BALTIMORE (AP) – The Boston Red Sox maintained a share of first place in the AL East with another fine performance at their new home away from home, Camden Yards.
Manny Ramirez hit his 41st homer in a five-run first inning and Johnny Damon connected in a four-run fifth, leading the Red Sox past the Baltimore Orioles 9-3 yesterday for a three-game sweep.
A majority of the 46,559 fans in attendance were cheering for Boston. There was no Green Monster in left field, but for a third straight day the seating bowl was filled with fans in red and the Orioles’ home stadium sounded very much like Fenway Park.
The victory enabled the defending World Series champions to remain tied atop the division with the New York Yankees, who beat Toronto 8-4. New York opens a four-game series in Baltimore on Monday, and Boston plays four home games against Toronto before closing with three against the Yankees at Fenway.
It was the fifth homer in five games for Ramirez, who moved into a tie with former Oriole Cal Ripken for 34th place on the career list (431).
David Wells (14-7) allowed three runs and six hits in 6 2-3 innings before leaving with a minor injury. The left-hander received a lengthy standing ovation as he walked off the mound, and the noise grew even louder after he acknowledged the cheers.
Melvin Mora and Miguel Tejada homered for the Orioles, whose eight-game losing streak matches a season high. Tejada was guilty of two mental blunders and a fielding error that fueled Boston’s two big innings.
The Red Sox got all the offense they needed in the top of the first. After rookie John Maine (2-3) retired the first two batters, he walked David Ortiz and Ramirez homered to straightaway center, a shot estimated at 424 feet. Trot Nixon singled and Jason Varitek walked before John Olerud hit a 3-2 pitch to shortstop.
Tejada leaned toward second to cover as Varitek broke on the pitch, even though there were two outs and no steal was possible. The ball bounced through the vacated hole, and Varitek came around to score while Tejada held the relay from the outfield too long.
Olerud took second on the late throw home, and Bill Mueller followed with an RBI double.
Mora hit his 23rd homer in the bottom half and Tejada drove Wells’ next pitch over the right-field wall to make it 5-2.
Boston pulled away in the fifth against James Baldwin. Successive doubles by Nixon and Varitek brought in a run, and Mueller hit a sacrifice fly before Tejada booted Tony Graffanino’s two-out grounder. Damon followed with his 10th homer, ending a 1-for-15 slump.
Pinch-hitter Walter Young singled in a run for Baltimore in the seventh.