By HOWARD ULMAN, AP Sports Writer
BOSTON (AP) _ Two months ago the Red Sox hit bottom. Now they’re playing sky high.
Boston won its fifth straight series with a 10-4 win Wednesday over the Toronto Blue Jays with six runs in the first inning
against a wild Ricky Romero and with the help of David Ortiz’s 399th career homer.
After blowing a nine-run lead and losing to the New York Yankees 15-9 on April 21, the Red Sox were at 4-10 and manager Bobby Valentine said, “If this isn’t bottom, we’ll find some new ends to the earth.”
They immediately turned it around with six straight wins and have the AL’s third best record, 36-25, since that low point.
“I wasn’t sure” that would be the bottom, Valentine said after Wednesday’s win, “but I believed it. Things were going so wrong and we couldn’t catch a break. … I think things turned around because guys believed it, too.”
Believing and improving, though, are two different things.
“We all knew that that was the cellar and it was not going to get any worse,” Cody Ross said. “You still have to go out and play and perform and since then we’ve been having fun. Our main thing is to win series. We did that here. Now we can go on the road with some confidence and make a run before the All-Star break.”
The Red Sox are at their highest point in the standings, a season-best five games over .500 at 40-35. They’re tied with Tampa Bay for third place in the AL East, the first time this year they’re not in fourth or fifth.
Boston went 7-2 on the homestand, starting with a three-game sweep of Miami, after opening 14-19 at Fenway Park.
“We got off on the right foot against the Marlins and just kept going, scoring runs, pitching well, playing good defense,” Ross said.
Adrian Gonzalez had three RBIs and finished the homestand at 12 for 36 to raise his batting average to .296. Mike Aviles drove in two runs as the Red Sox improved to 9-2 in their last 11 games.
Jon Lester (5-5) fell behind 1-0 in the first when he allowed a run-scoring single to Colby Rasmus, but the Red Sox scored all the runs they needed in the bottom half as Romero (8-2) threw 16 balls on his first 19 pitches.
“I’m just embarrassed in myself more than anything. I feel like I let the team down,” Romero said. “Right now when I’m missing, I’m missing bad. I’m not even coming close. “
Boston went ahead 7-1 in the second when Ortiz and Ross walked on 3-1 pitches and Gonzalez hit an RBI single.
Jose Bautista hit a solo shot, his major-league leading 25th homer of the season, off Lester in the fourth.
“We’re up 7-0,” Lester said. “At 3-and-2 I’m going to challenge him and take my chances. … I’m not going to walk him.
I’m not going to give him a chance to get on base and bring up (Edwin) Encarnacion and give up a two-run homer. I’d rather give up a solo shot.”
The Red Sox struck back with two runs in the bottom of the inning. Gonzalez singled in one and Aviles doubled in the other. Ortiz made it 10-2 in the fifth with his 21st homer of the year.
His 399 career homers are tied for 49th with Andres Galarraga and Al Kaline. Duke Snider is 48th with 407.
Lester, who was just 1-2 in his previous six starts, retired eight consecutive batters before running into trouble with two outs in the sixth. He allowed a double to Bautista followed by Encarnacion’s 22nd homer.
Lester pitched seven innings, striking out four with no walks, seven hits and four runs.
Romero was in trouble from the start. He had averaged 4.4 walks per nine innings this season but walked a total of just nine batters in his previous four starts.
“He never really had a chance to establish any kind of rhythm or any one given pitch to a certain spot in the strike zone where he could go get a strike against a team that can obviously swing the bats really well,” Toronto manager John Farrell said.
On Wednesday, Romero left after giving up six walks, seven hits and nine runs in three-plus innings.
He walked leadoff batter Daniel Nava on four pitches in the first then threw two balls to Dustin Pedroia before his first
strike. Pedroia doubled in Nava and the next batter, Ortiz, walked on four pitches before Romero started Ross with two more balls.
Ross then singled, loading the bases, and Gonzalez reached on an error by third baseman Encarnacion, allowing Pedroia and Ortiz to score. Will Middlebrooks followed with an RBI groundout, Aviles singled in one run and Darnell McDonald singled in another, making it 6-1.
Notes: Gonzalez has an eight-game hitting streak. … Toronto, in last place in the AL East, dropped two games behind Boston … Romero was 4-0 in his last seven starts but had given up at least four runs in each of his last six games. Wednesday’s start was his shortest of the season and the runs allowed were his most…. Bautista leads the majors with 16 road homers. … RHP Henderson Alvarez, who left Monday night’s 9-6 Toronto win with right elbow soreness, is expected to start on Saturday after undergoing an MRI that shows some inflammation, Farrell said.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)