Red Sox 2, Athletics 1

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BOSTON (AP)—Manny Ramirez provided a powerful lift to Boston’s struggling offense.

One night after he forced in the winning run when he was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded, he won Saturday night’s game in a more conventional way. His tiebreaking homer in the sixth inning and two RBIs gave the Red Sox a 2-1 victory over the Oakland Athletics.

“I think Manny wants to be the man,” Johnny Damon said. “He almost stepped in the bucket, mis-hit it and still hit it 450 feet. It’s amazing to watch.”

But the Red Sox still aren’t hitting like the team that leads the majors with a .280 batting average. They’ve scored 21 runs in their last seven games and have gotten by on strong pitching. Bronson Arroyo allowed one run and three hits in seven innings, one night after Tim Wakefield went nine in a 3-2 win in 10 innings.

“We just want to be one run better, whether it’s 11-10 or 2-1,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. “That’s all that really matters.”

They’ve done that for a long stretch at Fenway Park, where they’ve won the last 14 games decided by one run. Saturday’s win kept their AL East lead at 1 1/2 games over the New York Yankees, who beat Toronto 1-0.

Oakland is struggling in its stretch run toward the playoffs. The A’s are two game behind Los Angeles in the AL West and five behind Cleveland in the wild-card race.

Arroyo (13-9) and Dan Haren (13-11) were locked in a 1-1 pitchers’ duel when Ramirez came up with one out in the sixth. He drove the first pitch onto the street behind the Green Monster seats in left field for his 36th homer and 125th RBI this season.

Ramirez also singled in a run in the first.

“We had some chances today, but when it comes down to it, it’s the pitch I made to Ramirez,” Haren said. “I just look back at it and I’m mad at myself. I let that pitch get away from me. The loss is because of me.”

Haren gave up two runs and seven hits in seven innings with eight strikeouts and a walk but didn’t get much help from his offense as the A’s lost for the fourth time in five games.

“It’s been our pitching staff keeping us in these games,” Oakland first baseman Dan Johnson said. “We really haven’t been able to generate much offense.”

Arroyo retired his first 12 batters before walking the first hitter in the fifth. He gave up the first hit with two outs in the inning, an RBI single by Marco Scutaro.

“I just felt like it was October, man. I could feel the excitement in the crowd,” Arroyo said. “The two double play balls that I got tonight were huge for me.”

Second baseman Alex Cora started both—one after Arroyo walked the first two batters in the fifth and another after the first two hitters in the sixth singled.

“It kind of lets the air out of your tire,” Oakland manager Ken Macha said. “We don’t have a whole lot of team speed, and that’s what happens.”

Jonathan Papelbon pitched the eighth and Mike Timlin pitched a perfect ninth to finish the four-hitter and earn his ninth save.

“Everyone, when they talk about our team they talk about your offense,” Damon said. “Our pitchers are capable of going out there and throwing good games.”

Arroyo improved to 3-0 in four starts. He struck out one, walked three and allowed only singles to Scutaro in the fifth and Jason Kendall and Mark Kotsay in the sixth.

Papelbon retired the first two batters in the eighth before Kendall doubled and took third on shortstop Edgar Renteria’s career-high 28th error. He failed to catch Trot Nixon’s throw to the infield, allowing Kendall to reach third, but Kotsay flied to left fielder Ramirez.

Haren gave up a run in the first on singles by Renteria, Ortiz and Ramirez, but struck out the side. He retired 13 consecutive batters before Damon singled in the fifth.

Notes

Ramirez’s homer was his 426th, tying Billy Williams of the Chicago Cubs for 36th on the career list. Jim Thome is 35th with 430. … The Athletics grounded into a double play for the eighth straight game, setting a season high. They have 17 in that stretch after grounding into two Saturday. … Jason Varitek is in a 4-for-39 slump after going 0-for-3 with two strikeouts. … Kevin Millar’s hitting streak ended at 13 games. … Haren was 3-0 in his previous four starts.

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