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David Ortiz hit his first home run in 20 games, Paul Byrd pitched 6 2-3 scoreless innings to win his fourth straight decision and the Boston Red Sox beat the Texas Rangers 7-2 yesterday to move within 1 1/2 games of the AL East lead.
The Red Sox (84-58) are the closest they've been to division-leading Tampa Bay since July 28. Six of their next nine games are against the skidding Rays, starting tonight at Fenway Park.
Byrd (11-11) is 4-1 in five starts since the Red Sox acquired him from Cleveland on Aug. 12. The right-hander has won eight of nine overall since a five-game losing streak before the All-Star break.
Ortiz had last homered Aug. 14 and the 19-game homerless streak matched the longest in his six seasons with Boston. His 415-foot, two-run shot in the fifth off Brandon McCarthy (1-1) put Boston up 4-0.
When Ortiz connected, he immediately tossed his bat aside and started trotting for his 18th homer of the season. Big Papi had five homers and 22 RBIs in 10 games against Texas this season.
Jason Bay also homered and Alex Cora had an RBI triple for the Red Sox, who have won 14 of 18 games. Boston, the AL wild-card leader by 6 1/2 games over Minnesota, has been second in the division for 52 days since holding a half-game lead over Tampa Bay at the All-Star break.
The Rays were swept in their weekend series at Toronto and have lost five of six overall.
Boston's Dustin Pedroia went 1-for-4 with an RBI single to keep his AL-best average at .330, three points better than Milton Bradley, the Rangers' designated hitter held out for the second day in a row because of left wrist soreness.
Byrd allowed three singles, walked three and struck out four before leaving after 102 pitches. Two walks came in the seventh, but Javier Lopez struck out Chris Davis to end the inning.
When Byrd walked to the dugout after being pulled, he saluted cheering Red Sox fans, who were the majority in the crowd of 28,644 in a game played opposite the Dallas Cowboys' season opener.
The only other time Texas got a runner past first against Byrd was in the third, but he got out of a bases-loaded jam after a hit batter and a walk when Michael Young struck out swinging.
Jason Varitek hit a two-out single in the second and Cora followed with a triple into the right-field corner. Coco Crisp then singled in Cora to extend his hitting streak to a season-best nine games.
McCarthy allowed six runs over 5 1-3 innings. The right-hander gave up only five runs in 16 innings his other three starts since being activated from the 60-day disabled list two weeks ago (right forearm inflammation).
Rookie catcher Taylor Teagarden made sure Texas, which leads the majors with 787 runs, avoided its sixth shutout since the All-Star break when he led off the eighth with a homer. He added an RBI single in the ninth.
Three of Teagarden's five hits in five major league games are homers.
This program aired on September 8, 2008. The audio for this program is not available.
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