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Ellis Burks feels at home again.
And he's showing the Boston Red Sox how happy he is to be back, one month after ankle surgery.
"It was an awful empty feeling when the team left me behind in Florida a couple of weeks ago," Burks says.
"I knew it was best for me to stay and work out in warm weather, but it was difficult when the team flew north," the fleet center fielder added.
Now, with the American League season less than two weeks old, the Milwaukee Brewers wish Burks had stayed in Florida a little longer.
After going 2-for-4 in his debut Tuesday, Burks went 3-for-5 yesterday as the Red Sox beat Milwaukee, 6-3, handing the Brewers a fifth consecutive loss.
After having an infield hit and a stolen base wasted in the first inning, Burks keyed a four-run fifth with a bunt single and then hit a two-run homer in the eighth.
"I was rarin' to get back out there and now I'm happy, although I'm still only running at about 95 percent," Burks said. "I knew the guys were going to have some fun and I wanted to be part of it."
"Having Ellis in the lineup and batting leadoff gives us a new dimension," Boston Manager John McNamara said. "He has outstanding speed, something we haven't had too often, and can do many things to help beat a team."
After being called up from Pawtucket of the International League late last April, Burks set a Boston rookie record by hitting 20 homers and stealing 27 bases.
"I want to better those figures, particularly the stolen bases," he said. "I think I can steal 40 easily. I'm thinking of more walks this year, too. I want to be more selective at the plate."
"That was a nice play by Burks with the bunt and, of course, the home run really hurt after we had closed to within one run," Milwaukee Manager Tom Trebelhorn said.
After Milwaukee took a 1-0 lead in the fifth on Rob Deer's third home run, the Red Sox rebounded in their half of the inning. They scored four runs on a double by John Marzano, Burks' bunt, and RBI single by Marty Barrett, two walks, a hit batsman and Dwight Evans' infield hit.
"Boston was opportunistic," Trebelhorn said. "They put the ball in play when they had to and they took advantage of a couple of walks and the hit batter."
Boston's Dennis "Oil Can" Boyd, 2-0, allowed four hits until he gave up a walk and a single to Jim Gantner with two out in the seventh.
Wes Gardner replaced Boyd and surrendered an RBI single to Dale Sveum. Another run scored on a wild pitch before Gardner put down the rally.
Gardner struck out two and walked one in the eighth. Then, after Burks' homer off reliever Dan Plesac, Lee Smith got the call for the sixth time in eight Boston games.
Smith, acquired from the Chicago Cubs last December, needed just 13 pitches to strike out the side in the Milwaukee ninth, earning his fourth save.
"I was cheer-leading when Ellis hit the home run," Smith said. "I watched it go over (the fence) and that got my juices going a little bit."
The Brewers, who won their first 13 games in 1987, dropped to 2-5, while the Red Sox, 5-3, went two games over .500 for the first time since they won the pennant in 1986.
"With offense and run production, you can overcome a lot of shortcomings, but when you don't score it can make for some dull afternoons," Trebelhorn said.
"Generally," he added, "when a team is in a losing streak it's because they're not scoring runs from day to day. That's what we're going through right now."
The Red Sox had more bad news for the Brewers today, sending ace Roger Clemens, 1-0, to the mound in a series windup. Clemens was scheduled to be opposed by Bill Wegman, 0-1.
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