There was a time, not so long ago, that a series against the Orioles was a humbling experience. A dressing-down of the highest order. A collective “hands across the jimmies, boys, this one’s gonna hurt.” Put simply, in the tightest of races, the last place we wanted to be heading was Baltimore, where many a midsummer’s evening was ruined by the sight of Rodrigo Lopez and Miggy Tejada running off, arm in arm, with our lunch money.

For now, that era appears to be over.

Yesterday’s 10-3 pasting was the latest evidence of this, the exclamation point on a three-game sweep that saw the offense come alive in ways I’d only prayed about over the last six weeks. Youkilis continues to be a man possessed at the plate, going three-for-five and getting me all hot and bothered with the prospects of what he’s gonna do when Crisp comes back and we drop his firepower toward the bottom of the line-up. Mark “The Invisible Bat” Loretta had a couple hits. And, of course, our man Tek put the game away in the first inning with a grand slam.

As always, there were a few things that left us scratching our heads. Like what’s up with Papi, who seems a bit lost at the plate? And when is someone in the front office going to wise up and have Tavarez drugged, gagged and tied to a deep-space probe?

I will say this: The person who made the greatest impression on me throughout this weekend series was El Bencho himself. In an age in which players routinely bad-mouth the teams that trade them or don’t resign them for outrageous sacks of cash, citing a “lack of respect” or “another example of The Man keeping me down,” it’s refreshing to hear Millar confess, “Dudes, if I didn’t suck, I’d still be in Boston.”

Next stop: Wonderland. Featuring Josh Beckett vs. Randy Johnson.