The Red Sox are used to hammering the Orioles, as evidenced by the cumulative 56-20 score in their seven successive wins this season. This one was a little more special, however, because:
— The 12 straight wins is Boston’s longest run against Baltimore since the Orioles moved from St. Louis in 1954.
— Red Sox manager Terry Francona won his 500th career regular-season game.
— Jason Varitek scored a career-high four runs.
— Beckett celebrated his 26th birthday by pitching one of the finest games of his career.
Coming back from two straight rainouts, the Red Sox showed almost no signs of rust, building an 8-1 lead in the fifth inning in a victory that thrust them into sole possession of first place in the AL East.
“Anytime you take some time off you kind of worry. I don’t know if stale is the right word, but you’re not sure,” Francona said. “We did a good job. We played a very crisp game tonight.”
The victory improved Francona’s record to 500-507. He started with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1997 and is in his third season with Boston.
“I hadn’t really thought about it. I just really wanted to win tonight,” he said.
Francona should have seen it coming. Boston has won seven in a row at Camden Yards, and is 45-18 in Baltimore since the start of the 1999 season.
It’s the Orioles’ longest skid against one team since they lost 13 straight to Toronto from April 1999 through May 2000.
“If we end up winning 90 games and lose all of them to the Red Sox, then it doesn’t really matter,” Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo said.
“I had good stuff today. When you have good stuff, you should win,” Beckett said.
Varitek had a far more lofty opinion of Beckett’s performance.
“I think it was one of Josh’s best outings. He threw the ball through the plate, threw (to his) locations, changed speeds and had some well-located fastballs,” Boston’s catcher said.
Tejada’s third home run in three games gave Baltimore a 1-0 lead, but the Red Sox battered Rodrigo Lopez (1-6) for eight runs over the next four innings and cruised to their seventh win in nine games.
Beckett, who struck out six, was removed after throwing 80 pitches.
“It would have been nice to go out and try and finish it, but we hadn’t played in two days,” he said. “The bullpen’s got to get some work.”
After Tejada hit his 12th home run, Pena answered in the second with a drive to right after Varitek drew a leadoff walk.
Boston made it 6-1 with a four-run third. David Ortiz doubled, took third on a single by Trot Nixon and scored on a single by Varitek. After a walk, Pena singled in two runs and Alex Gonzalez hit a sacrifice fly.
The Red Sox made it 8-1 in the fifth when Nixon singled, Varitek walked and Mike Lowell tripled to chase Lopez, who is winless in eight starts since opening day.
Lopez gave up eight runs and 10 hits in four-plus innings. He led the Orioles with 15 wins last year, but now he leads the team in losses and owns a 7.86 ERA.
“Tonight I was leaving the ball up, but besides that, I feel very confident,” Lopez said. “I’m trying to be the same guy I was before, but things haven’t worked out for me.”
Varitek and Lowell hit successive homers off John Halama in the ninth.
Boston OF Dustan Mohr missed the game to join his wife for the birth of the couple’s first child, a girl named McKinley. … The Orioles placed RHP Daniel Cabrera on the 15-day disabled list with a muscle strain in his shoulder, and recalled reliever Chris Britton from Double-A Bowie. Britton retired all six batters he faced. … Boston’s 12 straight wins over Baltimore is its longest streak since a 15-game run against Seattle in 1977-78.