Picking up The Slack

After a couple of cold weeks in the middle of May, Manny Ramirez is swinging a hot bat again.

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He looks to extend his hitting streak to 13 games Sunday and help the Boston Red Sox do something they couldn't in Seattle - score off Mariners starter Erik Bedard - when the teams conclude their three-game series at Fenway Park.

Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made Boston -120 money line favorites (MLB Odds) for tonight's game, the over/under has been set at 9.5 total runs (Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 64% of bets for this game have been placed on Boston –120 (View MLB Bet Percentages).

Possibly pressing as he approached 500 career home runs, Ramirez endured a 9-for-53 (.170) spell in 14 games from May 7-23, producing only one home run and four RBIs in that span as his season average fell to .280.

In the 12 games since then, though, Boston's left fielder has been back to his old self. He's gone 18-for-46 (.391) with six homers - including No. 500 on May 31 at Baltimore - and 19 RBIs. He's had at least one hit in each of those games to raise his average back to .303.

Ramirez, who sparred with teammate Kevin Youkilis in the dugout during Thursday's win over Tampa Bay and sat out Friday's series opener with a sore right hamstring, returned to the lineup Saturday and hit a two-run homer - his 504th - to lead the Red Sox (39-26) to an 11-3 victory, their fourth win in five games and seventh in nine.

Boston right fielder J.D. Drew has also been hot. Drew went 3-for-5 with a homer and a triple Saturday. He's had at least one hit in all seven games in June, going 13-for-24 (.542) with three homers and three doubles in that stretch.

"You have times during your season when you're going through a good stretch and you feel like you're seeing the ball better," Drew told the Red Sox's official Web site. "And those are nice times because there are often times when it's tough because you're up there battling to get the hit."

Ramirez went 1-for-3 at Seattle on May 28, but his single was one of only two hits the Red Sox could mount against Bedard (4-4, 4.47 ERA) in a 1-0 defeat. Bedard limited Boston to the two hits and three walks over seven innings while striking out eight. He improved to 5-4 with a 4.43 ERA in his career versus Boston.

No current Red Sox hitter has fared particularly well against Bedard, with Julio Lugo's .250 (8-for-32) average the highest versus the left-hander. Ramirez is 5-for-23 (.217) with no homers and eight strikeouts in their meetings.

Although he was dominant on May 28, Bedard has been slumping overall, failing to last through the fifth inning in three of his last five outings. He pitched only 3 1-3 innings of Tuesday's 5-4 loss to the Los Angeles Angels, surrendering five runs and seven hits and three walks before getting booed off the mound by the Seattle fans.

"I didn't think he had his best stuff. And I just felt like we couldn't give up any more runs,'' Mariners manager John McLaren said of his decision to pull Bedard.

Red Sox rookie starter Justin Masterson (2-0, 2.95) will try to continue the impressive start to his major league career as he faces Seattle (22-40) for the first time. The 23-year-old right-hander has lasted at least six innings in each of his three starts while limiting opponents to a .175 batting average.

Masterson pitched six innings Tuesday in a 7-4 win over Tampa Bay, allowing four runs and six hits.

Saturday's loss was the 13th in 17 games for the Mariners, although three of their wins in that span have come in five meetings with the Red Sox.

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