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With J.D. Drew rested and refreshed, the Boston Red Sox are on a roll.
Drew homered twice, Jon Lester pitched eight strong innings and the Red Sox beat the Toronto Blue Jays 8-1 on Thursday night to complete a three-game sweep.
Victor Martinez connected for the second straight game for the Red Sox, who have hit two or more homers in six consecutive games, nine of 10 and 15 of 19.
"It seems like when one guy gets hot, a lot of guys get hot," Drew said. "The key is to try and keep going as a team, get quality at-bats, getting guys in in key situations."
The Red Sox have 33 homers in August, two shy of the team record for that month set in 2006. The AL wild card leaders have 10 games remaining this month, including a pivotal series this weekend against the East-leading New York Yankees at Fenway Park.
"We're excited," second baseman Dustin Pedroia said. "They beat up on us pretty good at their place (in a four-game sweep earlier this month). We're going to come out and hopefully play a lot better than we did at their place."
Hampered by a sore groin, Drew did not play Saturday and Sunday as the Red Sox lost twice in Texas, briefly dropping behind the Rangers in the wild card. Boston was off Monday, giving Drew a three-day breather.
"I needed a chance for my groin to catch up and it worked out that I had a couple of days with the day off," Drew said. "Definitely, when I came back and started playing, I felt a heck of a lot better than I did going into it."
Manager Terry Francona knows how valuable a healthy Drew can be.
"We recognize that we are a different team when he's able to go out there and be healthy and play like he can," Francona said. "Sometimes you suck it up for a day or two to try and get a guy going more at full speed."
Drew hit a leadoff homer to right in the second, a two-run drive to almost the same spot in the third and finished with four hits. The homers, Nos. 14 and 15, came off rookie left-hander Brett Cecil. It was Drew's seventh multihomer game and first since June 8, 2007, at Arizona.
Martinez hit a leadoff homer off the facing of the second deck in the seventh off Shawn Camp as the Blue Jays lost their fifth straight.
"We definitely lost as a team tonight," Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said. "We didn't pitch well, we didn't play defense and we certainly didn't hit. We didn't play well at all."
Lester (10-7) allowed one run and three hits to win for the first time in five starts and improve to 3-1 with a 1.65 ERA in four outings against Toronto this season. After the first three batters reached safely, the left-hander set down 22 of the final 24 batters he faced. Despite his dominance, Lester said he never felt comfortable.
"It was just one of those nights where it's a battle from the beginning," Lester said. "Not only do you have to battle the other team but you have to battle yourself and just try to stay one step ahead of them."
Fernando Cabrera finished the three-hitter.
Cecil (5-2) allowed six runs, four earned, over 4 1-3 innings in his first game since he left a home start against Baltimore on Aug. 8 with a sore left knee.
The loss was Cecil's first since a May 20 defeat at Boston, a game in which he allowed five homers, including four in one inning. Of the 11 homers he has allowed this season, seven have come against the Red Sox.
Toronto made three errors, none stranger than Cecil's miscue in the fourth. With Jason Bay on first after a leadoff walk, Cecil dropped a throw from catcher Rod Barajas, then requested a new ball from the umpire but failed to call time out before firing the old one into the third-base dugout. Bay moved to third on the play and scored two batters later when Mike Lowell singled through a drawn-in infield. Drew followed with his second home run.
"I wasn't even thinking about time out being called, saw a scuff mark or some dirt on the ball, went to throw it in, I wanted a new ball and just turned around and chucked it," Cecil said. "I was definitely upset about it. It's nobody's fault but my own."
The Red Sox chased Cecil and tacked on two more runs in the fifth. Pedroia hit a leadoff single and Kevin Youkilis drew a one-out walk, bringing lefty Brian Tallet out of the bullpen. Pedroia scored when John McDonald threw the ball away on Bay's infield chopper, sending Youkilis to third. David Ortiz followed with an RBI grounder.
This program aired on August 21, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.
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