(Sports Network) - Manny Ramirez returns to one of his old stomping grounds in a new uniform when the former Boston star leads the Chicago White Sox into Fenway Park for a key three-game series with the Red Sox that begins tonight.
Ramirez spent eight memorable seasons with the Red Sox and played a big part in the franchise's World Series titles in both 2004 and 2007. The veteran slugger's tenure with the organization did not end well, however, with Ramirez often at odds with management over his contract and various other issues, and Boston traded the 12-time All-Star to the Los Angeles Dodgers midway through the 2008 campaign.
The 38-year-old had been recently placed on waivers by the Dodgers after the team fell further back in the National League playoff race, with the White Sox putting in a successful claim for the outfielder on August 30. Ramirez made his Chicago debut Wednesday in Cleveland, going 1-for-3 with a strikeout in his new club's 6-4 victory.
The White Sox trailed 4-1 after seven innings before scoring four times in the eighth to forge ahead, with Paul Konerko's three-run homer off Justin Germano giving Chicago a 5-4 advantage. Alexei Ramirez hit a solo homer earlier in the frame to begin the comeback.
Tony Pena (4-2) was credited with the win after throwing three innings in relief of starter Freddy Garcia, who was removed after the bottom of the fourth due to back spasms. Rookie Chris Sale picked up his first career save with a scoreless ninth.
Ramirez knocked in two runs on the day and Alex Rios also homered for Chicago, which swept the three-game set with the Indians and closed within 3 1/2 games of Minnesota for first place in the American League Central.
"It's nice, it's needed," Konerko said of the sweep. "Minnesota you always have to assume is going to win their games. The only time we can control what they're going to do is when we play them. We just have to assume they're going to win."
Ramirez will be playing in Fenway for the second time with the opposing team since his acrimonious departure two years ago, having done so with the Dodgers between June 18-20. He went 5-for-12 with a home run over the course of that three-game set.
The former AL batting champion and his new teammates will face a tough test in the opener, with Boston sending Cy Young Award candidate Clay Buchholz to the hill this evening. The All-Star hurler sports a 15-5 record along with a stellar 2.21 earned run average -- tops in the majors at the moment -- and enters this outing carrying a seven-start unbeaten streak.
Buchholz is 5-0 with a 1.07 ERA during that undefeated stretch and has permitted one run or less in all but one of those appearances. The right- hander was stuck with a no-decision in Boston's 3-2 loss at Tampa Bay last Saturday, but still held the Rays to two runs -- one earned -- and just four hits over 7 1/3 effective innings.
The 26-year-old, who hasn't taken a loss since July 21 at Oakland, has not fared well in previous matchups with the White Sox, however. Buchholz was pounded for seven runs in just 4 2/3 innings by Chicago last season at Fenway Park, and surrendered five runs and seven hits over three frames in a setback at U.S. Cellular Field back in 2008.
Boston returns home after going 3-3 on a six-game road trip through Tampa Bay and Baltimore, closing out the swing with a pair of victories over the lowly Orioles. The Red Sox scored five second-inning runs en route to a 6-4 triumph in last night's finale, with David Ortiz's two-RBI single highlighting the uprising.
"We got after them early," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "David's two- out hit was huge."
Adrian Beltre had a solo homer and Ryan Kalish added an RBI double during the big second inning, while Daisuke Matsuzaka (9-4) pitched into the bottom of the sixth to notch his ninth win of the season. The Japanese star was touched for four runs over 5 2/3 frames, but struck out six while walking just one batter.
Jonathan Papelbon encountered some trouble in the ninth, allowing two Baltimore runners to reach base with one out, but the Boston closer settled down to strike out the game's final two hitters and record his 35th save.
The win moved the Red Sox within 6 1/2 games of idle Tampa Bay for the lead in the AL Wild Card standings.
Boston will take its swings tonight off John Danks, who'll be seeking to rebound from a poor performance against the New York Yankees in his most recent start. The Chicago lefty was battered for eight runs and served up three homers in just 4 1/3 innings versus the Bronx Bombers, falling to 12-9 on the season with the loss.
Danks also hasn't had much success when taking on the Red Sox in the past, having compiled a 1-4 record and a 5.08 ERA over five lifetime starts in this series. He did best the Red Sox at Fenway Park last season, however, after allowing just two runs and fanning six over six innings.
Tonight's game marks the first meeting between these teams this season. The Red Sox and White Sox split eight contests in 2009, with Boston taking three of the four held at Fenway Park.