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Onward, upward for Ramírez after break

Manny Ramírez didn't start out having the season his fans are accustomed to. But check his recent stats, especially over this past road trip, and a different picture appears: That of the old Ramírez.

Ramírez has been scorching the ball against lefthanders (.379, 36 for 95), with his overall average at .303 with a .399 on-base percentage, .522 slugging percentage, 18 home runs, and 68 RBIs. That puts him on pace for season totals of approximately 28 home runs and 105 RBIs. He has hit at least 30 homers in every season since 1997 with Cleveland.

But lately Ramirez has been on a tear. Since the All-Star break, he has a .388 average, .457 on-base percentage, and .776 slugging percentage. He has hit seven of his homers in that span, including three on the seven-game trip, during which he also had 10 RBIs. For that, Ramírez was named American League Player of the Week, the third Boston player to win the award this season. It was also the 15th time he has been so honored, the most for any AL player.

"I think he just looks to be swinging with more aggression, with less effort," manager Terry Francona said after Ramírez hit a solo home run Sunday. "He's getting that bat head through the zone, sometimes pretty ferociously. But he's not muscling, which is a big key to hitting."

Oh, and he has a .993 fielding percentage in left field, tops in the league (plus seven assists).

All this while having far fewer Manny Moments this season. Not bad signs entering the final two months of the season.

Group dynamics
Despite the troubles over the weekend for the bullpen -- Jonathan Papelbon's blown save Saturday night, Manny Delcarmen's two home runs and three runs allowed Sunday (plus an inherited run), Mike Timlin's achy shoulder -- the contingent has been a bright spot.

"This bullpen's good," Timlin said before Delcarmen's Sunday meltdown. "And the reason this bullpen's good [is that] these guys that are in this bullpen believe that it doesn't matter who goes out there, in whatever situation, they believe they can get guys out. It takes a while. It's not a cockiness, but maybe a self-awareness, more."

Even with those five runs in two games charged to the bullpen, the group's ERA still is 2.74 (up from 2.65 before Saturday's game). That's the lowest in the major leagues, ahead of the Padres at 3.09, and way ahead of the Blue Jays, at 3.47, the second-lowest in the American League. Also, the Sox' pen has allowed only 27 of 133 inherited runners to score.

And while it certainly helps that the bullpen has pitched the third-fewest innings in the majors (289), that doesn't mean it doesn't deserve a lot of credit.

"It's a small unit within a big team," Timlin said. "But it all boils down to the guys that are in the small unit, that believe in each other. There's no back-biting."

Hitting on something
When Francona said Sunday that, "You don't see [Dustin] Pedroia miss three fastballs very often," he wasn't speaking in hyperbole. That's because the second baseman doesn't swing and miss very often -- on any pitches. Pedroia ranks fifth in the AL in percentage of swings that missed. He has missed on just 9.4 percent of his swings. Mike Lowell is at 10.4 percent, good for seventh in the AL . . . J.D. Drew didn't look good striking out swinging against Gary Glover in the ninth inning Sunday as the pinch hitter for Doug Mirabelli. Though Drew has hit .264 against righthanders, like Glover, he has been abysmal against lefties. Drew is hitting .209 against lefthanders with just 18 hits in 86 at-bats. (Trot Nixon, who had a reputation for having problems with lefties, is 10 for 46 for a .217 average.) . . . Kevin Youkilis is 10th in the league in percentage of pitches taken at 62.9 percent. Oakland's Dan Johnson leads the AL at 66.8 percent . . . The Red Sox will honor Hall of Famer Bobby Doerr before Thursday's game against the Orioles. It will be held on the 60th anniversary of the first Bobby Doerr Day at Fenway Park.

Amalie Benjamin can be reached at abenjamin@globe.com.

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