Pedro Martinez wasted no time last night in issuing a statement to the Tigers – this is my game. He struck out the first five batters on 24 pitches. He finished the night with 11 strikeouts giving up only one earned run on five hits to pick up his 12th win of the season.

Pedro’s magical performance aside, the key to the game was the Red Sox 7th inning. Pedro had given up single runs in the 4th and 5th and stranded two in the sixth, he was clearly tiring. The Red Sox team came up in the 7th to put this game away for Pedro. They scored four on three hits, two walks, and a baserunning play by Ortiz that was either brilliant or terrible-turned-lucky. Pedro, clearly re-energized by the offense, came out to pitch a one-two-three 7th, striking out two and throwing only 12 pitches.

The win was much-needed after another gut-wrenching loss on Friday. Today is, to beat the dead cliche, a critical game as well. To make the post-season this team cannot continue to play under five hundred on the road. They are 5-5 on this trip, today will obviously decide the fate of this trip, but may be symbolic of how the new-look Sox will finish the season.

A couple disturbing 2003-esque twists:

Manny was a late scratch coming down with flu-like symptoms despite looking good and seeming jovial during batting practice. What this team cannot afford is another Pharangitis-Gate controversy.

Kevin Millar, maybe just coming to realize what his role will be when the team is healthy, had something to say before yesterday’s game;

“I wasn’t told I was on the bench today,” said Millar. “I didn’t know that was the situation. I didn’t know they traded for [Mientkiewicz] to be the everyday first baseman. I wasn’t told that. Once we got him, it was like maybe I’ll play some right field against righties and first base against lefties, and here we are. El bencho today.”

Kevin, let me be the first to prescribe a dose of reality. When a team trades a Hall of Fame shortstop and gets a gold-glove firstbaseman in return, the guy is going to play. Everyday.

Today’s lineup, as always, should be interesting. These two issues become one. If Manny plays, how does Mr. Keep-Everyone-Happy Francona juggle players to get Millar in? I have a frightening vision of him writing the players names on little white cubes, putting them in a cup, shaking it up and maniacally yelling “Yahtzee!” as he dumps the cubes onto the table to make the line-up each night.

In the big picture, Texas and Oakland both lost last night meaning the Sox are just one game back in the Wild Card. On paper, they have an easy schedule for the rest of August. This is the time to take the WC lead back and put some distance between the other teams. Starting today. Hold on, everybody.