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Crisp offense comes to life for Red Sox

Crisp offense comes to life for Sox

BOSTON -- Was it the brief team meeting, held after batting practice? Was it the fire caused by watching J.D. Drew lose a three-run homer on a controversial call by third-base umpire Tim McClelland? Was it simply the sheer heat generated by Josh Beckett's right arm? Was it an offense that was long overdue for a breakout finally getting one?

Whatever the case, there was something different about the Red Sox on Friday night at Fenway Park. The home team simply looked revved up in downing the White Sox, 10-3.

"You've got 37,000 people that desperately want you to win pretty much every night here," said Beckett. "If it was up to us, we'd win all of them, but unfortunately, it's a long season, and you're going to go through times when you're not doing all the things well that you need to win every game."

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Beckett blazed his way to a season-high 10 strikeouts over six innings to run his record to 13-3. He was backed by an offense that produced 10 hits, including a game-breaking grand slam by the revived Julio Lugo in the bottom of the eighth.

As for the Red Sox themselves, they looked nothing like the team that had lost eight of 11 coming in and had posted a 20-24 record since May 30.

"This is a team that's going to go by feeling," said Lugo. "Today was a good sign. Everyone did their job, everyone contributed, our pitching was great. That's the way we've got to play."

The win increased Boston's lead back to eight games over the Yankees in the American League East.

According to a couple of players, the meeting held by manager Terry Francona before the game was more of a refresher course than a Knute Rockne chair-throwing event.

"We all know what we need to do," said second baseman Dustin Pedroia. "We just got reminded of it. That's big. We have to come out [on Saturday] and try to win again. Hopefully, today's game will carry over."

Francona wasn't around to do much managing after his meeting.

Looking for an early spark, the Red Sox got what sure looked to be a three-run homer by Drew in the bottom of the first. The ball, as several television replays revealed, deflected off the ledge just above the top of the Green Monster before bouncing back into play. But McClelland ruled that it hit below the top of the wall.

A confused Manny Ramirez was tagged out at home, and Drew was left to settle for an RBI double. Francona was ejected after arguing the play.

LUGO CATCHING FIRE
By going 3-for-4 vs. the White Sox on Friday night, Julio Lugo extended his hitting streak to 10 games. In this stretch, which began on July 8, he is batting .500 (19-for-38), the highest in the Majors over that span:
Player
Team
Average
Julio LugoRed Sox.500
Aaron RowandPhillies.485
Pat BurrellPhillies.464
Nick MarkakisOrioles.444
Delmon YoungDevil Rays.405
Lugo's eighth-inning grand slam was the third of his career and first since June 13, 2003.
"To be perfectly honest, I wasn't in a real listening mood," Francona said. "I think I'm stating the obvious when I say that I was disappointed with the call. I've been talking ad nauseum about getting a two-out hit, and then to take two runs off the board, that's not easy to take."

Mike Port, the former Red Sox executive who is now the vice president of umpiring for Major League Baseball, conceded that the umpiring crew missed the call.

"The replay indicated that [the umpires] did not rule on it correctly," said Port. "But the replay is from an angle that people down on the field do not have. So as the umpires would say, it is what it is, and they are not happy about such mistakes, and then they regroup."

That's what the Red Sox did.

Initially, at least, the controversy seemed to take momentum away from the Red Sox. Jim Thome unloaded on a 94-mph offering from Beckett and belted it over the wall in center for a three-run homer.

But the Boston bats put together a stirring rally in the bottom of the fifth against White Sox starter Jose Contreras. Jason Varitek led off with a walk, and then Eric Hinske, noticing an overshift, dropped a bunt down the completely vacated third-base line and into left for a single. Lugo also bunted for a hit, giving the Red Sox the bases loaded and nobody out.

That set the stage for Coco Crisp, who blasted a three-run triple down the line in right field to put the Red Sox back in front, 4-3.

"It's just the way it goes. Sometimes you're able to just put the ball in the right place where it falls in for an extra-base hit," Crisp said. "For me, I'm able to stretch it out in some of those situations."

And for those who haven't noticed, Crisp has emerged into a dynamic player of late, essentially the guy they thought they were acquiring from Cleveland in January 2006. Over his last 28 games, Crisp is hitting .356 with five doubles, five triples, four homers and 17 RBIs.

"He's been swinging the bat well," said Pedroia. "He's sparked our team for a while. He's an exciting player. I know when he does stuff like that, it definitely energizes me and brings life to the team."

An RBI single by David Ortiz scored Crisp. Ortiz was thrown out trying to stretch the hit to a double, but the Red Sox had done the necessary damage.

The most painful thing about the Ortiz slide is that he wound up being injured on the play. He left the game with a left shoulder strain, and Alex Cora pinch-hit for him in the seventh. Fortunately, the injury does not appear serious, and the Red Sox expect Ortiz to be back in the lineup in a day or two.

Aside from the misfire to Thome in the third, Beckett was dominant, allowing just four hits.

His night came to a satisfying end. A.J. Pierzynski lofted one off the wall in left-center, and Crisp made a perfect throw to second to nail him stretching. Beckett pumped his fist heartily and then waited to congratulate Crisp before retreating to the dugout.

"It always feels good," said Crisp. "I take pride in playing defense. It helped Beckett out, he had a high pitch count right there, and it hit off the wall and I was able to play the direction off of it right. It definitely feels good to actually throw somebody out."

Boston put the game out of reach in the eighth, thanks to Lugo's grand slam.

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

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