Red Sox still clinging to slim playoff hopes


CHICAGO (AP) -- Johnny Damon kept peeking at the big scoreboard
above right field, and boy, did he like what he saw.

Another win for Boston, another loss for Anaheim and another day for the Red Sox to chase the AL wild card.

The Boston Red Sox avoided elimination from the playoffs again Tuesday night, beating the Chicago White Sox 4-2. Anaheim, which needs only one win to clinch the wild card, lost to Texas 2-1.

"This is going to come down to the wire,'' Damon said. "The odds are definitely against us, but there's still that hope. We have to come out every day and play great and see where we stand Sunday.''

A Boston loss or an Anaheim win eliminates the Red Sox, and Boston has done its best to keep the pressure on the Angels with five straight wins. Anaheim has lost three in a row.

Boston (91-66) and Anaheim (96-61) both have five games left.
Both finish their seasons at home.

"We're going to enjoy this as much as we can,'' Damon said.
"Hopefully, other teams will take care of us.''

Boston hasn't been to the playoffs since 1999, when it lost to
the Yankees 4-1 in the AL championship series.

"We're still alive, we're still playing,'' manager Grady Little said. "The last two weeks, we've kind of had our backs to the wall with every game. We don't have a choice but to come out with the best we have.''

The Red Sox did that Tuesday night. Nomar Garciaparra, Manny
Ramirez, Jason Varitek and Trot Nixon all had RBIs as Boston
battered Jon Garland (12-12) in a four-run sixth inning. Casey Fossum (5-4) pitched six strong innings, allowing two home runs among six hits, despite wrenching his back diving for a popup bunt in the first inning.

And Bob Howry got out of a jam against his old team in the
eighth inning, striking out Carlos Lee with a runner at third.
Ugueth Urbina pitched the ninth for his 39 save in 45 chances.

"This was a tough game for us,'' Varitek said.

The Red Sox played a 15-inning game Monday night and then flew to Chicago. They didn't take batting practice because of the late arrival.

Things didn't get any easier once the game started, either, as
Garland faced the minimum number of batters through four innings.
He allowed one hit and a walk during the stretch, and both runners
were retired on double plays.

Frank Thomas and Joe Crede, meanwhile, hit solo homers to give
the White Sox a 2-0 lead.

The Red Sox threatened in the fifth inning, putting runners at
second and third with no outs. But Garland worked out of the jam,
getting help when Aaron Rowand robbed Brian Daubach of what could
have been a sacrifice fly.

Rowand grabbed the ball in shallow center and then threw home so fast Ramirez never had a chance to try for home. Garland then struck out Varitek and Nixon popped up.

"He pitched well, he just had that one bad inning,'' White Sox
manager Jerry Manuel said.

But that sixth inning was big, as Boston batted around and
loaded the bases twice.

"I just ran into a little bit of trouble,'' said Garland, who
allowed four runs and four hits in 5 2/3 innings. "That's going to
happen occasionally.''

Rey Sanchez led off the sixth with a single, Rickey Henderson
drew a walk and Johnny Damon hit a chopper back to the mound that
ricocheted off Garland.

Garland grabbed the ball, but it wasn't in time to get Damon and
the bases were loaded.

Garciaparra hit a sacrifice fly, and Ramirez followed with an
RBI single. One out later, Garland walked Daubach, loading the
bases again.

Mike Porzio relieved, Varitek hit the go-ahead RBI single that
glanced off Crede's glove, and Porzio walked Nixon, forcing in a
run and giving Boston a 4-2 lead.

"We can only control ourselves,'' Varitek said. "What goes on outside of us, we can't control.''

Game notes
Ramirez has a 10-game hitting streak. ... Thomas' homer in
the first inning was the 376th of his career, tying Carlton Fisk
for 50th on the all-time list. ... Red Sox OF Cliff Floyd is day to day with a strained tendon in his right ankle. ... Ramirez, in
contention for the AL batting title, was 1-for-2 with two walks,
raising his average to .345.