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Ramirez a big hit in return to lineup

The way things have turned their way in recent weeks, the Red Sox seemed strong enough to overcome even the loss of Manny Ramirez to an injury. But they were grateful just the same when the slugger returned yesterday after missing only one game with a left knee contusion.

The Sox were especially pleased because Ramirez's two-run single off Detroit's Wilfredo Ledezma in the fifth inning provided all the support Tim Wakefield needed to improve to 11-7 as the Sox dumped the Tigers, 6-1, for their sixth straight victory. Ramirez's mere presence in the lineup gave the team a boost, but his timely two-out single worked even better.

"When Manny came up with the big hit," Johnny Damon said, "it seemed like the rest of the guys relaxed."

David Ortiz and Kevin Millar stroked consecutive RBI singles after Ramirez's hit. And Mark Bellhorn scorched a two-run homer in the seventh to complete the scoring.

Ramirez suffered a nasty blow when he fouled a pitch from lefthander Jamie Walker off his knee in the sixth inning of Friday night's 5-3 victory over the Tigers.

"I think we're fortunate," manager Terry Francona said of Ramirez's speedy return. "When that ball hit him, I think a lot of us held our breath. He hit that ball so hard and he went down fast. [His return] is good news for us."

Ramirez leads the Sox with 46 two-out RBIs. After hitting only .203 over 21 games after the All-Star break, he has hit .328 in his last 16 games.

False alarm
The Sox confronted another possible medical scare when Curtis Leskanic looked as if he were in pain on the mound in the ninth inning. Francona, pitching coach Dave Wallace, and head trainer Jim Rowe rushed to the mound, but it turned out to be a false alarm of sorts.

Leskanic had rubbed his arm with a heat balm before the game, and the more he perspired, the more it seeped into his pores and irritated him.

"He felt like his arm was burning," Francona said. "We really thought he was hurt until we went out there. Then we just didn't want to touch him."

Leskanic said his arm turned so red that it "looked like a fall leaf on a tree."

"I was moving around out there like, `Hurry up and get some outs so I can get off this mound,' " he said.

Leskanic thew 15 pitches as he retired the side in order in the ninth to finish his second game in three days.

Roll call
By improving to 20-7 in August, the Sox won 20 games in a month for the first time since May 2002, when they went 20-8. They have a chance tomorrow to finish the month with at least 21 wins for the first time since they went 22-9 in August 1996. They swept their seventh series of the season, their fifth at home. The four-game sweep was their first since Aug. 22-25, 2003, against the Mariners at Fenway . . . Bellhorn (2 for 4 with his 14th homer) has hit .354 in nine games since he came off the disabled list after fracturing his left thumb. His homer prevented the Sox from going four straight games without a homer for the first time since Sept. 2-6, 2002 . . . Gabe Kapler (2 for 4 with a run and a stolen base) has hit .331 over his last 32 starts to improve his average to .275 from .239. The Sox are 70-37 when Kapler has played . . . Millar (2 for 3 with an RBI) broke out of a 3-for-30 slump after he hit .437 with eight homers and 28 RBIs in his previous 26 games . . . Closer Keith Foulke (back stiffness) was available.

You make the call
Sox officials, unhappy with the official scoring on two plays in the Detroit series, called an American League executive to complain about what they perceived as ongoing problems with the official scorers at Fenway. The team plans to send videotapes of the plays to the commissioner's office for a five-member panel to review. The Sox believed Ramirez deserved a hit on a hard, one-hopper Friday night that glanced off third baseman Eric Munson's glove for an error and they thought Orlando Cabrera should have been credited with a hit on a fly ball Saturday night that dropped untouched between two outfielders for an error on right fielder Bobby Higginson. The official scorers, Charles Scoggins and Joe Giuliotti, stood by their rulings . . . In the last hurdle before the Sox activate them Wednesday, David McCarty (right wrist cyst) and Kevin Youkilis (bruised right ankle bone) will play for Single A Lowell today and tomorrow on a rehab assignment . . . The Sox plan to bring in a minor leaguer to pitch to Trot Nixon and Pokey Reese before the games tomorrow and Wednesday. If all goes well, Nixon and Reese would begin rehab stints Thursday with Triple A Pawtucket. That would put them on track to return by early next week. Pawtucket's regular season ends next Monday . . . Though the swelling in his knee has gone down, Ellis Burks continues to struggle in his comeback from two surgeries this season. He takes batting practice but is not able to run well enough yet to begin a rehab assignment. "I don't think he's very [close]," Francona said. "The hitting part, he's OK. We've got to get him moving around a little bit." . . . The Angels are expected to bring back Bartolo Colon on four days of rest Thursday to face Derek Lowe in the finale of a three-game series at Fenway. Anaheim is slated to start Aaron Sele (8-1, 4.35 ERA) Wednesday against Bronson Arroyo; Ramon Ortiz (5-7, 4.41) had been an option, but he was demoted to the bullpen yesterday by manager Mike Scioscia. Curt Schilling is scheduled to open the series for the Sox tomorrow vs. John Lackey

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