Baltimore's pitching staff paid the price, as the Red Sox swung their way to a 9-4 victory over the Orioles on Sunday afternoon.
Manny Ramirez (No. 501), Mike Lowell and J.D. Drew (back after a two-day bout with vertigo) all belted home runs to pace the a 16-hit attack to tie a season high. All this on a day David Ortiz was out of the lineup with a left wrist strain.
Taking it all in with a smile was bench coach Brad Mills, who filled in as manager for the day, as Terry Francona jetted back to Boston to see his daughter Leah graduate from high school.
"Putting one [quality] at-bat on top of another," said Mills, "to be able to stack those on top of another, and some guys coming through with some big blow, it makes it really nice."
The beneficiary of the support was right-hander Bartolo Colon, who won for the third time in as many starts since joining the Sox. On a day the Red Sox opted to rest top relievers Jonathan Papelbon and Hideki Okajima, Colon gave the Sox six innings (plus two batters in the seventh). He allowed seven hits and four runs, walking two and striking out five.
Looking primed to become one of the better comeback stories in baseball this season, Colon is now 3-0 with a 3.50 ERA.
Is Colon's start a surprise? Maybe to some, but not Ramirez, his close friend from their days together in Cleveland.
"He's good," said Ramirez. "He can still go out there and win. I'm not surprised. I knew he could do it. I was with him for seven years. I know what he can do."
A road trip that started with five losses in six games on the West Coast now has the possibility of ending with a four-game sweep of the Orioles. If the 35-24 Red Sox are successful in that quest, they would break even at 5-5 on the journey.
Even on a day the offense took center stage, Mills made a point of mentioning Colon first in his postgame address.
"I think you have to start with Colon," Mills said. "He really did a good job. He kept us in there; he got a little tired at the end. At the same time, we might have tried to squeeze a couple of outs out of him because of the short 'pen. But at the same time, he did an outstanding job."
Keep in mind that any of Major League Baseball's 30 teams could have signed Colon over the winter. When he was still dangling out there on the free-agent market at the end of February, the Red Sox scooped him up with a Minor League deal.
Colon is making that decision look smarter with each passing start.
"I feel good," Colon said through interpreter Luis Alicea. "I've been working very hard from start to start. From here on out, the velocity should be better."
The teams swapped runs in the second inning. Drew briefly put the Sox in front with a sacrifice fly to left, but the Orioles came right back on an RBI single by Adam Jones.
However, the Red Sox began to take over the game in the third inning. Ramirez smashed an RBI double to left and Lowell followed with a sacrifice fly. An RBI single by Drew made it 4-1.
Orioles starter Brian Burres had no answer for the Red Sox. Ramirez drilled a two-run homer to right in the fourth. Fresh off the milestone of Saturday night, Ramirez quickly picked up where he left off.
"I go out and play the game and have fun," Ramirez said. "I enjoy the game. I'm myself. I'm not trying to be somebody that I'm not. Play the game hard and play the game for fun."
The Red Sox were having plenty of fun in this one. Lowell made it back-to-back shots by hooking one down the line in left.
Baltimore sliced it to 7-3 in the bottom of the fourth with a two-run homer by Luke Scott. But the Red Sox stretched it right back out in the seventh, getting a solo shot from Drew and an RBI single by Jacoby Ellsbury.
Clearly, Drew was no longer suffering from the dizzy spells that kept him out of the lineup the previous two days. For good measure, he made a brilliant diving catch in right field to end the seventh.
"I put some nice swings on the ball," said Drew. "Defensively, he had me running around everywhere. It all worked out good."
Particularly for Colon, who was simply seeking a job a few months ago.
"I give credit to the hitters for giving me run support," said Colon. "I also feel good about myself, the way I'm throwing the ball."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less