Red Sox a surprise success story

Crowded house: With Yasiel Puig in the minors until June and Matt Kemp and Crawford in and out of the Dodgers' lineup, manager Don Mattingly mostly has prepared for an awkward situation that hasn't presented itself. But Kemp is due back from his latest rehab assignment this week, which means that heading toward October he finally may have to find a way to juggle Puig, Kemp, Crawford and Andre Ethier in the outfield.

"Somebody's going to be mad,'' Mattingly said. "We've already talked about it (when Crawford and Kemp returned from hamstring injuries in early July). I expect somebody to be mad. If they weren't mad, then I'd probably be worried. I want our guys to want to play, and they all think they can play."

Puig was called to Mattingly's office after not hustling in Wednesday's game, a recurring issue for the electrifying rookie from Cuba. He may be in and out of the lineup some, but the guy who would seem to have to prove himself is Kemp, who finished second to Ryan Braun in the 2011 MVP race. He has played 62 games this year, hitting .263 with only five home runs.

"I don't know why people keep asking me about my role," Kemp told reporters. "I'm a center fielder. That's my role — to play center field every day. … I don't like to sit out games. I like to play. I like to give my team a chance to win every day, and I feel like I can do that."

As for Puig, he did a number of things to draw attention to himself in Wednesday's game against the Cubs, but the last straw for Mattingly was when he slammed his bat into the ground repeatedly after a strikeout and then walked very slowly to his position in right field, leaving Ethier without anyone to warm up with. Mattingly pulled him from the game, saying he thought Skip Schumaker "gave us a better chance to win.''

"He's young. He's going to have to learn," Dodgers pitcher Ricky Nolasco said. "There are a lot of veterans on the team, and we know there are going to be some growing pains. As long as he learns from them, that's the most important thing because he's going to help the team a ton more than he's going to do things like (he did Wednesday).''

On a mission: For Tigers owner Mike Ilitch, manager Jim Leyland and most of the Tigers' veterans, the mandate is to win a World Series. But two of the team's most experienced players, 38-year-old Torii Hunter and 34-year-old Victor Martinez, know it would be special just to reach that stage. Neither of them has played in one.

"We talk to each other about it every day," Hunter told the Detroit Free Press. "When we do our pregame handshake with each other, we say, 'Let's get that ring.' "

Hunter has played on six teams that went to the playoffs — four with the Twins and two after signing a free-agent deal with the Angels. He has hit .305 with an .858 OPS in 34 playoff games, but his teams have won only two of eight postseason series, with the 2002 Twins losing to the Angels in a five-game ALCS and the '09 Angels losing to the Yankees in a six-game ALCS.

"I wake up in the middle of the night and think about it,'' Hunter said of his World Series void. "I wake up in the morning — think about it. I drive down the street — think about it. Every phone call I have — talk about it. It's in my heart and in my soul. … I've been so close … but never been to the World Series — how is that possible? So it's imperative that I do that."

Martinez was with the Indians in 2007 when they took a 3-1 lead over the Red Sox in the ALCS but then failed to finish the job. He got close again with the 2011 Indians, who lost to the Rangers in six games in the ALCS, and was injured when they did get to the World Series last year.

He said the thought of winning the World Series motivated him immensely as he spent all of last season recovering from knee surgery.

"I was telling my wife and brother that I hope God will give me another chance to make it to the World Series," Martinez said. "I don't want to retire without having a World Series ring. That's the bottom line. It's not just getting to the World Series. It's winning it."

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