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Sports

August 13, 2007

Ten reasons not to reach for Red Sox panic button

Put that back.



That's right, I said, put that panic button back up in the attic where it belongs. It's not time yet, Red Sox fans, to start the age-old practice of giving up on your boys of summer because the team from New York - albeit the hottest in baseball - is breathing down their necks.



Why the optimism?



First of all, I call it realism. And secondly, eyesight.



The Red Sox, remarkably, are playing very good baseball of late. If not for two losses, both willingly accepted by new setup man Eric Gagne, the Red Sox would be a comfortable five games ahead.



Here are 10 reasons why Red Sox Nation should not be in hysterics as the club enters the final six weeks of 2007:



1. Manny is Manny.



After months of 13, 18 and 12 RBIs, Manny Ramirez rapped in 25 runs in July, including 23 after the all-star break. With David Ortiz still not the guy many New Englanders expected, Ramirez is back to the Hall of Famer pace he has carried for more than a decade. It is remarkable the Sox did so well while he labored in apathy, it seemed. He has the ability to carry this team, especially on offense, while the rest of the team is struggling to produce runs. If it continues, as it should, then the Sox are pretty much a playoff team, regardless if the Yankees ever lose again.



2. Julio Lugo and J.D. Drew are alive.



I'm not ready - as I guess you aren't, too - to bank on these two being key players down the stretch, but it is a breath of fresh air when these two add to the offense rather than take away (which has been the case for much of April, May, June and July). Drew is the key here, because the middle of the lineup is more important now than ever. With Mike Lowell tiring a bit, Drew's heated bat (11 for 17) in the No. 5 hole behind Manny is pivotal. Lugo's speed, which includes his bunting, is a spark, like him or not. He is batting ninth, which is where he belongs. Any contribution is a bonus.



3. Curt Schilling is almost back.



Again, let's not jump the gun here, but Schilling is close to being a good-to-very good pitcher again. Six innings won't be enough, but it's a start since his trip to the disabled list. The fourth and fifth starters, Tim Wakefield and Jon Lester, can get away with six innings, but not Schilling. His strikeouts (none yesterday) will have to pick up, but he is becoming more of a pitcher than the power guy the Nation is used to. Add in the fact that he has a lot to prove as free agency lingers for him.



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