The sizzling Red Sox seek their seventh win in eight games Saturday when they continue their weekend series against Ramirez and the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Boston (41-28) has shifted its focus from high-powered offense to run prevention since trading Ramirez to Los Angeles (38-29) at the 2008 trade deadline, but the club’s recent surge has been largely thanks to the bats. The Red Sox are averaging a major league-high 6.0 runs per game during a 26-12 stretch that has brought them from one game under .500 to within one game of AL East co-leaders New York and Tampa Bay.
They kept it going Friday night, plating seven runs in the fifth inning to break open a tie game en route to a 10-6 victory. It marked the fourth time during the current 6-1 stretch that Boston scored eight runs or more.
Ramirez drew a mixed crowd reaction and went 1 for 5 in his return to the city where he played 7 1/2 seasons and helped the Red Sox win two World Series, earning World Series MVP honors in 2004. He struck out against Boston reliever Daniel Bard(notes) with two runners on to end the game.
“Manny is certainly going to have a lot of emotions here,” Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. “This was a huge part of his career. You are never blase about coming to Boston and playing in front of these fans and involved in so many pennant races and not have it be a big part of your life.”
David Ortiz(notes) outshone the slugger with whom he formed perhaps the most feared combo in the majors in the series opener, hitting a two-run homer that was his 274th with the Red Sox, tying Ramirez for fifth on the club’s all-time list.
“Manny did so many good things the longer he played here,” Ortiz said. “All he did was put up numbers. To be right there with him, that caliber of power hitter, it’s a great feeling.”
Like Ortiz, Boston probable starter Tim Wakefield(notes) (2-5, 5.42 ERA) achieved a milestone the last time he played. The 43-year-old knuckleballer became the third active pitcher to throw 3,000 innings, giving up four runs over 7 1-3 innings of Sunday’s 5-3 loss to Philadelphia.
Wakefield, who is 1-2 with a 6.64 ERA in his career against the Dodgers, will look to end his struggles at Fenway, where he is 0-4 with a 6.86 ERA in eight appearances - six starts in 2010. He’s 2-1 with a 3.62 ERA on the road.
Ramirez is 6 for 26 with no homers and eight strikeouts against Wakefield.
Los Angeles will counter with its opening-day starter Vicente Padilla(notes) (1-1, 6.65), who will return from an inflamed radial nerve in his throwing arm that has sidelined him since April 22. The right-hander takes the rotation spot of Chad Billingsley(notes), who landed on the disabled list earlier this week with a groin strain.
Padilla is 2-4 with a 4.84 lifetime ERA against Boston.
The Dodgers have dropped five of seven overall and five straight in interleague play.