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Three-time hero Dan Johnson awaits Tampa Bay Rays in Chicago

BOSTON — Here it is September again, and here are the Rays looking from more of that late-season magic, and here comes Dan Johnson up to the plate … for the White Sox.

"Unbelievable, huh?" Johnson said Wednesday by phone from Chicago. "It's absolutely crazy. Of course it comes down to the Rays and us going down to the wire."

A hero of the Rays' three September runs to the postseason — the homer in Fenway in 2008, the two-homer game to beat the Yankees in 2010 and the Game 162-tying homer last year — Johnson is on the other side now, called up Sept. 1 after spending the season at Triple-A Charlotte.

He sees the same potential for irony as the rest of us.

"Of course there is," he said. "It's just the way baseball seems to play out. It's just amazing how it all worked out."

The Sox, whom the Rays visit for four games starting tonight, are similarly using Johnson in key pinch-hit situations — he's 5-for-14 overall — and, obviously, hoping for the same type of results. Rays manager Joe Maddon joked last week that if Johnson comes up at a pivotal moment, he won't get the chance for more dramatics: "We're walking Dan Johnson."

Replied Johnson: "That's hilarious."

MOLINA SORE: C Jose Molina was still sore and considered unavailable after leaving Tuesday's game with a right quad strain. But Maddon is hopeful, though far from certain, he can return during the weekend in Chicago.

"I honestly don't know," Maddon said. "It is day to day. He's going to get a lot of treatment (Wednesday) from the (trainers), then we'll figure out where we're at after that. It would be really great to get him back at some point relatively soon."

Molina had emerged as the primary catcher down the stretch, playing in 17 consecutive games and starting 10.

"He's been really good for a while now," Maddon said.

Jose Lobaton started Wednesday as he is considered a better thrower than Chris Gimenez and rookie Stephen Vogt. Maddon said there wasn't any talk of bringing in another catcher.

MORE MEDICAL: OF Sam Fuld, out since straining his right hamstring Sept. 16, felt good enough in a pregame workout that he was available to pinch-hit. He hopes to return to the field this weekend.

Peña power: 1B Carlos Peña hit his seventh career homer off Sox LHP Jon Lester (in 41 at-bats). Toronto's Jose Bautista (with four) is the only other player with more than three. It also was Peña's 21st against the Sox since the start of 2007, the most of any player.

CY PRICE? In Maddon's biased view, LHP David Price's 13-strikeout, complete game 19th win Tuesday "hopefully put an exclamation point" on what he considers the obvious: "He should be the Cy Young winner." Price leads the majors with a 2.56 ERA and shares the AL lead in wins.

RIGHT-WING MOVE: Desmond Jennings made his first start in rightfield since his 2010 rookie season, a decision based on there is considerably more ground to cover than in left, where Ben Francisco started.

MISCELLANY: The Rays clinched a third straight season with a winning road record. … RHP Fernando Rodney notched a single-season record-tying sixth save against Boston. … The Rays hit their fifth back-to-back homers. … INF Jeff Keppinger is 14-for-26 over his past seven games. … Rookie Chris Archer celebrated his 24th birthday. … SS Ben Zobrist spoke Wednesday morning at Eastern Nazarene College, a Christian liberal arts school in nearby Quincy, Mass., and said even the Red Sox fans were cordial. … Maddon was excited to meet basketball Hall of Famer John Havlicek, who was seated near the Rays dugout Tuesday, and invited him to spring training.

Three-time hero Dan Johnson awaits Tampa Bay Rays in Chicago 09/26/12 [Last modified: Thursday, September 27, 2012 12:35am]
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