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Morning Juice: Rangers win BoSox staredown, take wild card lead

Big League Stew

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This and every weekday a.m. during baseball season, let's rise and shine together to recap the most recent diamond doings. Roll Call starts deep in the heart of Texas, where the Rangers looked the Red Sox square in the eye and didn't blink.

Game of the Day

Rangers 4, Red Sox 3

New sheriff in town: Even though the dreaded Yankees knocked the Red Sox down a few pegs recently in taking control of the AL East, at least the Bostons felt the security blanket of the wild card. But after dropping two-of-three games against the Rangers, not even a playoff spot appears to be a safe bet.

Getting key contributions from swingman Dustin Nippert(notes), offensive igniter Ian Kinsler(notes) and closer Frank Francisco(notes), the Rangers jumped in front of the wild-card race with just over a quarter of the season to go. They went 7-2 against the Red Sox this year.

"Regardless of the name on the jersey, we have to go out and play good baseball," Kinsler said. "We've done well against them, but everything can change in a hurry."

Li'l nipper(t): Nippert, shown in the above photo turning the ball over to reliever Doug Mathis(notes) to start the seventh, allowed two runs and six hits. Both of his victories as a starter this season have come against the Red Sox, who still probably have no idea who he is. "Wha? Al Nipper just beat us again?"

A day after getting hit in the head with an errant pitch, Kinsler hit a solo homer and tacked on an RBI single in the third to give Texas a 3-1 lead.

Francisco, who blew a save in the series opener (and it was a big ol' blown save, too) came back with two strikeouts in a perfect ninth.

Red scare: Victor Martinez(notes) said the Red Sox, who have dropped three of four overall, have plenty of time to get it going again.

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"Who says we can't reel off 25 wins in September?" Martinez said. "If you feel like you're defeated by losing a series, that's not the right attitude to have."

Martinez's attitude is fine, but if the Red Sox need to go 25-3 in September to make the playoffs, the power of positive thinking probably won't be enough to get it done.

He's back, all right: The Rangers were a catcher short with Jarrod Saltalamacchia(notes) on the DL, so they promoted Kevin Richardson(notes) to the big-league club. He might have gone around the world twice with the Backstreet Boys, but Richardson will be making his first major league start tonight.

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* * *

Feelin' Rundown (these games were nearly larger than life):

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Cardinals 7, Padres 5: Rascally Colby Rasmus(notes) (right) hits a game-ending two-run homer to cap a three-run ninth inning against Heath Bell(notes), who doesn't blow them often. But he will blow them in St. Louis; he also allowed the go-ahead run at the All-Star Game.

"The last time I was here it was fun, exciting, and it didn't mean anything," Bell said. "Today it meant something and I'm really ticked off."

Here's the big blow. Rasmus is the first Cards rookie to hit a pair of game-ending homers since Bill Virdon in 1955. I just remember Bill Virdon as a manager and that seems like long ago.

The Cards have opened a five-game lead on the Cubs, though it's only three in the "lost" column.

Angels 17, Orioles 8 (13 inn.): If you believe, as I do, that only a finite amount of runs scored exist in the universe, then the Angels just wasted a whole bunch of them with their ridiculous nine-run 13th. Nine? This is why the Mayans hate us. Come on!

For, their brazen greed, the Angels get a slap on the wrist:

Phillies 4, Braves 1: With the stare of Jamie Moyer(notes) boring a hole into him, J.A. Happ(notes) gets a little bit too walky for my taste. Lidge backs off the ledge with a save.

Royals 3, Tigers 2 (10 inn.): Jim Leyland apparently had no choice but to put Ryan Raburn(notes) at third base and the guy played the hot corner like the outfielder he is. Three errors, including the key one in the 10th. I don't know ... Ramon Santiago(notes)? Carlos Guillen(notes)? Miguel Cabrera(notes)? Mickey Stanley? Tom Brookens? No, huh?

Mets 3, Giants 2: Got hit Wright in the head, he did.

Rays 5, Blue Jays 2: Oh, sure. The old backup-catcher-comes-back-to-haunt-his-old-team-by-slugging-a-pinch-hit-go-ahead-grand-slam-for-his-new-team trick. Seen it a million times before Gregg Zaun(notes). We'll see it a million times more tomorrow.

Pirates at Cubs, ppd. (rain): Carlos Zambrano says he's been lazy in doing exercises to strengthen abdominal muscles, which is a reason his back acts up on him sometimes. $91.5 million contract. Lazy. One pork chop! One!

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Athletics 3, White Sox 2: Both teams sported spiffy 1929 uniforms but Bob Geren (right) blew the look by not wearing a straw hat like Connie Mack, one fan said.

Astros 8, Brewers 5: Geoff Blumin' great!

Mariners 10, Yankees 3: Jeter breaks Luis Aparicio's record for most hits by a shortstop, but he somehow needed to go about 14 for 6 to overcome the Mighty M's.

Nationals 5, Reds 4: LackaDrewsical.

Indians 7, Twins 4: Maybe sending the Tribe to the playoffs as the representative of the AL Central would be best.

Dodgers 9, D-backs 3: Randy "One-Man" Wolfgang!

Marlins 10, Rockies 3 (first game)
Rockies 7, Marlins 3 (second game): Smelling like a De La Rosa.

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