As if they aren't already. The two teams

By Tom Withers Associated Press Published:

As if they aren't already.

The two teams are among six currently fighting for the AL wild card and they'll play eight times in the next 10 days, beginning with a three-game series at Jacobs Field tonight. The Red Sox trail the Indians by three games.

"We have a couple of tough weeks coming up," Indians first baseman Jim Thome said in perhaps the biggest understatement this season.

After three games with the Red Sox, the Indians, who were off Monday, will play a four-game series in New York before playing five straight _ including back-to-back doubleheaders _ at Fenway Park on Sept. 20-21, makeup games scheduled after the teams were rained out twice in April.

That's 12 games in 10 days against two of baseball's best.

"I guess we'll find out how good we are," Roberto Alomar said.

Cleveland, which was rained out on Sunday, has 23 games left. Including Monday's game against New York, the Red Sox had 22.

Boston and Cleveland know each other very well, having met in the postseason each of the last two years. But it's likely only one of them will be playing beyond Oct. 1 this season.

"The Red Sox have to come and get us," Indians manager Charlie Manuel said. "There will be pressure on them, but we have to get them, too. And that makes this series real interesting."

Neither team will admit to it, but there's bad blood between the Red Sox and Indians.

And Pedro Martinez is responsible for at least a few quarts.

Martinez, who will pitch Thursday, is 8-0 during his career against Cleveland, and beat the Indians twice in last year's playoffs. Martinez, who had to leave the opener because of a pulled muscle in his upper back, returned to pitch six no-hit innings in Game 5 as the Red Sox won 12-8 to complete their improbable comeback from a 2-0 deficit.

Then, in his first start against the Indians this season, Martinez brushed back Cleveland's Einar Diaz, who hit two doubles against baseball's best pitcher.

Indians starter Charles Nagy responded by hitting Boston's Jose Offerman, and Martinez then drilled Roberto Alomar in the backside despite being warned by the umpire. Martinez was ejected and suspended five games.

Afterward, Martinez claimed he was just backing Diaz off the plate. It's the same thing he said after hitting Tampa Bay's Gerald Williams recently, starting a beanball war with the Devil Rays.

The Indians don't like Martinez. He's cocky and he owns them. But they also know there's no one better.

"There's only one Pedro Martinez, and the rest of us do the best we can," pitcher Dave Burba said.

Nagy, who had arthroscopic surgery on his right elbow in May, will start against Martinez on Thursday. It will be the right-hander's first appearance since May 16.

The next two weeks will be grueling for sure. But after overcoming injuries which have forced them to use a major-league record 31 pitchers and team record 54 players, the Indians are looking forward to the challenge.

"We're at the point now, where teams realize that we're back to where we

were before all the injuries," Thome said. "When you look at our year as

a whole, this is one of the better clubs I've been on because we've had

to deal with so much adversity."

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