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Trio of taters back Beckett's victory

Trio of taters back Beckett's victory

SEATTLE -- Safeco Field isn't supposed to be a park for home run hitters, but the Red Sox didn't pay much attention to that Saturday night.

Jason Bay, Jason Varitek and Jeff Bailey all went yard, Josh Beckett bent, but didn't break, and the defense came through in a gritty 5-3 victory over the Mariners before 42,589.

And a night after losing a four-run lead to Seattle, the Red Sox jumped out to a four-run advantage and managed to win the game.

"Hopefully we can build on this and keep it going," second baseman Dustin Pedroia said. "We can still do a better job of trying to keep the game out of reach. We need to extend [leads]."

They also need Beckett to return to the ace status they're so familiar with, and with the help of the Boston infield, the right-hander delivered.

Beckett labored, throwing a season-high 119 pitches in seven innings, but he turned in his third consecutive quality start (six innings or more, three earned runs or less) by allowing three runs, two of which were earned. It was the least amount of earned runs he's allowed since his smashing season debut April 7 against Tampa Bay, in which he gave up one run on two hits and struck out 10.

"I feel like personally, I owe them [the bullpen] a lot of innings, so it's nice," Beckett said. "It would have been nicer to give them even more than that, but I felt good. I like pitching in this weather. It keeps you fresh."

Beckett improved to 4-2 for the year and lowered his ERA from 6.42 to 5.85. The right-hander struck out five Mariners and walked three. Hideki Okajima and Ramon Ramirez combined for a scoreless eighth and Jonathan Papelbon turned in a shutout ninth for his ninth save.

"I thought he did a good job," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said of Beckett. "They made him work real hard."

Beckett might not have been basking in the glow of a victory if it weren't for Pedroia, shortstop Julio Lugo and third baseman Mike Lowell.

In the fourth inning, after Russell Branyan hit an RBI double and advanced to third base on a throw home with nobody out, Lugo and Pedroia played in. The shortstop made a nifty stab of a Wladimir Balentien grounder for one out before Pedroia made a slick play on a Kenji Johjima grounder. Beckett walked Yuniesky Betancourt, but got out of the jam when Endy Chavez flied out to right.

And in the eighth, with a runner on second and two out, Lowell made a diving stop of a hard-hit Balentien grounder and threw him out to end that threat.

"We did some good things defensively," Francona said. "We made some real good defensive plays."

The offense didn't disappoint, either.

Bay got the scoring going quickly against Seattle lefty Garrett Olson, hitting a towering two-run home run into the Sox bullpen in the first inning.

Varitek added a two-run shot of his own in the second, which proved to be enough offense for the night, but Bailey came through in the fifth, hitting the first pitch of the inning out to left field.

Bay leads the team with 11 home runs and is now tied for third in the American League in that category. He's now hitting .360 (9-for-25) with six runs, four homers, five RBIs and five walks in eight games at Safeco.

Bailey, a native of nearby Kelso, Wash., hit his second homer of the year in front of what he estimated to be over 20 family members and friends.

"We'll take 'em," Francona said of the home runs. "We needed every bit of it. We scored early, which is good. We weren't able to extend it much, but it was enough."

The Red Sox potentially lost a starting player for a game or two or more when Lugo left the game in the seventh inning because of a sore left groin. Lugo said it wasn't a big deal, and he would be ready to play Sunday afternoon, but Francona said Lugo would be reevaluated and would likely not be in the lineup Sunday.

Doug Miller 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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