With the win, the Red Sox moved into sole possession of first place for the first time this season. They lead the Blue Jays by a half-game and the Yankees by a full game. It is the first time Boston has had any share of first since May 8.
"It's a long season and it's cool to be in first place, but to win this division you've got to stay on top of your game every day," said Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis.
From an offensive standpoint, the Sox did just that on Sunday, particularly at the plate.
No. 6 batter J.D. Drew came up with four hits, while Mike Lowell smashed an early three-run homer. George Kottaras, batting eighth, chipped in with three hits, including an RBI double. No. 9 hitter Nick Green, making a second successive start in place of the defensively slumping Julio Lugo, had two hits and two RBIs.
"We got some big contributions," said Francona. "Some really good things happened. Georgie got a big hit. Mikey Lowell had a couple huge hits. Nick Green's ball that he rifled [in the fifth] when they made the pitching change was huge."
Not that the lineup was completely bottom-heavy. Dustin Pedroia reached base in four of his five plate appearances, including an RBI single. Cleanup man Youkilis, whose possible home run was still ruled foul after the use of instant replay in the fifth inning, wound up getting a long ball anyway, a three-run shot in the seventh.
Then there was leadoff man Jacoby Ellsbury, who clubbed a double in the second to run his hitting streak to 19 games.
"We've been playing a lot of close games, a lot of one-run or two-run games," said Red Sox left fielder Jason Bay. "I think it was nice to just kind of relax going into the end of it -- especially from the production of the bottom of the order. I haven't seen all the numbers, but I know everyone down there hit well. All around, it was a pretty good way to draw it up."
The offensive outburst was a nice aid for knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, who got the win on a day he wasn't at his best. Wakefield gave up seven hits and five runs over six innings, walking four and striking out three.
Wakefield did a nice job finding himself in the middle innings, buying the bats time to erupt.
"I actually thought Wake pitched pretty good," Lowell said. "When we took the lead, he had a huge shutdown inning for us in the sixth. I thought Manny [Delcarmen] looked great, and then we kind of exploded. I think it was a great way to bounce back from yesterday's game."
No sooner did the game start than rain started falling. By the time the Red Sox came to the plate in the bottom of the first, there was a combination of rain, hail, thunder and lightning. With Ortiz coming to the plate with one out, play was called. The delay lasted 36 minutes.
"It was hard because you try not to shut it down mentally," said Wakefield, now 6-2 with a 3.99 ERA. "As hard as it was raining, you'd think it would last for a long time, but it was a typical Florida shower, I think. I came in, cooled off a little bit and tried to get my rhythm back, but it was hard."
Down 5-3 entering the fifth, the Sox rallied for three to take the lead for good. Kottaras got Boston within one on an RBI double and Green put the Red Sox ahead with a two-run single to right.
It could have been an even bigger fifth inning if the towering drive by Youkilis had been ruled a home run instead of a long foul ball.
"I thought it was a fair ball, but the call was a foul ball," Youkilis said. "Luckily it didn't cost us."
The offense was nearly constant in this one, as Boston scored two in the sixth and four in the seventh.
It was a fun day to be a hitting coach.
"It's great," said Red Sox hitting coach Dave Magadan. "I know to have a consistent offense, you need to get contributions from everybody. Not everybody is going to be hot at the same time. It's nice to see guys picking up the slack when David's not swinging the way he wants to. We've got guys around him and really at the bottom of the order who are doing a really good job."