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Red Sox 11, Rangers 5

Red Sox’ power back on

Two Gonzalez homers pace a potent offense

By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / August 24, 2011

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ARLINGTON, Texas - Adrian Gonzalez had gone 84 at-bats since last hitting a home run. It came July 30 against Brian Bruney of the White Sox, who was released two weeks later.

Worse, Gonzalez had one homer over his previous 157 at-bats. The player who helped carry the Red Sox into first place had become a singles hitter.

That changed dramatically last night, as did the inability of the Sox to beat the Texas Rangers.

Gonzalez hit two home runs and the Sox routed the Rangers, 11-5, before a crowd of 25,705.

With Jacoby Ellsbury back atop the lineup after missing three games, the Sox had 14 hits and won for the fourth time in their last six games. They’ll get another boost tonight as David Ortiz was cleared to play after a nine-game layoff to rest a sore right foot.

As the Sox get healthy, they have moved into a virtual tie for first place in the American League East with the Yankees, who fell at home against Oakland.

But the biggest development of the night may have been the power surge by Gonzalez. He pulled a two-run shot into the second deck in right field in the first inning and in the fourth lined a ball over the wall in left-center. Both were off Texas starter Colby Lewis.

“I’ve been feeling better lately,’’ said Gonzalez, who now has 20 homers and 97 RBIs. “That’s my swing. If I can stay with that, that’s when I’m going well. Hopefully I can continue that.’’

That Gonzalez went to the opposite field with his second home run was meaningful to manager Terry Francona.

“Any hitter going the other way is always a good sign. It means you have balance,’’ he said.

Gonzalez is hitting .346, by far the highest average of his career to this point in any of his six full seasons, so the lack of home runs was not a major concern.

“If I wasn’t hitting for average and not hitting home runs then I’d be worried about it. But I’m getting on base and hitting for average,’’ he said. “The main thing is that we’re in a good position to be in the playoffs.’’

The Sox had lost their four previous games against Texas this year and were 6-17 against the Rangers since the start of the 2009 season.

For one night, that all vanished as every Sox starter had at least one hit.

The tone was set right away as Ellsbury singled, stole second, was bunted to third by Marco Scutaro, and scored on Gonzalez’s first home run.

“I just wanted to bring some energy to the lineup,’’ said Ellsbury, who missed three games after being hit in the back by a pitch Friday night in Kansas City. “It feels good to get back.’’

Rookie Ryan Lavarnway, who has filled in admirably for Ortiz as the DH, had two hits and one RBI, as did Jarrod Saltalamacchia, to help the Sox build a 7-3 lead after four innings.

Saltalamacchia had been 0 for 13 with six strikeouts against Texas, his former team, this season. He also was hitting ninth for the first time since June 16 thanks to a 6-for-45 slump.

“It felt good. I’ve been swinging the bat well with nothing to show for it,’’ Saltalamacchia said.

Saltalamacchia spent parts of four seasons with the Rangers before being traded to the Sox last year. Finally beating his former team meant a lot to him.

“The first time we came through here, I was pressing for sure,’’ he said. “It’s nice to get a win against these guys. We want to beat this team. They’re a team we could face in the playoffs. We have to start showing ourselves that we could do it. We knew we could but we had to prove it.’’

Scutaro and Dustin Pedroia each had two-run doubles in the eighth inning to break it open.

“It’s a fun way to play,’’ Francona said. “You’re getting contributions all over the place.’’

John Lackey (12-9) pitched into the seventh inning, giving up four runs on seven hits with three walks and five strikeouts. It was an effort more gritty than graceful, but that was just fine given that Lackey traditionally has trouble against the Rangers, especially on the road.

“This is a tough place to pitch,’’ he said. “To get away with a win is nice.’’

Lackey was 5-8 with a 7.47 earned run average in his first 13 starts of the season. He is 7-1, 4.10 in his nine starts since.

“This is Lackey,’’ Francona said. “It took us a while. His ERA is higher and it’ll probably be that way. But it doesn’t mean we haven’t got the pitcher we want.’’

With a comfortable lead, the Sox used Franklin Morales, Alfredo Aceves, and Dan Wheeler to get the final seven outs, leaving the bullpen fresh for the final two games of the series.

“Everything fell into place,’’ Saltalamacchia said. “Maybe we’re starting to get it going again. We know we’re capable.’’

Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @peteabe.

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