Those New Englanders who might have been absorbed in the Celtics' run at the NBA championship, which fell just short in Game 7, can take heart in the fact that the Red Sox are on fire. By reeling off 14 wins in their past 19 games, Boston is suddenly just one game behind the Rays and the Yankees for the top spot in the American League East.
"We're playing well. When you play well, that's what happens," said slugger David Ortiz.
Still, the turnaround has been strikingly swift. As recently as May 23, the Sox were 8 1/2 back in the standings.
There were plenty of storylines to go around in this one.
With plenty of firepower to work with, Felix Doubront earned the win in his Major League debut, filling in for an injured Daisuke Matsuzaka. The 22-year-old lefty from Venezuela gave up six hits and five runs (three earned) over five-plus innings. He walked three and struck out two.
Likely to go back to Triple-A Pawtucket -- perhaps as early as Saturday -- Doubront enjoyed the night thoroughly.
"It was awesome," Doubront said. "I felt pretty good. Having my first experience in the big leagues, I felt happy."
Ramirez, receiving more cheers than boos, went just 1-for-5, producing a soft single up the middle in the sixth. The contest ended when Ramirez, up with two on and two outs, struck out looking at a Daniel Bard slider.
"It sounds cliche, but when you're locked in, you just kind of see yourself and the hitter. I was just focused on what I was doing," said Bard. "I remember being 9 years old in like '94 and watching him and Jim Thome play Triple-A ball in Charlotte. That was a long time ago, and he's done a lot since then. It was pretty cool to face a guy like that."
The offense got started early and never looked back. The sizzling Ortiz hit his third mammoth homer of the homestand, a two-run blast to right-center in the first. In a bit of an ironic twist, the homer was No. 274 in a Sox uniform for Ortiz, tying him with, yes, Ramirez for fifth on the club's all-time list.
"Manny's a player that did so many good things as long as he played here," said Ortiz. "All he did was put up numbers, and to be right there with him, I think just [shows you what] caliber of hitter, power hitter ... Manny [is], and it's just something that's a great feeling. I might talk to him about it tomorrow. We'll see if he can focus on one conversation."
Two batters after Ortiz's bomb, J.D. Drew lofted one just over the Green Monster for a solo blow. In fact, it so narrowly cleared the wall that it was initially ruled a double by third-base umpire Paul Nauert. The umpires reviewed it on replay and overturned it.
Doubront had himself a 3-0 lead. Drew wound up leaving the game in the third inning after straining his hamstring.
The Dodgers rallied against Doubront in the third. Ronnie Belliard started it with a double to center. Reed Johnson then hit a grounder to first, and Doubront dropped the feed from Kevin Youkilis for an error, with a run scoring on the play. Matt Kemp belted an RBI triple and Russell Martin tied the game with a fielder's-choice grounder to second.
"I think like we expected, he pounded the zone with his fastball," said manager Terry Francona. "He showed a lot of poise. He didn't look the ball into the glove at first, [and] that cost him a bunch and hurt him. He left some balls up. He threw some good changeups, some real good ones.
"As we said before, the breaking ball is still kind of a work in progress. Good hitters, when they can eliminate a pitch, it makes it a little bit harder. Our offense did such a good job, when you look at the game, [Doubront] gets a win, we get the win. But I thought he held his poise very well."
Emphatically, the Red Sox untied it in the fifth with a seven-run outburst. The key hits were delivered by Youkilis (RBI double), Darnell McDonald (two-run single) and Adrian Beltre (two-run homer). Beltre, down on one knee, hit a towering blast that cleared the Monster and landed in the parking lot across the street.
"I didn't see it on the replay," Francona said. "The guys said it was pretty amazing, the follow-through. He's been a force. He's just been a force. Every day, you can tell he feels good about himself. He's been a great player for us."
Beltre is hitting .339 with 10 homers and 48 RBIs.
"The guy's been banging all year -- what can I tell you? Just keep it that way," said Ortiz.
As for Doubront, Boston's seven-run fifth left him a little rusty when he came out for the sixth. The Dodgers got a single from Ramirez, a double by Casey Blake and an RBI single by James Loney.
"Yeah, that had been a little bit of an effect," said Doubront. "I hadn't pitched in 10 days. I just warmed up in the batting cage. That's a long inning."
When Francona went out to get him, the lefty got a loud ovation from the Fenway faithful.
How did that make him feel?
"Happy," Doubront said. "Awesome."
As for how Ramirez felt to get the reception he did at Fenway, that one will remain a mystery. The slugger continued his season-long boycott with the media, something that was commonplace through much of his tenure in Boston.
"He seemed fine," said Dodgers manager Joe Torre. "He was very determined. I thought he had good at-bats. The reaction was mixed. A lot of people were on their feet applauding. I looked around. These are a lot of his fans. The boos always try to outdo the cheers. I thought it was more cheers."