Two straight in Toronto and a two-game improvement in the wildcard race as the Sox leapfrog Texas will lead us off this fine Thursday afternoon. On an even more optimistic note, Rich Levine says to forget 2006, as these Sox are more comparable to the 2004 club that got things rolling five years ago nearly to the day with two straight wins . . . in Toronto. Boston Sports Blog points out even more eerie parallels to 2004 that give the cynics of The Nation cause for hope.

Red Sox Hen is disavowing the negative and embracing the good from Tuesday’s series-opening win, while the long ball has Boston Dirt Dogs thinking positive. Brownie Points says the whole offensive dynamic is different when Big Papi is hitting. The Bottom Line likes Ortiz in the seventh slot but still doesn’t get excited when he steps to the plate. Joy of Sox has Papelbon feeling ten pounds overweight after Tuesday’s lackluster performance, one that made us feel ten years older. The House That Dewey Built calls Tuesday’s win uglier than John Candy in drag. But, hey, a win’s a win to Mazz, who says beggars can’t be choosers.

Last night, J.P. may have been left with a case of seller’s remorse as Clay Buchholtz stymied his Blue Jays and Doc Halladay was little mystery to the Sox. Over The Monster digitizes Buchholtz’s outing and the results give him hope the Sox have found their Number 3. Buchholtz has been a binky for Toeing The Rubber since his 2007 debut, proving that Kyle Snyder is not the jealous type. Surviving Grady is happy that Clay brought along his big pants. Thankfully, those pants were red and not blue.

This one is getting more attention on the airwaves, but Jon Lester’s bid for the sweep puts Penny and Tazawa on tap for the first two games in the Yankees series. Not exactly Spahn and Spain, but it should nevertheless leave us praying for rain. If the AL East isn’t already closed for business, A-Rod and Teixeira may be about to flip the sign in the window and turn out the lights. Of course, The Triumphant Red Sox Blog has just the thing to turn this series around and it’s for a good cause to boot. And, in the same blog, Sox and Pinstripes anticipates a Sox-Yankees ALCS even as he looks ahead to next year’s team.

With ex-Sox John Smoltz just signing with the Cardinals, FanGraphs thinks he has something left in the tank. The Hardball Times is surprised that the sabermetrics-friendly Sox released him since, after all, Smoltz was having a solid year. You just can’t make this stuff up. Alas, Big League Stew checks in with reality, allowing for the argument that Smoltz may have cost the Sox a postseason.

Scott Boras tells 619 Sports (at the 4:40 mark) that J.D. Drew doesn’t want to work for anybody that doesn’t believe what he says. Why can’t Theo just call this guy a liar and spare us the remainder of his experiment? Hacks With Haggs suggests that Theo’s system, which brought in the likes of Drew while punting on Mark Teixeira, better take a knee this winter. Speaking of Tex, ESPN’s Sweet Spot says he’ll probably win the MVP award as the BBWAA robs Joe Mauer yet again, but One If By Land says that, should Mauer stumble, Youk will have a legitimate claim to the award.

38 Pitches says he’s never been supported by a better defensive performance than the one turned in by newly reaquired SS Alex Gonzalez in 2006. This acquisition figures to help infield matters, where Nuggetpalooza ranks the Sox in the lower half of double play completion efficiency this year.

And here’s a first in the Week Log chronicles, as we link to a future blog. Deadspin tells me they’ll be picking on Fenway Park in their latest Why Your Stadium Sucks entry coming tomorrow. I’ll bring you the permalink next Thursday.

Patriots / NFL

Preseason Game 2 is upcoming tonight, as the Pats host the Ochocinco Bengals at Gillette Stadium. Kathryn Tappen knows preseason is tough, but says these games are scheduled for a reason. Reiss’s Pieces gives us five things to look for tonight against Cincinnati. Carson Palmer won’t be one, but It Is What It Is takes inspiration from the parallels between his 2005 injured knee recovery and that of Tom Brady. Musket Fire still maintains that Bernard Pollard is a cheap-shot artist that ruined Brady’s 2008 season.

The Patriot Act observes recent wheelings and dealings as the Pats build depth in needy positions while paring down to 53 players. One such position appears to be running back, where First And Ten From Foxboro says enough already. The acquisition of another RB doesn’t bode well for Laurence Maroney, who makes the top of Thanks For Playing‘s 10 NFL predictions. Watch out, Laurence, because at least one of those predictions has already come to fruition!

The Rap Sheet has Coach Belichick competing with comedians for laughs and Brady for cameos, while Patriots Daily has him competing for every minute of Rex Ryan’s undivided attention. Wicked Good Sports has Ryan as another in the long – and wide – line of hefty Jets coaches that stoke the fires of this rivalry. Blaug warns the NYJ HC to ready himself for the big hurt Bully Belichick will lay on him in Week Number 2.

Speaking of Number 2, Shutdown Corner says old friend Matt Cassel may find himself returning to his familiar position. And speaking of the Jets, the team that once created the position of clock manager has outdone themselves, as Awful Announcing reports. With front offices like the Jets, who needs unions?

Bruins / NHL

Big Bad Blog sees a lot of national TV exposure for the B’s next season, as they could become the new America’s team. Wicked Bruins Fan reminds us that tickets for the upcoming season just went on sale this morning. Can winter be far behind?

In the second part of their offseason update, New England Sports 24/7 can’t see Phil Kessel in a B’s sweater next winter. Stanley Cup Of Chowder has Carolina picking the B’s scrap heap in signing Stefane Yelle. Cornelius Hardenbergh And The Hockey Blogging Adventure translates an interview P.J. Axelsson gave in Sweden and it doesn’t translate well for the B’s.

Caveman Strong comes out of summer vacation mode to serve up a trailer for EA Sports’ NHL 10.

That’s a wrap this week. See you back here next – and every – Thursday afternoon.