot.  He was given last night off.

Tonight’s game is one of two in the series in which the Rays would seem to have a big advantage when it comes to pitching matchups.  They’ll throw Jeremy Hellickson (12-10, 2.96 ERA), while the Red Sox will counter with Kyle Weiland (0-1, 6.75 ERA).  It’s a rematch of last Saturday’s game in St. Pete, which the Rays won 6-5 in 11 innings.

Here are the rest of the matchups:

Friday: James Shields (15-10, 2.70 ERA) vs. Josh Beckett (12-5, 2.49 ERA)
Saturday: Jeff Niemann (10-7, 3.97 ERA) vs. Jon Lester (15-7, 3.07 ERA)
Sunday: David Price (12-12, 3.34 ERA) vs. Tim Wakefield (7-6, 5.13 ERA)

As long as the Red Sox can win two out of four, they’ll be in great position with both teams having 10 games remaining.  If the Rays can win three, then the last week and a half could get very interesting.

Yankees to activate Greg Bird tomorrow

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The Yankees have the best offense in all of baseball. Now they’re about to add a big power threat: Greg Bird will be activated tomorrow.

Bird has missed the entire year since undergoing ankle surgery to remove a spur back in March. He’s been on the mend of late, however, and recently completed a stretch of 12 rehab games in which he didn’t hit a ton, but he showed that he was healthy and that’s always been the biggest thing with him. As you’ll recall, he missed considerable time with trouble in the same ankle last season.

Bird has always shown considerable promise, and the Yankees — despite scoring runs in bunches — could use a little left-handed power and some better production at first base. Bird, hopefully, will be able to provide it.