Big week ahead for Celtics


Big week ahead for Celtics

ATLANTA And so the sprint to the finish begins . . . now.

If the Boston Celtics are going to position themselves to climb up the Eastern Conference standings, it has to begin this week.

All three of their opponents - Atlanta tonight, Milwaukee on Thursday and Philadelphia on Friday - are seeking the same upward mobility.

"This is a huge week for us," said Paul Pierce. "We understand the magnitude of all these games. Now it's that point, the weather's heating up. We have to start heating up. That sense of urgency has to kick in now."

Boston (23-21) has visions of winning a fifth straight Atlantic Division title, but currently trail Philadelphia by 1.5 games. If they fall short of that, the Celtics should be gunning for the No. 6 spot which would mean avoiding Miami and Chicago - the overwhelming favorites in the Eastern Conference - in the first round.

Celtics coach Doc Rivers said this week "should be fun."

"We have a chance to catch Atlanta, have a chance to (create) room with Milwaukee, catch Philly the next three games will be great," he said. "It'll be a lot of fun."

Pedroia returns to lineup as Sox look to extend winning streak to six

Pedroia returns to lineup as Sox look to extend winning streak to six

After leaving Thursday night's game in the fifth inning and missing Friday night's game, Dustin Pedroia is back in the Red Sox lineup Saturday as they look to extend their winning streak to six in a 4:05 game against the Seattle Mariners.

Pedroia felt pain his left knee Thursday night and was taken out of the game by manager John Farrell as a precaution. The rainy conditions and wet field were also factors in keeping the second baseman out Thursday and Friday. 

Pedroia (.288, two homers, 21 RBI) had surgery on the knee in October. It's the same leg that was hurt when Manny Machado slid into Pedroia at second base in April, the slide that sparked various confrontations between the Orioles and Red Sox.

Left-hander Brian Johnson (1-0, 7.20 ERA) was called up from Triple-A Pawtucket to make his second start of the season for Boston and right-handed reliever Ben Taylor was optioned to the PawSox. Right-hander Rob Whalen, 23,  comes up from Triple-A Tacoma to make his first start of the season for the Mariners. 

The lineups:

Jean Segura SS
Danny Valencia 1B
Robinson Canó 2B
Nelson Cruz DH
Kyle Seager 3B
Taylor Motter LF
Guillermo Heredia RF
Mike Zunino C
Jarrod Dyson CF
Rob Whalen RHP

Mookie Betts RF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Xander Bogaerts SS
Andrew Benintendi LF
Hanley Ramirez DH
Mitch Moreland 1B
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
Sandy Leon C
Deven Marrero 3B
Brian Johnson LHP