BOSTON -- The Boston Red Sox front office mobilized before the game Monday night to show its support for embattled manager Bobby Valentine. The message was unmistakable: If the Sox are going to make a belated playoff run this season, it will be with Valentine in the dugout.
It may have been coincidental, but the Sox responded Monday night with one of their most impressive displays of the season, putting a 9-2 beating on the Texas Rangers, who had outscored them by a 39-12 margin in five previous meetings this season.
"I don't know that the players are so totally involved in all of the drama," Valentine said. "But I like when they play well, execute well."
For one night, role reversal was at work, the Sox looking like the team that began the night tied with the Yankees for the best record in the American League, while the Rangers resembled the season-long underachievers who came in a game under .500 and whose manager actually referred pregame to a single win as a "winning streak."
The Sox knocked out eight doubles, tying a season high, and spoiling the Boston debut of Japanese right-hander Yu Darvish, who did his own impression of Daisuke Matsuzaka at his most ineffective, giving up 6 runs on 11 hits and 4 walks.
Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford combined for five hits, including four doubles, and scored five runs, as the first four batters in the Sox order -- Ellsbury, Crawford, Dustin Pedroia and Adrian Gonzalez -- combined to go 11-for-16, with 7 runs scored, 8 RBIs and 7 doubles, as Pedroia matched a career high with three doubles.
"It's going to be hard to get Dustin with three hits and Adrian with three hits every night and have Ells and Carl on base the whole time," Valentine said. "But consistent at-bats are what we're getting these days. These guys are world-class players, and they're playing very well right now."
How well the Sox are playing is debatable; they just lost three out of four to the lowly Minnesota Twins, and are only 13-18 since reaching their high-water mark of five games over .500 on July 1. But they played at a high level Monday night, stealing two bases, executing a hit-and-run play (Mike Aviles), and picking a Rangers baserunner, Nelson Cruz, off second base.
"Me and Mike [Aviles] have talked about it all year and worked on it during spring training, that any time somebody gets on, we don't have a sign," pitcher Aaron Cook said of the pickoff. "We both feel it, and I told him if he goes he better keep going because I'm going to turn around and throw it and if he's not there, Jacoby's going to be chasing it.
"We were both on the same page. Being able to pick the guy off calms the inning down and lets me take a deep breath. I think guys had a lot of energy after that."
Cook rebounded from back-to-back bombardments by limiting the Rangers to a run on six hits through seven innings. He recorded 15 outs via ground ball, and even struck out a couple, matching a season high.
"Any time I have my sinker working and guys are playing great defense behind me, it's a recipe for success," Cook said. "I was just really focused staying at the bottom of the zone as much as possible tonight. Even when guys got on, I wanted to pound the bottom of the zone and let the guys play defense behind me. That's my approach every time I take the mound.
"The first couple of innings I was a little flat. I was probably throwing the ball a little harder than I needed to, so I got with Salty [catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia] and said, 'Let's just pound the bottom of the zone and not worry about anything else' and that's when my balls started moving more. You could tell I was getting that movement I need to be successful."
Darvish, who had won seven of his first nine decisions, has now allowed six or more runs in each of his past three starts.
"I think we've just got to keep working and get him back on track," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "We know he's better than what he's shown. Sometimes you've got to go back to go forward. We certainly don't want to see him go backwards, but we've just got to keep battling. We're not going to let him quit. He'll get it together."
The Sox, of course, have been wildly inconsistent all season. The chance that Monday's game will be more typical of what's to come?
"We've played pretty well most of the time," Valentine said. "It's just that at the end of the game, we haven't been able to talk about it. There's been great execution. There's been great commitment. We let some games get away from us, and they wash out all the good stuff."