Involved in a three-team pennant chase in the AL East, the last thing the Boston Red Sox want to see is another distraction involving their top slugger.
As long as he keeps hitting, though, Manny Ramirez can still help the team more than anyone likely available via trade.
Less than 10 days after being swept by the Angels in Anaheim, Ramirez and the Red Sox welcome Los Angeles to Fenway Park on Monday for the first of three games between two prime AL playoff contenders.
Just hours before the Red Sox (61-45) took the field at Fenway trying to avoid a sweep at the hands of the New York Yankees on Sunday, Ramirez, who has periodically seemed disenchanted with Boston during his eight-year tenure, made waves once again.
The 12-time All-Star said he was “tired” of the Red Sox and would agree to waive his limited no-trade clause in a deal that would make both him and the team happy.
“I could choose a team that offers me the best conditions or one in the chase for the postseason,” he told ESPNdeportes.com. “I don’t care where I play, I can even play in Iraq if need be.”
He then went out and did what he does best - hit the baseball. Ramirez went 3-for-5 with a pair of RBIs on Sunday night and Boston beat the Yankees 9-2 to move within a game of the first-place Tampa Bay Rays.
“Manny says a lot of things,” third baseman Mike Lowell said. “Some of them are entertaining. Some of them make you roll your eyes and spin your head. But it seems like every time after he says something he goes 3-for-4 so maybe we should encourage him to say something like that.”
Ramirez, who’s hitting .458 (22-for-48) over his last 13 games, is 10-for-22 (.455) with a homer this season against the Angels (64-40).
However, Boston opened its post All-Star break schedule in Anaheim, and scored eight combined runs as it was swept in three games.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia downplayed the significance of his club sweeping the World Series champions, whom Los Angeles has now beaten five straight times in 2008.
“I don’t think this is a statement series this early in the season,” Scioscia told the Angels’ official Web site. “I thought we played terrific baseball against a tough club and got timely hitting. That’s a good combination.”
Los Angeles owns a major league-best 33-19 road record, but had its four-game winning streak away from home snapped Sunday with a 5-2 loss at Baltimore.
“The way we played today is not easier to take because we won some games coming in here,” Scioscia said. “The challenge is the game at hand and what you have to play moving forward. We just didn’t play well.”
Los Angeles’ offense may find runs tough to come by against Daisuke Matsuzaka (11-1, 2.63 ERA). The right-hander has yet to face the Angels in a regular-season game, although he did pitch 4 2-3 innings against them, allowing three runs, in Boston’s Game 2 win during an AL division series last October.
Matsuzaka has been extremely sharp lately, going 3-0 with a 0.88 ERA over his last five starts. He lasted 7 1-3 innings on Tuesday at Seattle, allowing two runs and striking out six in a 4-2 victory.
He’ll be opposed by Jered Weaver (8-8, 4.08), who left his latest start with a knot in his throwing shoulder but appears to be healthy enough to make this start. The right-hander surrendered two runs over three innings of the Angels’ 3-2 win over Cleveland on Tuesday before exiting the game.
Weaver had been 2-1 with a 1.46 ERA in his previous four starts, but is 0-2 with a 5.46 ERA in five career outings against Boston.