CHICAGO (AP)—With September looming, Boston looks like the team to beat. The Chicago White Sox look like the team anyone can beat.
David Ortiz hit a two-run homer, and J.D. Drew and Bobby Kielty ended long homerless droughts to back Julian Tavarez’s first win since late June as the Red Sox finished a four-game sweep of Chicago with an 11-1 victory Sunday.
Strangely enough, Drew’s last home run was in the same game as Tavarez’s last win: June 20 at Atlanta. Kielty homered for the first time since last Sept. 19, when he was with Oakland.
The Red Sox outscored Chicago 46-7 in the series. Boston scored at least 10 runs in each game, only the fourth time that has happened in a four-game series since 1900, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. It’s the first time it has happened in the American League in 85 years.
The St. Louis Browns did it in 1920 and 1922, and the Colorado Rockies in 1996. Boston’s run total in the series was the most for the franchise since it scored the same amount against the Browns in 1949.
Boston has won four in a row, improved baseball’s best record to 80-51 and increased their lead over second-place New York to 7 1/2 games in the AL East.
Are they the best team in the majors?
“The last four days, yes,” White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. “I think Boston is the team to beat in the American League.”
The Red Sox are trying to diffuse such talk.
“We can’t look ahead,” catcher Jason Varitek said. “We have to play like we’ve been playing.”
The loss dropped the White Sox to 18 games under .500 for the first time since 1989. The only team in the majors with a worse record is Tampa Bay, which visits U.S. Cellular Field on Monday for a makeup game.
“I think if you try, you can’t play on this (terrible) level that we do,” Guillen said. “We caught those guys when they were playing well and they caught us when we were playing bad.”
Tavarez (7-9), who has bounced between the rotation and the bullpen, was making just his second start since the beginning of August, but struck out seven and handcuffed the White Sox to two hits in six innings. He was 0-5 in his last seven starts, going back to June 25.
“That was the best Julian has thrown the ball all year,” Varitek said. “He pitched in very well to the lefties and it just opened up the whole plate for him.”
Red Sox manager Terry Francona raved about Tavarez’s well-known versatility.
“How many pitchers can you start, put in the bullpen and let them sit for two weeks, and then have a legitimate chance to throw six innings?” Francona said. “That doesn’t happen very often.”
Ortiz’s 24th homer capped off a four-run fifth inning as the Red Sox ended Javier Vazquez’s perfect month and sent the White Sox to their fifth straight loss and 13th in 15 games.
In the fifth, Dustin Pedroia broke a 1-all tie with a two-run single. After a mound meeting with his manager and catcher, Vazquez’s first pitch to Ortiz landed more than 400 feet away in center to make it 5-1. Kielty added a two-run shot off Vazquez in the sixth.
“It’s tough, bro,” Vazquez said. “It’s embarrassing to lose four games, especially the way we’ve been losing. It’s not even funny.”
Drew hit his seventh homer in the second to give Boston a 1-0 lead. It was his first homer in 51 games, ending the longest drought of his career.
“I’ve faced (Vazquez) quite a few times,” Drew said. “In that situation, I was trying to slow things down a little bit and get a good pitch to hit. I got a ball out over the zone and was able to hit it out.”
Vazquez (11-7) was 3-0 in four previous August starts and 8-1 over his last 12 starts. He matched his season-high with 10 strikeouts but also matched a season-high allowing three home runs. He gave up seven runs and six hits, with three walks in six innings.
Vazquez was mowing down Red Sox hitters until the fifth. He struck out Varitek to start the inning, his seventh of the game, but then gave up a bunt single to Kielty. Coco Crisp added a single and Julio Lugo reached on a fielder’s choice, setting up Pedroia’s hit.
Fields, usually a third baseman, made an error in his first start in left field, leading to three unearned runs during a four-run ninth.
“It was a pop fly,” Fields said. “I got one ball hit to me and it’s with two outs in the ninth. It waits that long to get out to me. The ball kind of came back toward the infield and the wind blew a little bit. Hopefully I won’t make the same mistake tomorrow.”
Manny Ramirez didn’t start for the Red Sox. Francona said it was just a day off but relented that Ramirez had been bothered by a sore back. … Fields will stay in left for the rest of the season to see if he can play the position in 2008. … White Sox DH Jim Thome returned after missing three games with a stiff lower back. … Tavarez’s seven strikeouts tied a season-high.