ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The anxiety was supposed to come to an end when Coco Crisp squeezed Robb Quinlan's liner for the final out of a 5-4 Red Sox win last night that ended the team's six-game losing streak.
Instead, it was just beginning, as the Sox were left to contemplate an extended absence for Manny Ramírez, the left fielder who returned to the lineup to play on a tender right hamstring but left in the fourth inning because of soreness in his right knee.
Ramírez will undergo tests this morning, including an MRI, said manager Terry Francona, who did not have much detail to offer on the condition of Ramírez's knee but looked and sounded concerned that this may be more than a minor tweak. Indeed, it raised the possibility that a Baseball Prospectus website report by Will Carroll that surfaced during the All-Star break, that Ramírez has been playing with a small tear in his meniscus -- the same injury that has sidelined catcher Jason Varitek -- will be proven correct.
All of that is speculative, of course, but the reality is that the Sox cannot afford to lose Ramírez, who was batting .377 with 10 home runs and 35 RBIs over his last 42 games dating to July 8, for any time if they expect to qualify for postseason play. With the Yankees, White Sox, and Twins all winning last night, the Sox' position in the standings remained unchanged: With 36 games left, they're 6 1/2 behind the Yankees in the American League East, and four behind the White Sox and 3 1/2 behind the Twins in the wild-card race.
``He said something to Millsie [bench coach Brad Mills]," Francona said of Ramírez. ``He didn't want to come out. But we could see it was grabbing at him. Their [the Angels'] orthopedist came and looked at him, and we have to get him checked out in the morning."
Last night's win, which ended the team's longest losing streak since they dropped nine straight under Joe Kerrigan in 2001, was not easily achieved. Two-run home runs by David Ortiz and Wily Mo Peña and an RBI single by Crisp helped the Sox build a 5-1 lead, and after the Angels closed to within a pair of runs against starter Jon Lester, the Sox' bullpen held on.
Mike Timlin pitched out of a bases-loaded jam of his own making in the seventh and Keith Foulke got two outs in the eighth before Jonathan Papelbon whiffed former Sox shortstop Orlando Cabrera with the tying run on third in the eighth, and Papelbon set down the last three Angels in order in the ninth.
The Sox won despite just one hit in the last 7 2/3 innings off Kelvim Escobar (eight innings) and Hector Carrasco.
``We're not down and out, we're not dead," said Timlin, who retired Tim Salmon on a called third strike and forced Quinlan at the plate on a tapper in front of the mound by Howie Kendrick.
``We know that one good week and we're back in it. A week where we have four or five wins, and they have three or four losses, we're right back there. Time's not flying. We know what we need to do. We're not watching the Yankees, we're watching the Red Sox."
Salmon did not swing the bat once during his at-bat against Timlin. ``I think he was looking inside," Timlin said. ``And I never threw him anything inside. That was part of the plan. The history between us, I've lived inside. Tonight, I didn't."
The Angels, who were 2 for 14 with runners in scoring position, had loaded the bases on a double by Cabrera, a walk, and a single by Quinlan.
In the eighth, after Foulke had struck out Mike Napoli, Chone Figgins singled, stole second, and reached third on an infield out. But Papelbon struck out Cabrera swinging, then set down the last three Angels in order for his 33d save, four short of Kaz Sasaki's rookie record.
``Foulke getting two outs and getting us to Paps is what we desperately needed," Francona said.
When Francona emerged from the dugout, lineup card in hand, and walked toward home plate umpire Larry Young after the Sox batted in the fourth inning, the assumption was there could be no good purpose to his stroll, and there wasn't. Francona was informing Young that Ramírez, who had begun the game batting cleanup and playing left field, was being lifted.
The assumption was that Ramírez had decided after chasing down Cabrera's double and Juan Rivera's two-run single in the third that his tender right hamstring wasn't up for further exertion. Ramírez had batted twice to that point, grounding out each time and jogging down the first base line upon contact. But the announcement in the pressbox was that Ramirez had come out with a sore right knee.
Francona said he had thought about having Ramírez, who sat out Tuesday night's loss after playing a half-game against the Yankees Monday, serve as designated hitter instead of playing the outfield, but didn't want to weaken his defense against the aggressive Angels. But minus Ramírez, Peña flipped from right field to left, and Eric Hinske, the newcomer from Toronto, was installed in right field and in the fourth spot in the order.
Ortiz had given the Sox a 2-0 lead when he followed a single and stolen base by Crisp with a home run, his 45th of the season and eighth of the month. The last Sox player to hit 45 in a season? Ramírez, last season, Ortiz drawing into a tie for fourth place on the Sox' all-time list.
Peña, duplicated Ortiz's blast by homering after a single by Mike Lowell to open the second. Javy Lopez followed with a double, was bunted to third by Alex Cora, and scored on Crisp's single.
Escobar then set down the next 11 Sox batters in order until Hinske opened the sixth with a single, but he was quickly erased on a double-play ball hit by Kevin Youkilis.
The Angels, meanwhile, touched Lester for a run in the first on Cabrera's two-out walk and Vladimir Guerrero's double, though Lester put an end to the uprising by picking off Guerrero, who broke prematurely from second on a steal attempt.
The Angels scored twice more in the third, Jose Molina blooping a single and Cabrera two batters later hitting a ground ball past a diving Lowell into the left-field corner. Guerrero was given an intentional walk to load the bases, and Rivera followed by lining a two-run single to left.
Lester, who did not have a clean inning among the five he pitched, walked Maicer Izturis to start the fifth, followed by a Cabrera single. But Guerrero grounded into a double play, rookie second baseman Dustin Pedroia making the turn, and Rivera popped out to end the inning.
Julian Tavarez replaced Lester at the start of the sixth.