Red Sox 2, Rangers 0

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BOSTON (AP)—It took the Boston Red Sox just 19 days to slash eight games off New York’s AL East lead. And they’re not done yet.

“We’re just going to take care of what we can take care of,” reliever Mike Timlin said after Friday night’s 2-0 win over the Texas Rangers cut the Yankees’ lead to 2 1/2 games. “We won today. We’re going to win tomorrow.”

That’s a pretty safe prediction considering the Red Sox have a 10-game winning streak for the first time in nine years and have won 16 of their last 17 games.

“I expected it,” Pedro Martinez said of Boston’s spectacular surge. “I thought we had the talent all the way to have a run like this one.”

Martinez allowed four hits in seven innings, and Manny Ramirez and Bill Mueller homered, moving the Red Sox the closest they’ve been to first place since before games of June 12. The Yankees lost to Baltimore 3-1.

Boston, which trailed by 10 1/2 games on Aug. 16, is on its longest winning streak since winning 12 in a row from Aug. 3-14, 1995.

The Red Sox have lost just once since Aug. 15, when Toronto’s Ted Lilly pitched a three-hit shutout to beat Martinez on Aug. 23, and their run has given them a 4 1/2 -game lead in the wild-card race over Anaheim, which beat Cleveland 10-5.

But Boston wants to win the division, which would give the Red Sox home-field advantage in the playoffs.

“We’re still reaching in front of us and trying to get somewhere else,” Jason Varitek said.

Martinez (15-5) pitched shutout ball for the second time in five starts, striking out nine, walking one and leaving after matching his season high with 117 pitches.

“I felt pretty good command of every pitch I had,” he said. “I’m in good shape. I feel at the tippy top part of my game.”

Timlin and Alan Embree pitched the eighth, and Keith Foulke worked the ninth for his 27th save in 32 opportunities. Boston leads the AL with 11 shutouts.

John Wasdin (2-3) allowed two runs and four hits in 6 1-3 innings for Texas, which fell seven games behind Boston in the wild-card race. The Rangers lost their fifth straight game, the last two by 2-0.

“It’s unfortunate that he ran into Martinez,” Texas manager Buck Showalter said. “There’s been a lot of guys who say that over the years.”

Ramirez hit his 37th homer with two outs in the first, and Mueller hit his 11th leading off the third. Both came on the first pitch from Wasdin.

“I did what I wanted to do. I threw two perfect pitches” on the homers, he said. “They’ve got some serious momentum. We’ve just got to find a way to find our momentum.”

Wasdin got out of jams in the fifth and sixth innings, when the Red Sox put their first two batters on base.

Martinez struggled in the seventh when Laynce Nix struck out with one out but reached first when the ball got by Jason Varitek. Kevin Mench struck out, and Nix took third on a single by Gary Matthews Jr.

Pinch-hitter Andy Fox had a 2-2 count when Matthews tried to steal on the next pitch, a ball. But Varitek threw him out, stranding Nix at third.

“That’s one of his biggest weaknesses, holding runners,” Showalter said of Martinez. “We thought we could take advantage of it. (Matthews) just got a little late break.”

Martinez allowed just three hits and a walk through six innings.

In the first, he walked Hank Blalock with two outs then struck out Mark Teixeira. Matthews led off the third with a single before Martinez retired the next three batters.

Alfonso Soriano hit a two-out single in the fourth, but Martinez retired Nix on a groundout to first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz. And in the sixth, Martinez allowed a leadoff double to Eric Young, who took third on Michael Young’s groundout. But Blalock struck out and Teixeira fouled out to third baseman Mueller.

No team can afford to waste opportunities against a hot team closing in on the division lead.

“I look at the scoreboard,” Boston manager Terry Francona said. “I look at the standings because it’s important. But I’m really more concerned about us.”

Notes

With Boston cleanup hitter David Ortiz sidelined by a sore shoulder, Varitek batted fourth for the second straight game and second time this season. … Texas LF David Dellucci left the game in the top of the second with lightheadedness. “He had blurred vision. The doctor thought he might have been dehydrated,” Showalter said. … The Red Sox have won 11 straight at Fenway Park. … Texas was blanked for the eighth time.

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