"I think, on the bases, he's felt the effects, because he's been doing a lot of running," Francona said. "But at the plate, he's still taking some pretty healthy swings."What might have been: Chances are good that third baseman Mike Lowell would have been playing this weekend at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. But he quite easily could have been suiting up for the home team with the worst record in the American League, rather than the visiting Red Sox who have the best record in baseball. On Nov. 19, 2005, the Rangers and Florida Marlins were on the verge of completing a trade that would have sent Lowell and right-hander Josh Beckett to Texas in exchange for third baseman Hank Blalock and a top pitching prospect. The deal got hung up over whether the Rangers would part with left-hander John Danks or right-hander Thomas Diamond, their first-round picks from the 2003 and 2004 drafts, respectively. The haggling went on for five days, enabling the Red Sox to swoop in with their own offer, and Florida agreed to a seven-player deal that put Lowell and Beckett in Boston uniforms. A year later, the Rangers traded Danks to the White Sox for right-hander Brandon McCarthy, lost Diamond to Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery, and last week lost Blalock until late August because he required surgery to remove a rib that was cutting off circulation to his throwing arm. Lowell said he doesn't think much about what might have been when he enters the Texas ballpark, even though it appears he dodged a career bullet. "Although it was a very close reality to being done, I think it's different when you were part of the organization," Lowell said. "I've never been a part of the Rangers, so I don't really look at it as, 'We're coming back to prove they should have made the deal.' "I don't really think two players can totally change a team. They can add to it or subtract from it. But I think Josh and I are both happy where we are, and things have worked out for us. We're on a good team. But I don't feel anything against the Rangers, because I don't have much of an affiliation with them. It's not like we came up through their system. I've been part of a lot of [trade] rumors. It just seemed like this was a little closer [to happening] than most." Ramirez primed for takeoff? Left fielder Manny Ramirez fell a home run short of hitting for the cycle Saturday night. He reached base five times, with a single and triple to right field, a single and double to center and one walk. It was his first four-hit game since Aug. 18, 2006, and his first triple since April 29, 2006. After hitting .202 with three homers and 13 RBIs in April, Ramirez entered Sunday at .341 with four homers and 17 RBIs in May. He entered Sunday batting .347 (33-for-95) with 19 RBIs over his last 24 games, raising his batting average from .188 to .272. Despite his slow start, he's again on pace for 24 homers, 84 runs and 101 RBIs, though most expect those projections to grow. "When he starts stinging that ball to right field, that's when it really looks like he's going to take off," Lowell said. "You look at his numbers, and it seems like he's done nothing, and yet he's still on pace for probably 100 runs and 100 runs driven in. When he gets really hot, that can mean adding a big element to our offense that we haven't seen this year. So that's good for us." Wearing them down: Seattle's Felix Hernandez is the only opposing starter to pitch a complete-game victory over the Red Sox this season, outdueling Daisuke Matsuzaka with a one-hit, 3-0 shutout April 11. Boston entered Sunday having won its last 32 games (dating to last season) in which the offense generated five runs or more, the team's longest such streak in 60 years. "We're about having a lot of professional at-bats and making the other pitcher work," Lowell said. "So, even when a guy is holding us down for a while, their pitch counts are getting up. Then when we get that one big inning, we know we can knock them out and get into the bullpen."
Up next: Red Sox right-hander Curt Schilling (4-2, 3.94) will oppose Cleveland left-hander Cliff Lee (2-1, 5.93) in Monday's opener of a three-game series at Fenway Park. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. ET.
Ken Daley is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less