Red Sox send White Sox down to AL Central cellar with win

Turning point: With the bases loaded with no outs in the top of the ninth, Boston closer Jonathan Papelbon put the clamps on a potential White Sox run by striking out Jim Thome and forcing Paul Konerko into a game-ending 5-4-3 double play.

Soiled Sox: With the loss, the White Sox fell into a tie for last place in the AL Central with the Kansas City Royals.

Figure this: Wakefield became the first pitcher to start the season with 20 straight decisions since Houston's Shane Reynolds in 2001.

Quotable: "We finished the day like we set out to do -- it wasn't very easy, but sometimes it's not." -- Red Sox manager Terry Francona

-- ESPN.com news services

Red Sox 8, White Sox 5

BOSTON (AP) -- Manny might be back to being Manny, but it was Boston's bullpen that allowed the Red Sox to finish their longest homestand of the season on a positive note.

Manny Ramirez homered and drove in four runs, Mike Lowell added a three-run shot and the Red Sox held on for their third straight win, beating the Chicago White Sox 8-5 on Sunday.

Ramirez, who limped into the All-Star break with 11 homers and 45 RBIs, continued his second-half surge. He went 2-for-2 with three walks, improving to 15-for-39 with four homers and 13 RBIs since the break.

His first-inning homer gave Boston a 3-0 lead, and his sixth-inning RBI single made it 8-1. But the White Sox scored four in the seventh to pull within 8-5.

Boston closer Jonathan Papelbon started the ninth by allowing consecutive singles to Juan Uribe and Jerry Owens. Alex Cintron then walked to load the bases, but Papelbon notched his 22nd save in 23 chances by striking out Jim Thome and getting Konerko to hit into a double play.

"That was agonizing, but it's a heck of a lot better than losing," Boston manager Terry Francona said. "We finished the day like we set out to do -- it wasn't very easy, but sometimes it's not."

After losing to Chicago 4-2 on Thursday, Boston outscored the White Sox 29-10 in the final three games of the series to close out their homestand at 6-5.

Boston's bullpen held Chicago to two runs in 7 2/3 innings during that stretch, getting out of two bases-loaded jams Sunday.

"You can't afford to make a whole lot of mistakes and fall behind on them," Thome said. "They have so much depth all over. We had a couple situations late in the game where we could have tied it or even went ahead, but they're solid."

With the loss, the White Sox fell into a tie for last place in the AL Central with the Kansas City Royals. The White Sox have not been in last place this late in the year since the final day of the 1989 season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Tim Wakefield (11-9) allowed four runs and six hits in 6 1/3 innings for the Red Sox, who have won three straight after losing four of five.

Wakefield struck out two and walked two, becoming the first American League pitcher to start the season with 20 straight decisions since Kansas City's Bret Saberhagen in 1987.

Wakefield coasted through six innings -- allowing just one run on three hits -- before Chicago scored four in the seventh to cut the deficit to 8-5.

The White Sox had the bases loaded with two outs in the seventh, but Manny Delcarmen got Paul Konerko to pop out to first. Hideki Okajima then struck out A.J. Pierzynski to end the inning.

Okajima followed with a scoreless eighth, paving the way for Papelbon.

"Okajima has been effective all year long," Chicago manager Ozzie Guillen said. "I think he's one of the biggest reasons that Boston is still in the fight."

Following a pair of Jon Garland walks, Ramirez gave the Red Sox a 3-0 first-inning lead with a homer to right-center field.

Garland (7-7) allowed six runs and six hits in 4 2/3 innings to snap a three-game road winning streak. He tied a season high with five walks and struck out three.

Josh Fields drove in two runs and Jermaine Dye had two doubles for the White Sox, who finished 4-7 on their longest road trip of the year.

Dye led off the fifth with a double, then scored one out later when Fields lined a single to left-center just outside the outstretched glove of a diving Coco Crisp to make it 3-1.

But Wakefield stranded Fields by getting Uribe and Owens to pop out, and the Red Sox scored three more in the bottom half of the inning.

Garland surrendered two-out walks to Ramirez and J.D. Drew, and Lowell hammered a 1-1 pitch over the Green Monster to give the Red Sox a 6-1 lead. Crisp followed with a single, chasing Garland.

"Its just one of those situations where guys are having big at-bats in key situations and were just going to try and keep it rolling," Boston right fielder J.D. Drew said.

Game notes
Boston LHP Jon Lester will start at Cleveland on Monday. It will be his first major league appearance since beating the Los Angeles Angels on Aug. 23 last year. The Red Sox said nine days later that he had a treatable form of lymphoma. ... Boston DH David Ortiz sat out with a left shoulder strain for the second straight day. An MRI exam taken Saturday showed no structural damage, and Ortiz said he expects to return to the lineup soon. ... Wakefield has lasted at least six innings five straight starts. ... Garland's home run to Ramirez was only the second he's allowed on the road this season. ... Dye snapped an 0-for-10 skid with his fifth-inning double.