BALTIMORE (AP) -- About the only things missing from Boston's
final road series were the Green Monster and Pesky Pole.
AL wild-card standings
Now, after dominating the Baltimore Orioles in front of
thousands of Red Sox fans, first-place Boston finishes its season
at its real home, Fenway Park.Manny Ramirez hit his 41st homer in a five-run first inning,
Johnny Damon connected in a four-run fifth, and the Red Sox
completed a three-game sweep with a 9-3 rout Sunday.A majority of the 46,559 fans in attendance at Camden Yards were
cheering for Boston. 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."This place has been very good to our team," Damon said. "A
bunch of our fans cannot get tickets in Boston. For them to come
down on a weekend and take part in this, that says a lot."The victory enabled the defending World Series champions to
remain tied atop the AL East 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.Boston's 50-24 record at home is the best in the major leagues."We're going home. We have a lot of business to tend to, but at
home we hope to be a force," manager Terry Francona said. "We
have an important week; it'll be fun."Then again, Camden Yards didn't exactly feel like hostile
territory."It seemed like we were home today and this whole series,"
winning pitcher David Wells said. "It's a great feeling. To get a
sweep here is a big boost for us. Now we have to go home and keep
it up."Wells (14-7) allowed three runs and six hits in 6 2/3 innings
before leaving with right knee pain. 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."It was burning," Wells said. "I'm sure it will be fine. Why
push it?"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.Throughout the series, the Red Sox jumped on virtually every
miscue the Orioles committed."They're supposed to do that," Tejada said. "When you play
for something, you got to take advantage of all the mistakes.
That's what they do right now."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.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).The crowd was still buzzing when Trot Nixon singled and Jason
Varitek walked. John Olerud then 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."The ball took a weird hop," Tejada contended. "I just went
to the side and the ball went in the other direction. I don't like
to pull an excuse. What can I do? I'm not a Superman."As for hesitating with the ball in hand, he said, "It's my
bad."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
Baltimore's Eric Byrnes snapped a 1-for-37 skid with a
seventh-inning double. ... Boston won the season series 10-9. ...
It was the Orioles' first multihomer game since Sept. 1. ... The
Red Sox finished 41-40 on the road, their eighth straight winning
season away from Fenway.