BOSTON – David Ortiz gave the AL East-leading Baltimore Orioles a taste of what Boston’s other rivals got during last year’s World Series run.

The Red Sox designated hitter hit a game-winning homer on a full count with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning Thursday, giving Boston a 6-4 victory over Baltimore. It was the fifth game-ending homer of Ortiz’s career – including two in the 2004 playoffs.

“He’s getting comfortable with being in that situation,” Boston manager Terry Francona said. “Like a basketball player who takes the shot at the buzzer, he relishes that. And he’s taken a lot of good swings.”

The Orioles took the lead in the top of the ninth without hitting a ball out of the infield against Keith Foulke (3-3), scoring the tiebreaking run when Rafael Palmeiro beat out a potential double-play ball. But Mark Bellhorn reached on an infield single to third with one out in the bottom half and, with two outs, Edgar Renteria bunted for a single. Ortiz worked the count to 3-1, swung and missed once, fouled another off and then hit the seventh pitch he saw from B.J. Ryan (0-1) into the center-field bleachers. Ortiz was greeted at home plate by a bouncing throng of teammates – a scene that became familiar during last year’s playoffs.

“That’s the only way I can get people to know who I am – going out there and producing,” Ortiz said.

Asked if he really thought there was anyone in Boston who didn’t know him, Ortiz cracked, “A child that’s just born today.”

It was Ortiz’s 13th homer of the year, but the first for Boston in four games.

“You’re a pitch away from getting out of it,” Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli said. “Didn’t happen.”

The Red Sox, the only team in the majors without an extra-inning game this season, earned a four-game split to remain three games behind the Orioles in the division. Baltimore had finished fourth six consecutive times before coming in third last year behind the Yankees and Red Sox.

“I think Baltimore is in it to stay,” said Red Sox starter Matt Clement, who failed in his attempt to improve to 7-0.

Baltimore’s David Newhan led off the ninth with a slow grounder to third that he beat out for a single. He stole second and went to third on Melvin Mora’s sacrifice bunt.

Foulke intentionally walked Miguel Tejada to get to Sammy Sosa, but Sosa took six consecutive pitches for a walk that loaded the bases. Palmeiro followed with a slow grounder to second for an easy force, but Renteria’s relay from shortstop wasn’t in time to keep the tiebreaking run from scoring.

Jay Gibbons homered for the Orioles. Twenty-year-old Hayden Penn lasted 5 1-3 innings and left with the game tied 3-3.

Leading off instead of Johnny Damon, Kevin Youkilis doubled and scored in the first. But the Orioles tied it on Gibbons’ ninth homer.

Jason Varitek hit a two-run double in the fourth to make it 3-1 before Baltimore tied it in the sixth when Sosa walked, Palmeiro singled and B.J. Surhoff doubled them both home – still with nobody out. Clement got the next three batters to escape further damage.

Surhoff had three hits for the Orioles.

Baltimore put runners on first and third in the fourth but Gibbons grounded out to end the inning.

Notes: Pete Damon, a retired Army sergeant who lost both arms in an explosion in Iraq, threw out the first pitch using a prosthetic left arm. … The game was a makeup of an April 27 rainout. … Ortiz beat out a grounder in the seventh when pitcher Steve Kline failed to cover first, for an error. But Manny Ramirez grounded out with the bases loaded to end the inning. … Newhan went 5-for-15 in Boston. … Surhoff is 4-for-7 in his career against Clement.

AP-ES-06-02-05 1752EDT

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