TORONTO -- If Josh Beckett had any regrets last night after winning his seventh straight game, 9-2, against the Blue Jays, it's that he wasn't allowed to grab a bat.
The undefeated Beckett was quite the hitter in high school -- he hit more home runs (11) than he won games (10) in his senior year at Spring (Texas) High -- and last season he became the first (and only) Red Sox pitcher to hit a home run since the advent of inter league play, taking Brett Myers of the Phillies deep May 20.
But last night, Beckett could only watch as teammates Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia, Mike Lowell, and Jason Varitek hit home runs in the first three innings against Victor Zambrano, turning Beckett's night into another exercise of making the most of the American League's best run support. Youkilis hit his third homer in the first, Pedroia hit a three-run home run in the second, Lowell hit a three-run home run in the third, and Varitek hit the next pitch from Zambrano to knock him out of the game.
"I used to be able to hit," Beckett said. "Until I started pitching every day, I was a decent athlete."
The Sox have won five of their last six games to stretch their record to 21-10, their best mark after 31 games since the 2002 Sox were 24-7; that team faded to 93 wins by season's end.
There's no fade evident in Beckett, who gave up a home run on his first pitch, to Alex Rios, and a double to Adam Lind, the next batter, then allowed the Jays just three more hits before he was lifted after seven innings. He became just the sixth Sox pitcher to win his first seven starts. The club record is eight, shared by Babe Ruth (1917), Dave Ferriss (1945), and Roger Moret (1973). George Winter (1901) and Mickey Harris (1946) are the others who won their first seven.
"To his credit, he reeled it back in in a hurry and made some adjustments real quick, which was nice to see," said Terry Francona, who won his 300th game as Sox manager, the 10th man to do so.
But Beckett, while low-keying his start, was enthused about the night enjoyed by the offense, especially Varitek, who had four hits. In addition to his third home run -- his first extra-base hit in a dozen games -- Varitek had three singles, matching a career high for hits he had achieved five times, the last Sept. 20, 2005, at Tampa Bay. Varitek also walked.
"I'm always pulling for these guys to hit, man," Beckett said. "This is like our family right now. On days I'm not pitching, I'm down there grinding out those at-bats with those guys. I know what it's like to be in those situations.
"Tek's a good hitter. A lot of times, being a catcher is his biggest downfall. He's concentrating on me, Daisuke [Matsuzaka], Schill [Curt Schilling], everybody in the rotation, everyone in the bullpen except [Tim] Wakefield. If he were a DH and didn't have to worry about all the paperwork that goes along with being the best catcher in the game, he'd probably hit .315."
Pedroia's home run was his first of the season, and came after a two-out single by Varitek and a walk to Coco Crisp, giving the Sox a 4-1 lead.
"When you get a three-run home run out of the 9-hole, that part of the order, that's what makes your offense go," Francona said.
Lowell's home run, his fifth, also was the happy climax of a two-out rally, Manny Ramírez singling and J.D. Drew drawing a walk after David Ortiz lined into a double play. After Lowell hit one into the left-field seats, Varitek hit the next pitch over the fence in dead center, giving the Sox an 8-1 lead.
Julio Lugo, who entered the game in a 1-for-15 funk, doubled home Boston's final run in the eighth. Lugo led off the game with a base hit but was out trying to stretch it into a double.
The Blue Jays are in free fall. The last time they played the Sox (April 24), they routed Julian Tavarez in Fenway Park, 10-3, to draw to .500, 2 1/2 games behind the Sox. They've been a disaster since, winning just three of a dozen games, to fall into last place in the AL East, 8 1/2 games behind the Sox. They're nine games back in the loss column, and while it's just May, that's a lot of ground to make up.
Last night was their seventh loss in a row -- they lost all six games of a trip to Cleveland and Texas -- and their homecoming was not a happy one, as a $2 Tuesday crowd of 41,203 was not shy about voicing its displeasure.
"We're not in panic mode," said DH Frank Thomas. "It's not a good feeling, though, to have lost seven straight games. We came out with fire and they took it right away from us."
The Jays are reeling from the loss of their closer, B.J. Ryan, which has embroiled general manager J.P. Ricciardi in controversy, the Worcester native having admitted on his radio show last week that he hadn't been truthful in spring training when he said Ryan's back was hurting, when in fact it was his elbow. Ryan is on the 60-day disabled list with a strained ligament in his left elbow.
Since their last visit to Boston, the Blue Jays' offense has been mostly quiet (.238), and the aces, Roy Halladay and A.J. Burnett, couldn't stop the bleeding, Burnett losing in both Cleveland and Texas while Halladay was bombed in Texas.
"We dug ourselves a hole and couldn't get out of it," said first baseman Lyle Overbay. "Usually, we're very patient with Josh and make him throw strikes. But when he's locating his offspeed stuff like he did, you have to be more aggressive and swing. We just didn't put enough pressure on him offensively."
Gordon Edes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.