Red Sox win 12th straight home game to take over AL East lead

BOSTON (AP) -- B.J. Upton was ejected for arguing a third strike. Dustin Pedroia was mad that a ball that appeared to be a homer was ruled foul. And Coco Crisp slid in hard to send a message.

That kind of emotion surfaces when teams are playing for first place -- even if one is the perennial last-place Tampa Bay Rays.

"We're neck and neck and they have a good ballclub," Crisp said after the Boston Red Sox won 5-1 on Wednesday night and took one-half game lead over the Rays in the AL East. "So when you're playing a team like that, you have to be at your best."

Josh Beckett allowed one run in six innings, Crisp singled twice and stole a base and the Red Sox won their 12th straight home game.

Crisp was involved in a flareup in the eighth when he slid in on second baseman Akinori Iwamura and was out stealing. After Julio Lugo struck out, Rays manager Joe Maddon went to the mound to remove pitcher Jason Hammel, turned toward the Red Sox dugout and said something to Crisp.

"Everybody else on the mound started looking over there so I got louder," Crisp said. "I don't know if he could hear what I was saying but basically I just said, `I did that on my own so don't punish anybody else on the team.' "

Crisp was upset with shortstop Jason Bartlett, not Iwamura, after Bartlett put his knee down in front of the bag on Crisp's successful steal in the sixth. Crisp came out of that with a sprained left thumb that was bandaged after the game but may not sideline him.

"I told him ... I'd get back on base and then I'm going to show him how I felt about it," Crisp said. "It wasn't as dramatic as it probably would have been if he would have covered the bag."

Maddon said Crisp intended to injure Iwamura.

"There's no place for that when you intentionally try to hurt somebody," Maddon said.

Crisp said that wasn't his intention and he and Iwamura -- who said he wasn't hurt -- declared the matter closed.

Approached by reporters, Bartlett said, "if it's about that, I don't want to talk about it."

The scariest moment for Beckett (6-4) came when his left foot slipped on the wet mound as it landed on a pitch to Cliff Floyd in the sixth. Red Sox manager Terry Francona and assistant trainer Mike Reinold went to the mound and Beckett stayed in the game and struck out Floyd.

Francona said he took Beckett out as a precaution after 92 pitches on a drizzly night.

"He said he was fine, but I didn't see much sense in sending him back out," Francona said.

He allowed seven hits and struck out five without a walk, the eighth time in 11 starts he walked one or no batters.

Despite ending 10 days in first place, the Rays are a franchise-high 11 games over .500 (35-24). Last season, they finished last for the ninth time in their 10 seasons, 30 games behind the division-winning Red Sox.

Edwin Jackson (3-5) said teams may play the Rays harder because of their success.

"Regardless of what people say, teams know the teams that are good and play hard," he said.

J.D. Drew, batting third in place of the injured David Ortiz, continued his surge with an RBI double and a single. In Tuesday night's 7-4 win over Tampa Bay, Drew had a two-run homer, a double and two outstanding catches in right field.

The Red Sox are 3-1 since Ortiz injured his left wrist on a swing Saturday night. He went on the 15-day disabled list Tuesday.

The full house of 37,474 -- Fenway Park has been sold out for 416 straight games -- watched the Red Sox improve their major league-best home record to 23-5. They are 14-20 on the road.

Tampa Bay had won eight of its previous 10 games before losing the last two and dropping to 0-5 in Boston this season.

Boston took a 3-0 lead in the third after Crisp led off with a single. The runs scored on a single by Jacoby Ellsbury, the double by Drew and a single by Manny Ramirez, who extended his hitting streak to 10 games.

Eric Hinske's broken-bat single drove in the Rays' run in the fourth, but Crisp's sacrifice fly in the bottom of the inning made it 4-1. Boston added a run in the seventh on Kevin Youkilis' bases-loaded single.

The Red Sox nearly scored in the first, but first-base umpire Jeff Kellogg ruled that Pedroia's drive down the right-field line was foul. Replays showed the ball went into the stands on the fair side of the pole.

Game notes
Upton was ejected by home plate umpire Paul Emmel after taking a called third strike in the eighth. Upton said something to Emmel, who moved toward him and ejected him. Upton then threw his bat and helmet to the ground and argued while being held back by third base coach Tom Foley. ... Boston is 5-1 after a 1-5 stretch. ... Rays 1B Carlos Pena went on the 15-day DL with a broken left index finger that was injured when he was hit by a pitch from Boston's Justin Masterson in the first inning Tuesday. ... OF Justin Ruggiano was called up from Triple-A Durham to fill Pena's roster spot and replaced Upton in center in the eighth.