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09/06/08 1:17 AM ET

Fresh off DL, Beckett, Lowell lead Sox

Pair dazzles in drubbing of Rangers to gain ground in AL East

ARLINGTON -- Prior to Friday's game vs. the Rangers, Mike Lowell said he wasn't going to press to make up for home runs and RBIs he missed out on while he spent the better part of a month on the disabled list with a strained right oblique.

You wouldn't have known it to see Lowell on Friday night.

In his first game since Aug. 12, Lowell homered in his first at-bat and drove in four runs in all. With the start Boston got out of Josh Beckett, Lowell's offense alone would have been enough for a win, but the rest of the lineup pitched in for an 8-1 victory at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

Manager Terry Francona was impressed, to say the least, with Lowell's 3-for-5 night, but was also in the mood for a little joking.

"Everybody was kidding with him that he could have went on rehab and helped Pawtucket win in their playoffs," Francona said.

Lowell had his own response: "I told them to take the rehab assignment and shove it." But he backed up his talk with his 15th home run of the season and his fifth four-RBI game of this year. He had a more serious reaction to his day at the plate.

"It was a good day," Lowell said. "I was really excited to be out there. I wasn't trying to do anything extra. It was trying to put a lot of positive thoughts in my mind. I felt like I saw pitches well and I wasn't too anxious."

It was a good day for the Red Sox, too, as they inched closer to the Rays in the American League East.

With a Tampa Bay loss Friday, Boston moved within 2 1/2 games of the Rays. The Twins also won Friday, so the Red Sox retained their 5 1/2-game lead over them in the AL Wild Card race.

Both Lowell and Beckett were activated from the disabled list prior to Friday's game, and the Red Sox couldn't have asked for much more out of two of the most vital pieces to last season's World Series puzzle.

In September of last season, Lowell hit .317 with four home runs and 26 RBIs, while Beckett went 4-1 in five starts with a 3.18 ERA and 36 strikeouts to six walks. If Friday was any indicator, this September could be even better for the two of them.

In the top of the second Friday, Lowell put the Red Sox on the board with a solo home run. Two innings later, he ignited a four-run inning with a two-run single. His RBI double in the ninth was icing on the cake.

For a Boston lineup that's been hampered by injuries all season, Lowell's bat was a welcome presence in the sixth spot in the order.

"He's always been a middle-of-the-order guy, wherever I've played with him and we've missed him," said Beckett, who also played five seasons with Lowell with the Marlins.

As for Beckett, in his first start since Aug. 17, he appeared to be on cruise control

Beckett coasted through his first three innings, retiring all nine batters he faced and needing just 40 pitches to do so. He labored slightly the next two innings, needing 40 more pitches to get out of the fifth, and he didn't come out for the sixth.

"We were thrilled," Francona said. "He went out and commanded really well. His cutter had late movement and even when he missed, he didn't miss much. To get five innings was great, but he got a little fatigued. When he left, he said he didn't feel anything, which was very good. He just pitched and there was nothing to report."

Beckett said he wasn't worried about how deep he pitched into the game. All he wanted to do was leave the mound feeling completely healthy.

To his relief, he felt no trace of the right elbow inflammation that landed him on the disabled list.

"I think I thought more about it before the game," Beckett said. "Once I got through the first four or five pitches, I was fine after that. It's not one of those things where you want it to come back after five pitches, so there was concern. It's my arm."

In his short time on the mound, Beckett allowed just four Rangers to reach base, all of which on hits, and he struck out seven. In three of his five innings, he struck out more batters than he let on base.

"Every time I face Josh Beckett, I expect him to throw the ball well," said Michael Young, who went 0-for-2 against Beckett on Friday. "He was probably easing himself back with his velocity, but he located the ball well, commanded the ball well and mixed in his offspeed pitches. So he still threw the ball well."

The Red Sox's lineup didn't allow Rangers starter Kevin Millwood to get in a similar groove.

Aside from Lowell's triumphant return to the lineup, there were a couple other offensive highlights for the Red Sox.

Dustin Pedroia extended his hitting streak to nine games with a double in the first inning. It was his 45th of the season, which tied Jody Reed's club record for most doubles in a season by a Red Sox second baseman.

In the sixth inning, Coco Crisp, who hit a two-run single earlier in the game, and Jacoby Ellsbury hit back-to-back triples. It was the first time two Red Sox players hit back-to-back triples since Gabe Kapler and Pokey Reese did so in the fourth inning of Boston's June 5 game at Kansas City in 2004.

All this offense made for easy work for the Red Sox bullpen, even though it was stretched out for four innings.

Manny Delcarmen helped bridge the gap with two perfect innings, in which he struck out three.

"Delcarmen did great -- getting five innings from Beckett was great, but you still have to pitch well against a team with the best offense in the league," Francona said. "Our bullpen did a good job having to go four innings tonight."

Shawn Shroyer is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.