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07/09/08 6:54 PM ET

Fenway firepower cements Sox sweep

Each starter collects at least one hit in 23-hit attack on Twins

BOSTON -- Just call it the Boston tee-off party. How else to describe the utter destruction done by the Red Sox's offense in an 18-5 romp over the Twins on Wednesday?

It's hard to believe that Boston had just a 7-5 lead after six innings. Backed by seven runs in the seventh and four more in the eighth, the Sox produced their biggest offensive output in a game since the 25-8 win over the Marlins on June 27, 2003.

The 23 hits were the most since a 27-hit barrage at Yankee Stadium on May 28, 2005.

Every member of manager Terry Francona's starting nine had at least one hit and one run. Brandon Moss was the only starter not to drive in a run.

"You never want to be the guy that gets the 0-fer," said Red Sox designated hitter Sean Casey, who contributed three hits and two RBIs. "We always say, 'The hit parade went right by you.' The hit parade went by nobody today, which was good."

Literally, this was a top-to-bottom eruption.

Jacoby Ellsbury delivered a career high of four hits from the leadoff spot. Dustin Pedroia extended his career-long hitting streak to 17 games, delivering hits in his last two at-bats. Manny Ramirez belted three hits, including two doubles, and drove in three. Mike Lowell had two runs, two hits and two RBIs.

With J.D. Drew out of the lineup with tightness in his back, Kevin Youkilis seemed to be in the middle of everything in the No. 3 spot in the batting order. The first baseman scored three runs and had three hits, including a double and a homer. No. 9 hitter Julio Lugo delivered two hits and two RBIs.

Jason Varitek, who came in with just six hits in his past 63 at-bats, delivered a two-hit game. In fact, Varitek had the hit that proved to be the ultimate momentum-changer.

In that game-breaking seventh, the captain hit a sinking liner to center that was originally ruled an 8-4-5 triple play. Fortunately for the Red Sox, the umpires correctly overturned it and called it an RBI single.

"It looked like it bounced into his glove," said Varitek. "I wasn't moving off first."

Several television replays clearly showed center fielder Denard Span trap the ball. Twins manager Ron Gardenire, who wasn't in the mood for the reversal, was ejected.

"That shows frustration," said Francona. "I've been on the other side of it, too. That was a big, big play."

Instead of taking that 7-5 lead into the eighth, it was 14-5 by the time the beleaguered Twins finally got back to their dugout.

After a frustrating 3-7 road trip, Boston rallied to sweep the Twins in three games at the start of this six-game homestand that will complete the first half. Unlike the first two games of this series, which the Sox didn't secure until the bottom of the eighth inning, this one was your basic Fenway mashing.

The beneficiary of all the offense was Josh Beckett. The ace, who was feeling under the weather, went five innings -- plus two batters in the sixth -- and gave up eight hits and five runs. He walked two, struck out two and gave up a pair of homers. Still, he got the win, finishing his first half with a 9-5 record.

"They picked me up," said Beckett. "It was just one of those deals. I had some health stuff going on. I just got a little stomach something. It really wasn't too big a deal. Just one of those deals, you have to battle through it."

The Red Sox, who trailed the Rays by five games in the American League East when they left New York on Sunday, have reduced the deficit to a mere two games.

"It's good to just win a series and also to sweep a series, and to regain our winning ways and swing the bats good," said Youkilis.

For the second straight start, Beckett gave up three runs in the first inning. Even more concerning than the runs was that Beckett threw 34 pitches.

The way this game went, however, Beckett's tough first inning wound up being nothing more than a minor annoyance, at least to everybody but the highly competitive pitcher himself. The Red Sox scored four in the third, two in the fifth and one in the sixth before turning it into a full-fledged blowout in their last two at-bats.

It was a nice way for the Red Sox to head into Thursday's day off.

"Any time you spread out a game like that, it's terrific," said Francona. "Guys were tired today and I thought we grinded it out really well. We put ourselves in the position where they just kept battling, and all of a sudden, we started to take some really good swings."

In recent weeks, the Red Sox would take a modest lead and be unable to expand it. A few times, it proved to be costly when the bullpen had a meltdown.

"To extend ourselves, finally, and put a team away, that's what we really haven't done," Pedroia said.

This day, they did it in large doses.

"You put together some hits in an inning, and someone gets a big hit and hitting is contagious," said Casey.

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.