For the first time since Sunday due to the All-Star break, the Boston Red Sox will finally return to the field tonight when they take on their AL East rivals the Tampa Bay Rays. I think we all wished they had started back up last night but given the amount of injuries the team has now, we’ll gladly take them being back tonight.

The Red Sox will enter the unofficial second half 1.5 games ahead of the New York Yankees who got crushed last night and six games ahead of the Rays. They also will be putting their six-game winning streak on the line.

The local nine leads the league in runs scored (482), team batting avg (.278), on-base percentage (.354), slugging percentage (.456) and OPS (.810). They rank second in hits (872), first in doubles (195) and are third in home runs (107).

American League All-Star Adrian Gonzalez #28 of the Boston Red Sox hits a home run in the fourth inning of the 82nd MLB All-Star Game at Chase Field on July 12, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona.Individually, Adrian Gonzalez leads the AL with a .354 batting avg and leads the AL and all of MLB with 77 RBIs. Gonzalez is also 10th in home runs with 17 on the season. He also leads the AL in doubles with 28 and hits with 128. Jacoby Ellsbury leads the AL with 28 stolen bases.

Pitching wise, Josh Beckett ranks fourth in the AL with an ERA of 2.27 while his buddy Jon Lester is in a tie for 8th in wins with 10. As a staff, the Red Sox are 16th in team ERA at 3.92 and are 6th in opponent’s batting average at .239.

One of the things I think we need to watch over the coming weeks is the production of J.D. Drew at the plate. We all know what he can do defensively. But offensively he’s struggled this season. If he doesn’t produce at the plate, we could see his playing time diminish with Josh Reddick possibly getting more at-bats or even see a trade happen closer to the deadline.

I do think if the Red Sox make a trade at the deadline, it’s going to be for a right-handed hitting outfielder. If there’s one glaring weakness on this team right now, it’s the fact that they need a righty off the bench. Darnell McDonald has been playing better late but overall he’s not getting the job done.

Of course the other thing we really need to keep our eyes on is something I’ve talked about over the past two days is the health of the pitching staff. I won’t rehash this but a healthy pitching staff will go a long way towards the Red Sox making the playoffs this year.

But anyways, we finally get to see our Red Sox play again and I’m sure we’re all happy about that.

We’ll be back later with tonight’s lineups, batter/pitcher matchups and links from the day. But for now, enjoy the overnight links from the media by clicking on the read more button below if you’re on the home page.

To open the links up in a new tab or window, use Control+click

Ortiz decked for 4 games [Boston Globe]

Beckett slated to face Rays [Boston Globe]

Fife delivering after changes [Boston Globe]

Josh Beckett bullish on pitching Sunday night [Boston Herald]

Felix Doubront’s day still coming [Boston Herald]

Kevin Youkilis again a hidden gem among stars [Boston Herald]

Rays right in it [Boston Herald]

David Ortiz must sit out four games [Boston Herald]

Nation STATion: Magic 8 Ball has Red Sox answers []

Source: Ortiz to appeal suspension []

Down on the Farm: Head is a hit in Salem []

Down on the Farm: Ranaudo puts in the work []

Beckett confident he’ll make Sunday start []

Five keys for the Red Sox’ second half []

Notes: Crawford return set for Monday at Baltimore []

Projecting Sox decisions on 40-man roster [ESPN Boston]

Video: Panel discusses injury concerns [ESPN Boston]

Sea Dogs’ Tim Federowicz remembers Andrew Miller and Daniel Bard from UNC days [Full Count]

Peter Gammons on M&M: All-Star Game ‘Tough thing to overcome’ [Full Count]

Red Sox prospect Travis Shaw aims to follow All-Star father’s footsteps [Full Count]

Top 10 Second Halves in Red Sox History Include Broken Curses, Impossible Dreams []

Back to work [Nuggetpalooza]

Minor-league talent gives Sox options and roster problems [Providence Journal]

Ortiz, Gregg suspended for role in brawl [Providence Journal]

For once, bullpen not in need of help at trade deadline [Providence Journal]

Epstein won’t rest on laurels as Deadline nears []

For more slices of Red Sox goodness, head over to the Boston Globe, Boston Herald, CSNNEESPN Boston, NESN, Providence Journal, and WEEI websites.

Photo credit: Getty Images