To a man, the Red Sox vowed that after a 2-4 road trip to St. Louis and Chicago, they would make opponents pay once they returned to their home ballpark.
Last night, the Cincinnati Reds felt their wrath.
''This is our park," said Kevin Millar after last night's 10-3 shellacking of the Reds at Fenway that improved the Sox' interleague record to 5-5. ''It's no secret that we're more comfortable here. That's what it's about. Your fans. Your music. This is our house."
The Sox, who are tied with Toronto for the fewest home games played (27), improved to 18-9 at home on a steamy night that seemed to suit Boston hitters (16 hits, after 17 vs. Chicago Sunday night) in a ballpark that seemed to intimidate the Reds on defense.
''It was nice to have another hitter in the lineup," said interim Sox manager Brad Mills, who improved to 5-3 at the helm, running the team this time because Terry Francona's daughter Alyssa was graduating from high school. ''Being back home and playing by American League rules. Of course it's always nice to be back home. Playing the six games on the road, it was nice to get back and swinging a little bit."
Matt Clement, who improved to 7-1, had one blip when he allowed two runs in the fifth, but he pitched a solid game to give the Sox back-to-back wins by starters (Tim Wakefield beat the Cubs, 8-1, Sunday) for the first time since May 28-29 when Clement and David Wells beat the Yankees.
''So far I've enjoyed pitching here," said Clement. ''It's nice to get back home. It seems like we've been on the road the whole season. Six very intense games and it's nice to get back home and sleep in your own bed."
The Sox had multiple-hit nights from Johnny Damon (second straight three-hit night), Edgar Renteria (double, single, walk), Manny Ramirez (double, home run), Millar (double, single), Jason Varitek (single, double), and Jay Payton (double, infield hit).
As for Mills's comment on the extra hitter, it was DH David Ortiz's two-out, bases-loaded single in the sixth that seemed to put away the Reds. For sure it was the end for Cincinnati starter Eric Milton (0-5 with an 11.53 ERA in six road starts), who departed after the hit, trailing, 7-2.
He was relieved by Matt Belisle, who was immediately touched for a three-run homer that Ramirez poked into the right-field corner.
Ramirez's 13th of the season wasn't your ordinary home run. No, this was a pure case of an outfielder (Wily Mo Peña) being intimidated by the low right-field railing. Peña drifted and drifted toward the railing, tracking the ball. He actually had it in his glove, but it popped out and into the crowd for a home run as Peña fell.
But the visitors' intimidation was apparent long before that. It was clear why the Reds have one of the worst records in the National League, even though they have been playing much better recently.
Terrible fielding plays helped the Sox score five runs in the first four innings. In a three-run fourth, Ramirez's blooper to short right fell for a ground-rule double, and with Millar up, catcher Javier Valentin overthrew Milton on the throwback to the mound, allowing Ramirez to advance to third.
''It slipped," said Valentin. ''My hands were so wet with sweat, I still have pine tar on my hands. It was a bad moment. You can't make a mistake with this team."
Reds manager Dave Miley said, ''As innocent as it was, it led to a few runs."
Ramirez scored on Varitek's single to center, and Bill Mueller knocked a double against the left-center-field wall, scoring Varitek with the fourth run. The inning continued with Damon's RBI single to right. After a wild pitch by Milton, Renteria grounded to third to end the inning.
The Sox scored two two-out runs in the third on Renteria's double over center fielder Ryan Freel's head, another poor play on which Freel didn't react well on the ball. That came after Payton's double to left-center and Damon's infield single down the third base line.
''The ball in center, Freel broke in on it," said Miley. ''If he doesn't make that play, it can change the complexion, especially the way Clement was throwing."
The Reds did get two back in the fifth. Felipe Lopez tripled on a ball that got by Damon in center, scoring Adam Dunn with the first run. Rich Aurilia knocked Lopez in with a lined sacrifice fly to left field.
Clement rebounded nicely from his poorest outing of the season last Tuesday in St. Louis (4 innings, 7 runs, 7 hits). Clement was pretty hard on himself after the loss but vowed to regroup. He did just that with a solid eight-inning outing in his team-high 14th start (the Sox are 10-4 in those starts).
Clement pitched to the minimum nine batters over the first three innings, getting a double play ball after allowing a Joe Randa single in the first inning, and having Varitek throw out Valentin at third after the catcher doubled. Valentin actually stole third but was tagged out by Mueller after oversliding the bag.
Clement, who struck out nine and walked one while throwing 108 pitches, allowed a solo homer to Valentin out of Trot Nixon's reach in the eighth, then gave way to Matt Mantei.
Mantei protected the seven-run lead in the ninth.