Power display propels Red Sox sweep

Power display propels Red Sox sweep

BOSTON -- The Red Sox completed their three-game sweep of the Orioles by taking Sunday afternoon's game, 11-9, at Fenway Park, pulling themselves within one game of the New York Yankees for first place in the American League East.

The ninth inning seemed like it would be just a necessary step to the foregone conclusion of a Red Sox win. However, Boston's renowned flair for the dramatic gave the 35,744 at the game a reason to stick around.

With a four-run lead, Craig Hansen recorded an out and allowed two singles before being relieved by Jonathan Papelbon. The normally reliable closer found himself in trouble after a walk to Corey Patterson and an error by Alex Cora on a ground ball changed the status of the game from over to tenuous.

Even after walking in a run, Papelbon got Melvin Mora to ground out to Mike Lowell, who made a backhanded stab and throw to end the game and give Papelbon the save.

"I'm battling and battling [and] my first reaction is he picked me up," Papelbon said of Lowell. "That's what they've been doing all year, and that's what they're great at. For me, it was a relief. That's a huge play. [If] he doesn't make that, it's probably a tie ballgame [and] maybe they go ahead. He's just been clutch for us all year."

"We would have loved to go into that series [Monday against Detroit] with everybody fresh, but losing this game, we needed to stay away from that," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "We talk about spreading out so that if you make a mistake, or maybe in this case mistakes, you don't lose a game."

Like a kite in the wind, the game kept changing directions and it seemed impossible to predict where it was going to head. However, with two young starters, Jon Lester and Daniel Cabrera, who famously struggle with control, it didn't take a crystal ball to know that this would be a high-scoring affair.

"I battled again with myself. It's just a grind right now for some reason," Lester said. "[The bullpen] did a great job today picking me up, the offense, too. That's the bullpen's game right there. They picked me up and kept the team in the ballgame. That's their win."

With Boston's bats providing enough offense for an entire series, Lester (6-2) was able to pick up the victory, despite a difficult outing. He ended up throwing five innings, allowing four runs and nine hits.

"After the first couple of innings, you are hoping he goes five. His pitch count was soaring quickly and then he put up three zeroes and it wasn't very easy for him," Francona said. "You can't forget this kid is learning right in the middle of a pennant race and, thankfully, he keeps his poise and he competes. He wants to go deeper. He knows that that will help us ... he is trying."

The scoring came early and often for both teams. Lester began the day allowing a leadoff double to Brian Roberts and a walk to Mora. Miguel Tejada brought in Roberts on a sacrifice fly, but Lester managed to get Jay Gibbons to hit into a double-play to end the 25-pitch inning and limit the damage.

Cabrera wouldn't be so lucky. His first inning included two walks and a double that loaded the bases for the dangerous Wily Mo Pena, but Cabrera persevered and overcame a 3-0 count to strike out the big righty.

Cabrera fell behind again to the next hitter, Mike Lowell, and this time he would pay. Lowell hammered a ball over the Green Monster for a grand slam to give the Red Sox a 4-1 lead. It was his fifth career grand slam and fourth of the season by the Red Sox. Cabrera would end the inning throwing 31 pitches, 14 for strikes.

"We were able to draw some walks today and capitalize on it," Coco Crisp said. "Pretty much everyone who got on base today scored."

The Orioles answered right back by scoring three runs in the second inning. Lester allowed a leadoff walk to Ramon Hernandez and then was taken deep by Patterson for a two-run homer. A double by Nick Markakis and an RBI single by Mora tied the game at 4.

The two teams took a short intermission from their offensive onslaught, but it didn't last long. The Red Sox tacked on three more runs in the fourth inning on RBIs by Gabe Kapler and Crisp and a wild pitch by Cabrera.

"I was thrilled. Lowell gets us on the board with the four and then we get three more. Those are huge," Francona said.

The Orioles came back with solo home runs by Kevin Millar and Roberts off Kyle Snyder in the sixth inning to make it 7-6. However, Youkilis hit a three-run shot to center field in the seventh inning to extend Boston's lead to 10-6.

Doug Mirabelli added a solo shot in the eighth inning, his sixth of the season. He has homered in three consecutive games for the first time in his career. The home run, which seemed more like icing on the cake, ended up being much-needed insurance.

"That's what he did in 2004 for us. Especially now with [Jason Vari]Tek down, it has been great and he is handling the staff," Francona said. "It is welcome."

Manny Ramirez saw his 27-game hit streak come to an end, going 0-for-3 and reaching base on an error and a walk. His best opportunity came on a screaming liner in the fifth inning that was nabbed by a diving Tejada.

Howard Kussoy is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.