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Nine-run second nails down sweep

Nine-run second nails down sweep

BOSTON -- Let's just say it wasn't the Rangers' favorite week in New England, namely for the team's starting rotation.

Rarely does a pitching coach like to see his starters last just 8 1/3 total innings in a three-game stretch, nor is it a good sign for the starters to give up 29 runs -- 22 earned -- on 26 hits and eight walks in a single series.

But sure enough, that's exactly what the Texas starters managed against this suddenly unstoppable train known as the Red Sox lineup. Boston put together a nine-run second inning on Thursday and thoroughly deflated its opponent en route to a 10-0 throttling and a three-game sweep at Fenway Park.

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This time around, there was little doubt about the end result. The Boston bats were too good, and Daisuke Matsuzaka was too strong.

It was a typical Dice-K performance. A scattering of hits (six) coupled with a high dose of walks (five). He'll create situations with multiple baserunners, but he'll surely find a way out of it.

"I think he's the best in the game of getting into trouble and getting out of it," Coco Crisp said. "I don't know what it is, but keep doing it though, I guess. He's one of our guys, one of our best guys."

Such was the case on Thursday. Three of Matsuzaka's walks came in the first two innings. He found himself with multiple men on base three times, but somehow managed to keep putting up the goose eggs on the scoreboard.

"During my pregame warmup, I felt that I could continue with the good feeling that I had with the ball over the past couple of starts, but standing there and facing the first batter, I had a different feeling," Matsuzaka said through his interpreter. "I realized it was not going to be that easy today."

Still, he breezed through the contest in a ho-hum fashion only associated with Matsuzaka, who, at 14-2, is just two wins behind Cliff Lee for the American League lead.

Like Jon Lester the night before, Matsuzaka proved too strong for even the toughest of lineups, and in the process, the Sox improved to 7-0 this season against the Rangers. In that span, Boston has outscored Texas a combined 67-35.

The Sox scored 37 in this series alone, much attributed to big innings sprinkled throughout the three-game set. Thursday's happened in the second inning, a nine-spot that quickly put the game out of reach.

"In the second inning, we started falling behind, and it's obvious that you don't fall behind on these guys," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "Because when they're ahead in the count and you have to come across the plate, they don't usually miss, and they didn't miss. Before we knew it, the wheels were off."

Rangers starter Tommy Hunter found out the hard way.

The inning featured a barrage of eight hits, one walk and one hit batter. Two of those hits came from red-hot Kevin Youkilis, who slashed two balls off the Green Monster for a single and a double. He'd score both times.

But the showstopper was again David Ortiz, who blasted his third three-run homer of the series, which opened up a 7-0 lead that the Sox would not relinquish.

Ortiz was 5-for-10 with nine RBIs in the series, all of which came after taking a night off on Monday in Chicago to rest his wrist.

"I think it helped," manager Terry Francona said. "We may have to do that from time to time. That's just the reality of what has happened. ... He swings a very aggressive bat, and he feels good. If we have to do it next week or whenever, I have no problem with that."

Ortiz notched his 62nd RBI of the season with the homer, bringing his season total against the Rangers alone to 20.

Hunter suffered the loss, allowing seven hits on nine runs in just 1 2/3 innings pitched, raising his season ERA to 16.35.

As for the rest of this bandwagoning brethren of hitters, Jed Lowrie produced another electric performance at the plate, going 3-for-4. Dustin Pedroia chipped in with a 3-for-5 evening to go along with Youkilis' 2-for-4.

Given their actions over the last week, that shouldn't surprise anyone.

"We just got to keep winning ballgames," said Pedroia, who now leads the AL in batting average at .323. "We don't need to rely on one guy. We need all of us to accomplish our goals."

By notching their fourth straight win, the Red Sox kept pace with victorious Tampa Bay in the AL East standings. They're still three games back but lead Minnesota in the Wild Card race by three games.

Still, even with this onslaught of hitting over the past few games, there is no secret to why the Sox nabbed this sweep here at Fenway.

"The thing we preach the most is our starting pitching needs to be good," Jason Varitek said. "And that set the tone tonight."

That's what Matsuzaka did for Boston that Texas could not accomplish in three attempts in the Northeast. The Rangers couldn't rely on their starters.

"[Matsuzaka] was amazing," Crisp said. "That's a great hitting team over there."

Mark Remme 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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