ARLINGTON -- Not once has Josh Beckett complained about his lack of run support this season, even though his nine no-decisions have taken at least a little luster away from one of the most consistent summers of his career.
Instead, Beckett has gone about his business and given his team a quality effort nearly every time he's pitched. There was a big reward for his latest strong performance on Wednesday night, as the Red Sox erupted early and often en route to a 13-2 victory over the Rangers.
The win, coupled with the Yankees' 6-4 loss in 10 innings to the A's, gives the Red Sox sole possession of first place in the American League East.
"I think there's more significance to what food is being served in [the clubhouse] tonight," quipped manager Terry Francona.
Yes, there are still 33 games left in the regular season and the Red Sox are in prime position to qualify for the postseason, whether it is as the division champ or the Wild Card team.
In truth, the Red Sox focus a lot more on each day's game than the big picture of the pennant race. And there was a lot they could like about this game.
For the second night in a row, the Boston bats exploded, following up Tuesday's 14-hit attack with another 16 in this one.
For the second night in a row, everyone in Boston's lineup had at least one hit. Jacoby Ellsbury put together a three-hit night from the leadoff spot in his second game back after missing three.
David Ortiz, making his return to the lineup after a nine-game absence, had two hits and scored twice. Carl Crawford went deep and equaled a career high with five RBIs. Adrian Gonzalez (two-run homer) and Dustin Pedroia both had multihit games. In fact, Pedroia came out in the bottom of the sixth for rest, with the Sox leading 9-1.
"We've got a few guys back in the lineup," said Crawford. "We've got Jacoby back and Big Papi back. Whenever you can have both of those back healthy, we kind of feed off that. It definitely gives the lineup a boost. We've been all swinging the bat pretty good."
Facing one of the toughest lineups in the Major Leagues, Beckett not only got the opportunity to breathe a little, but he could actually breathe a lot.
In an outing that had less stress than any other game Beckett has pitched this season, the righty had a 4-0 lead before he even threw a pitch.
"He did something with it, too. He didn't go out there and get lazy with the strike zone," Francona said. "He pumped strikes and he threw all his pitches and he kept them off the scoreboard, which is good."
This was a far cry from recent weeks, when the Red Sox had scored four runs or less in Beckett's last seven starts, not to mention 10 of the last 11. He came into the game with a run support of 3.73, easily the lowest of any Boston starter.
Despite the cushion, Beckett had no trouble staying focused.
"They can put some crooked numbers up, not only with their lineup, but also in this ballpark," Beckett said.
Over six innings, Beckett allowed four hits and one run, walking two and striking out four. He threw 110 pitches, 67 for strikes. The righty is 11-5 with a 2.43 ERA.
The most stressful thing that happened to Beckett was over in an instant. Ian Kinsler hit a rocket of a line drive back toward the box, and Beckett flicked his glove up and caught it, saving him from being hit in the neck or face.
"I didn't catch that ball -- that ball caught me," said Beckett. "The umpire, he said, 'Are you OK?' I said, 'I'm fine. I need to change my underwear.' He started laughing."
This one had a different feel from other Beckett starts right from the outset. Pedroia laced an RBI single to left to put the Red Sox on the board with one out in the first. Ortiz hit the first pitch he saw into right field for an RBI single. Crawford capped the first-inning rally with a two-run double to right, as Ortiz ran past third-base coach Tim Bogar's stop sign and scored only because catcher Mike Napoli dropped the throw home.
Was it the looming presence of Ortiz that forced Napoli to drop the throw?
"He felt the earthquake coming in," quipped Big Papi.
In the second, Pedroia extended the lead to 5-0 against Rangers starter Matt Harrison, ripping an RBI single to left.
Much like in Tuesday's game, the Boston bats created a steamroll effect. Marco Scutaro came through in the fourth, slamming an RBI double.
The Rangers, held hitless by Beckett over the first three innings, made some noise in the fourth, when Napoli belted a shoulder-high pitch by Beckett over the wall in left for a solo homer.
"The ball that Napoli hit was neck high," Francona said. "Not sure what to throw him. Sometimes it just seems like if he's going to hit it, he's going to hit it."
However, Napoli's blast didn't create any kind of momentum swing. Back came the Red Sox for a run in the fifth on a sacrifice fly by Crawford, and then two in the sixth on a two-run shot by Ellsbury.
"Our offense, we scored in seven of the nine innings," Ellsbury said. "We kept putting pressure on them. Anytime you do that, it wears down their pitchers. It was just a great game from us on both sides of the ball."
A thorough rout was in motion by the seventh, when Crawford laced a two-run homer to center to make it 11-1 Boston.
"If you play a team like that, you've got to match their pitching," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "If you don't, the game will get away from you, and it got away from us tonight."