BOSTON -- Oh, how one swing of the bat changes everything.
Just ask Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz.
Swinging at the first pitch he saw from Rays right-hander James Shields in the fifth inning, Ortiz hammered a 92-mph fastball into the seats in right field, giving Boston its first runs of the night en route to an 8-5 win in front of 38,013 at Fenway Park.
"Just see the ball and hit the ball -- it's simple," Ortiz said. "Some guys get you and you get some guys."
With his 17th home run of the season, Ortiz continued his torrid hitting against Shields. Boston's DH is now batting .400 (12-for-30), with three home runs and 11 RBIs off the right-hander.
Before the at-bat, Rays manager Joe Maddon went out to talk with Shields about how to pitch to Ortiz. It didn't seem to make a difference.
"Joe came out and he asked me who I'd rather face, and I told him I wanted to face Ortiz, but I wasn't going to throw anything over the dish," Shields said. "I was going to try to intentionally, unintentionally walk him -- maybe he'd chase something. And I was trying to throw a fastball about a foot off the plate -- just kind of show him the fastball -- and I ended up yanking it right down the middle.
"I don't even know how I did it. I was literally trying to throw it about a foot off the dish. He was ambushing me."
With Tuesday's win and the Yankees' 7-4 loss to the Mariners, the Red Sox moved to within one game of first place in the American League East. It was also Boston's seventh consecutive home win, the club's longest stretch since nine games in April 2009. The Red Sox now own the best home record in the AL at 26-9.
In the sixth, Jason Varitek singled to right, scoring J.D. Drew, and Daniel Nava singled to second, which plated Marco Scutaro, increasing the lead to 5-0.
Varitek added another RBI in the seventh, with a sacrifice fly to left to plate Kevin Youkilis. Second baseman Bill Hall, replacing injured Dustin Pedroia, belted a two-run home run in the inning as well, his sixth of the season, to give the Red Sox an 8-1 lead.
Third baseman Adrian Beltre had four hits in Tuesday's game. Against the Rays this year, Beltre is batting .500 with two homers and seven RBIs.
"Well, they're good players. 'Tek's been a good player for a long time," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "I just got done talking about Billy. He's played different positions and he's also a good player. That's the whole idea. I think our players expect to win and they play the game that way. And if we don't, we'll show up the next day and try to do it better."
Red Sox right-hander John Lackey pitched seven solid innings, giving up only one run on eight hits. Lackey also had two walks and three strikeouts.
"I have to give 'Tek a lot of credit -- I didn't shake him off one time tonight," said Lackey. "His game plan was pretty incredible. I just went with him. I went with him, and it worked out nicely."
Both Varitek and Francona felt Lackey was successful because of his ability to set up all of his pitches and use his fastball on both sides of the plate.
"He was never predictable. He's got so many matchups against these guys. And he just never fell into a pattern," Francona said. "Just back and forth, and he changed speeds. He was terrific."
The one run came on a single to left field by Rays third baseman Evan Longoria, scoring catcher John Jaso. Yet, the inning went no further after Rays left fielder Carl Crawford was tagged out in a rundown between second and third on a throw by Darnell McDonald.
For Lackey, it was also his 14th time this season going six or more innings, a team high. In his last five starts, the righty has posted four quality outings, during which he is 3-0 with a 3.48 ERA.
"The last couple of years here pitching on the road, I realized that you can't pitch away from the wall," Lackey said. "You have to throw your game and use both sides of the plate, and it has helped me out for sure."
For as well as Lackey pitched, the bullpen could barely hold an 8-1 lead, giving up four earned runs while using five different pitchers.
Hideki Okajima gave up a two-run home run to pinch-hitter Willy Aybar in the eighth to make it 8-3, and then reliever Scott Atchison was charged with two earned runs after a Ben Zobrist single in the ninth.
Even with the lackluster performance by the 'pen, it didn't matter on a night in which seven players in the starting lineup got at least one hit.
"It is a veteran club," Lackey said. "They have seen a lot of different things and they know how to battle through adversity, which is what we have right now."
Quinn Roberts is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.