Welcome to July, the summer queen who is supposed to separate baseball’s cream from its crop, right? Well, our beloved Red Sox begin the month a game and a-half behind the Tampa Bay Rays, courtesy of last night’s 5-4 loss at Tropicana Field. It’s not the old Trop anymore says Jeff Horrigan, who has Justin Masterson (4-2) struggling with his command for the first time this season. Jeff Goldberg says the Sox start this series in a very different state than the Rays, which was evident from literally the first pitch, a B.J. Upton homer. Sean McAdam says the Rays were opportunistic in building their AL East lead last night. Bill Ballou reminds us it’s been all downhill since Boston’s high-water mark on Saturday night, when the Sox sat mightily atop the division. Gordon Edes can’t remember the last time the Rays’ crowd outnumbered Sox supporters at the Trop. Tampa has undoubtedly been reignited from the Tribune’s tips for fans , where Marc Lancaster reminds everyone the Sox are the new Evil Empire. Rob Bradford says there’s a different feel to the Trop this year, as the surreal setting last night illustrates.

In the wake of Saturday’s shoving incident, Bradford’s Red Sox Beat has the New Manny image already in the shop for repairs. McAdam has both Manny and skipper Terry Francona in damage control mode, trying to downplay the incident. Dan Shaughnessy calls out the Sox organization as “spineless” and labels them Manny enablers after this latest chapter.

Edes’ Red Sox Notebook has last night’s security beefed up in the wake of threats directed toward Manny and Coco Crisp, although they aren’t related to last month’s brawl with the Rays in Boston. Horrigan also has an account of the stepped-up security measures. Horrigan’s Red Sox Notebook has Big Papi on a slow recovery and officially out of this year’s All-Star Game. In his Red Sox Notes, Ballou has Ortiz reporting he won’t need surgery.

The C’s

With every title in Title Town comes the hangover and, as James Posey’s declaration for free agency yesterday attests, the Celtics are not exempt. Mark Murphy says that tight cap space around the NBA, coupled with Posey’s midlevel salary expectations, will make him hot this summer. Marc J. Spears says Posey will be the top offseason target for the C’s, who also failed to make Tony Allen a qualifying offer yesterday.

Pats

Karen Guregian features Randy Moss’s weekend work with youth, culminating with his golf tournament to raise funds for providing learning centers in West Virginia. With the good, comes some bad. Christopher L. Gasper has the details on Willie Andrews’ busy offseason, capped by his second arrest yesterday.

Odds & Sods

Tom King has former Sox infielder Brian Daubach returning to the area as hitting coach for the Nashua Pride. As the Sox tangle with the Rays in Tampa this week, Dan Duggan recalls Daubach’s involvement in an infamous Tropicana melee eight years ago.

Kevin Provencher has New Hampshire Motor Speedway GM Jerry Gappens dog tired after his first NASCAR Sprint Cup event last weekend, the 27th consecutive sellout in Loudon.

The Telegram updates us about Derek Jeter’s bat woes – not only in swinging them, but in holding them as well. Kind of a slow sports day.

Bruce will be taking some time off this week, so we guest bloggers will try to fill his shoes. Join us each day throughout the week and, as always, send me your comments at bob02878@yahoo.com. Thanks.

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