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Red Sox 6, Royals 3

Coming up big

Spot starter Colon gets win in Sox debut

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Gordon Edes
Globe Staff / May 22, 2008

Under unhappier circumstances, distress flares would be launched over Boston Harbor and operators added to talk radio switchboards.

How is it possible that Manny Ramírez, who has more career home runs (498) than last night's starting lineup for the Royals (414), lately looks like he should be batting in the middle of the punchless Kansas City order instead of the home nine's?

But even as the Royals have given Ramírez fits, the Red Sox slugger having struck out five times and grounded into a double play while being held hitless (0 for 10) during this series, his personal issues have not spoiled what has a chance to be a perfect homestand.

Daisuke Matsuzaka (7-0), who has not lost to anyone this season, today can complete a four-game sweep after the Sox scuttled the Royals, 6-3, last night for their sixth straight win, this one before 37,674 at Fenway Park. So far, the Sox, who got home runs from Jacoby Ellsbury and Jason Varitek, have outscored the Royals, 15-4, thrown a no-hitter at them (Jon Lester), and otherwise made them look skittish, with wild pitches (two last night, one for a run) and dropped infield popups (two in three games) the order of the day.

"You have to find ways to win even when your big donkeys aren't doing their damage," said Varitek, who also singled and has had five two-hit games in his last six.

"David [Ortiz] has been swinging the bat well. Manny put us on his back quite a bit early. He'll go through it a little bit, but then we'll see Manny returning to being Manny."

Ellsbury, who opened the Sox first with a home run, reached base four times with three hits and a walk, scored three runs, and stole a base. Dustin Pedroia also had three hits, while the bottom of the order, Coco Crisp and Julio Lugo, had key hits in a four-run fifth.

An old Ramírez running mate, Bartolo Colon, made his Red Sox debut, three days before his 35th birthday, and gave a veteran's twist to what had been a kiddie ride for the Sox. Colon, who became Ramírez's teammate in Cleveland in 1997 and started shaving when Lester and Tuesday night's winner, Justin Masterson, were toddlers, made his first appearance in a Sox uniform a winning one, even if equipment manager Joe Cochran had to break out the XXL's for the first time since Rich "El Guapo" Garces was here.

"I'm sure the veteran felt like a rookie again," Varitek said, "maybe even more so because the previous history puts expectations on Bartolo.

"The young guys don't have as much expectations. It's like if they throw well, they get a big pat on the back. If they don't throw so well, they're not ready."

Colon lasted five innings, and while he didn't display the electric velocity matching the reports that came out of Pawtucket during his rehab starts, he pitched effectively. He limited the Royals to six hits, all singles, none of them struck with authority. Colon gave up a run in the third on two ground singles, including a jam shot by Jose Guillen, and another in the fifth on three hits, one a bunt by Joey Gathright to start the inning, another a broken-bat hit by Alex Gordon that scored the run.

"You've got to realize this is his first outing," Varitek said, "and he's still building strength. This was a good little starting point for building strength. He's going to help us."

Four Sox relievers - Craig Hansen, Javier Lopez, Manny Delcarmen, and Mike Timlin - held the Royals to one hit over the last four innings, Timlin giving up an RBI single to David DeJesus with two outs in the ninth. Gathright, who walked and reached second on defensive indifference, scored on the hit; he scored all the Kansas City runs.

Much like the Milwaukee Brewers, who rarely led in dropping three straight to the Sox over the weekend, the Royals have led just once in three games, 2-1 in the fifth last night, and that lasted only until the Sox came to bat in the bottom of the inning. Varitek hit an 0-and-2 slider from Brett Tomko into the Boston bullpen to tie the score, and the next four Sox reached safely - Crisp double, Lugo single, Ellsbury single, and Pedroia single - before Ortiz's sacrifice fly, which left a "4" on the scoreboard and created a 5-2 Sox lead.

Ellsbury singled, stole second, and scored on a base hit by Pedroia to make it 6-2 in the seventh.

The Sox, who had a dozen hits, have now won nine straight at home and 11 of their last 12. At 20-5, they have the best home record in the major leagues, and their best home record after 25 games since the Sons of Don Zimmer were 22-3 at the Fens in 1978.

All of which has made it a lot easier not to obsess over Ramírez's May malaise. In his last dozen games, Ramírez has just eight hits in 45 at-bats, a .178 clip, with 11 whiffs. In that span, he has hit just one home run and knocked in four runs.

For Colon, the only thing that matters is Ramírez is here.

"Manny was like a brother to me in Cleveland and he really helped me out, and he's done that here as well," said Colon, with Ed Romero Jr., the team's coordinator of Latin-American operations, serving as translator. "David has also helped me out very much as well, but Manny's like a second brother to me."

Gordon Edes can be reached at edes@globe.com.

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