Penny wasn't going away quite so easy, though.
The Red Sox right-hander remained in the game and lasted long enough to pick up his 100th career win, beating the Florida Marlins 6-1 on Wednesday night in front of the 500th straight sellout at Fenway Park.
"I don't know how he stayed in that game and pitched. I just told him, 'If you collapse, we'll get [Justin] Masterson in the game,'" Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "You can't hurt him. He's a strong kid and he likes to pitch. But when the game was over I came in to pat him on the chest and I thought he had a pacemaker. He's got a pretty good welt."
Penny (6-2) allowed one unearned run on three hits and four walks, striking out three. He has not allowed an earned run in 11 innings over his last two starts, a good streak to be working on as John Smoltz finishes his minor league rehab stint and prepares to head back to the majors.
Smoltz, a former NL Cy Young winner, allowed one run in four innings in Triple-A Pawtucket on Wednesday night. The Red Sox have said they will go to a six-man rotation for the short-term, though it is also possible they will trade Penny or prospect Clay Buchholz or move Daisuke Matsuzaka -- so far the least effective of their starters -- to the bullpen.
"They've got a lot of tough decisions, and I'm glad I'm not the one making them," said Penny, who played for the Marlins from 2000-04. "There's a place for everyone. If you get traded or if you're here, there's a place for you to pitch. It's a great thing that we have all this pitching. Smoltz coming back, it's going to be huge."
With a 7.55 ERA and one victory in seven starts, Matsuzaka has been a weak link on the Red Sox pitching staff this season.
"It has been hard, but I know I cannot be in this situation," Matsuzaka said Tuesday night in a conversation with Japanese reporters, according to a report on WEEI, a Boston radio station. "I have to bring my [stuff] back as quickly as I can. I really want to pitch for the team to win, with focusing on my details [of pitching]."
Despite his struggles, Francona said the team has faith Matsuzaka will turn it around.
"My first thought was that if we tell him that we're putting him in long relief that's probably not going to build his confidence a whole lot," Francona told WEEI. "You know, there's a lot of things to think about. When you put a guy in the bullpen, who comes out of the bullpen? When you send a guy to the bullpen, how does he react to the bullpen?
"Also, Daisuke is typically our guy who takes the longest to warm up. ... He goes out there a good 45-50 minutes before the game and throws a lot, so is that going to work?"
With a giant "500" mowed into the field to mark the longest sellout streak in major league history, Boston rewarded the fans with food and prizes. The crowd of 38,196 also got to see another victory: the Red Sox are 327-173 since the streak began on May 15, 2003; they have won six of their last seven, including a three-game sweep of the New York Yankees to move into first place in the AL East.
Reigning AL MVP Dustin Pedroia had three hits and three RBIs, and David Ortiz continued his revival with three runs and a double off the Green Monster that raised his batting average to .213. Jacoby Ellsbury also reached base three times, including a homer, and stole a base for the fourth straight game.
Andrew Miller (2-3) gave up four runs on seven hits and four walks, striking out six in 5 1/3 innings for Florida.
Former Red Sox prospect Hanley Ramirez, who was traded to Florida in a package for Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell, walked with two outs in the first and scored when Ellsbury misplayed Jorge Cantu's line drive into left-center for a two-base error. Ellsbury had gone 232 games and 554 chances without an error -- both franchise records for an outfielder.
"It was the talk of the dugout for a few innings," Cantu said. "All I know is Ellsbury was full sprint for the ball. Kind of weird that they called that an error. He put a good run to it and he just barely missed it. It's not easy to catch that kind of ball on a line drive."
"I guess it hit me in a pretty good spot," said Penny, who declined to show reporters the mark on his chest. "It hurt for a second, but after that it didn't affect me at all."
Ortiz, who had a .185 average on May 31, is batting .342 in June. He doubled with one on and no outs in the second, then Rocco Baldelli singled in one run and Ortiz scored on a double play to make it 2-1.
"He's the same David Ortiz," Miller said. "Any slump he gets into, he's going to get out of it."
Boston made it 4-1 in the fourth when Ortiz walked, Baldelli and Nick Green singled to load the bases and Pedroia singled in two runs. Pedroia singled with the bases loaded in the eighth, but Jason Varitek was thrown out at the plate trying to score from second.
The previous record of 455 straight sellouts was set by the Cleveland Indians in 2001. The only other sports teams to sell out more games in a row were the NBA's Portland Trail Blazers (744), the Boston Celtics (567) and Chicago Bulls (515). ... It was the 49th anniversary of the day Ted Williams became the fourth major leaguer to hit 500 home runs. ... Between innings, Boston Bruins Hall of Famer Bobby Orr came out of the Green Monster to meet Red Sox left fielder Jason Bay, who's a big hockey fan. ... Among the giveaways were 500 tape measures, which the fans in the upper deck extended and dangled over the railing like fishing lines.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.