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06/16/08 11:04 PM ET

Colon, Red Sox thumped by Phillies

Starter gives up three homers, leaves early with stiff back

PHILADELPHIA -- Billed by some as a possible World Series matchup four months from now, nobody could be more pleased than the Red Sox that Monday night's contest between division leaders had nothing close to October ramifications.

Playing the opener of a three-game series against the National League East-leading Phillies, the Red Sox were simply overmatched and outslugged in this one.

Bartolo Colon, who lasted just four innings because of back stiffness, gave up six hits and four runs, including three homers.

Ryan Howard destroyed Boston's pitching staff, belting two homers and adding an RBI triple in the sixth that pinned an 8-2 loss on the Sox. On a night Cole Hamels had everything going for the Phillies, it was a bad night for the visitors to have such an early deficit.

Hamels limited the Red Sox to seven hits and two runs over seven-plus innings, walking two and striking out five.

"We knew coming in that they have a good lineup," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "If you walk people and you don't locate, they have a chance to put a lot of runs up. Their pitcher is very good, not the guy you want to fall behind on. They knocked us around. We'll show up [Tuesday] and see how we do."

As for Colon, he injured himself not pitching, but on a mighty cut of all things. At the plate with two on and two outs in the fourth, Colon swung so hard that his helmet flew off.

Therein lies the peril of Interleague Play for an American League team playing on the road. It was the first time Colon was asked to swing a bat all season.

"I'm just trying to hit the ball," Colon said through interpreter Luis Alicea. "I'm not thinking about getting hurt."

The Red Sox have an off-day on Thursday and are sliding Daisuke Matsuzaka back into the rotation on Saturday, meaning that Colon isn't scheduled to pitch until next Monday at Fenway against Arizona. Will he be ready to go?

"I feel that with the therapy, I should be able to make my next start," said Colon.

The 44-29 Red Sox lead the Rays by two games in the American League East.

Looking nothing like the guy who had largely thrived since joining the Red Sox, Colon was hit hard right out of the gate. Jimmy Rollins led off the bottom of the first with a homer to left. Three batters later, Howard smashed a two-run shot to left and just like that, the Sox were down, 3-0.

Again, it was Howard who came through with a big swing in the third, unloading for a solo smash to left-center.

From his vantage point behind the plate, Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek could tell that Colon didn't have the stuff that led to his 4-1 start.

"He'd throw his four seamer, it would sink," said Varitek. "He'd throw his sinker, it would sink farther than he'd want. He had a day where it was really the only time ... he didn't have any feel for the ball."

The Red Sox were quiet early, but came through with some big swings in the fifth. Dustin Pedroia and the sizzling J.D. Drew smashed back-to-back solo homers to cut the deficit to 4-2.

Any momentum the Red Sox had built was upended in the sixth, when the Phillies came up with four hits and four runs against Mike Timlin, whose ERA swelled to 7.06 ERA.

"His cutter wouldn't cut and he couldn't get the ball down," said Varitek. "I don't know exactly what it was. He just had a tough feel."

The Red Sox were able to get some clean relief out of David Aardsma (1 1/3 scoreless) and Hideki Okajima (perfect eighth). But by then, it was too late.

Still, Francona is hoping that Okajima's strong inning will serve as a confidence booster.

"Kind of a stress-free inning," Francona said. "He threw the ball well, and that was good for him. That's why we did it. The hope is when you bring in a guy in a situation like that, he doesn't have a 30-pitch inning. And he did a good job. That was good for him."

The Red Sox hope they can rebound just like they did in Cincinnati where, after losing the opener, they won the last two.

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.