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Ship-shape sweep

Red Sox pound Rays for sweep

BOSTON -- The Red Sox righted two ships in Thursday night's 15-4 rout of the Devil Rays: Boston's dormant offensive juggernaut and possible All-Star starter Josh Beckett.

Through three innings, the Red Sox pushed across as many runs, 13, as they had scored in any game since a 14-3 win against Seattle on April 10. Beckett, who was coming off an uncharacteristic shelling by the Rangers, struck out nine Rays batters and allowed three runs in six innings. He could have gone longer, according to manager Terry Francona.

"I think on any other night we could certainly send him back out [for the seventh]," Francona said. "It just didn't seem necessary tonight or seem to make sense to do that."

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"These guys never cease to amaze me with the way they swing the bats," Beckett said. "It was big to get that big lead early and go out there and throw strikes ... and not worry about setting guys up too much."

With the win, two members of the Red Sox strengthened their cases to start the annual Midsummer Classic, which takes place Tuesday in San Francisco.

On a day when rival C.C. Sabathia was hammered by the Tigers, Beckett won his 12th decision. That ticketed him for an exclusive group: 17 Red Sox pitchers have now won 12 games before the break, including such luminaries as Roger Clemens, Pedro Martinez, Luis Tiant and Lefty Grove.

And then there was Mike Lowell. The Red Sox third baseman, who could replace the injured Alex Rodriguez at the All-Star hot corner, belted a career-high five hits, collected five RBIs and roped a second-inning three-run homer over the Green Monster.

"It was a changeup and he left it up in the zone, inner third," Lowell said of his shot that stayed just fair of the left-field foul pole. "I knew I squared it up well. I thought it was going to hook for a while ... and I thought about [Carlton] Fisk. I was thinking of trying to edge it over there, but it stayed straight. Good feeling."

The game went three hours and 36 minutes -- "so it's lucky we're on a good side of it today," said center fielder Coco Crisp -- as fans and players braved rain in the later innings. Nevertheless, the Red Sox removed most of the drama from the proceeding in a matter of minutes.

Crisp started the damage early. Playing in his third game since resting nearly a week with a left thumb injury, Crisp walked to the plate with the bases loaded and lofted a first-inning fastball off the Coke bottles in left field.

The home run, his second career grand slam and first with Boston, gave the Red Sox a 6-0 lead with one down in the first inning.

"I kind of missed it just a little bit," said Crisp, who would actually come to the plate three more times during the game with the bases loaded. "And that's why you get it so far in the air. I still hit it well."

The Red Sox totaled 15 runs on 21 hits, both season highs, the latter marking their highest total since Sept. 20, 2005. The lineup batted around more than six times and loaded the bases a half dozen times.

With the win, Boston completed a three-game sweep of the Devil Rays. Tampa Bay has lost 11 straight games.

Alex McPhillips is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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