BOSTON (AP) — John Lackey wasn't about to let a little 96-degree heat stand in his way Friday night at Fenway Park.
"Man, I played football in hotter than that in Texas," the veteran righty said after pitching seven strong innings in Boston's 7-4 win that sent the Seattle Mariners to their 13th straight loss. "I had two-a-days in almost 110, probably."
The afternoon temperature reached 103 degrees, the second-highest Boston temperature ever recorded. By game time, it had dropped to 96, and Lackey, who has had all kinds of rough times in cooler weather this year, picked up his third straight win by allowing eight hits and a run in out-pitching Felix Hernandez.
The run came in the first inning, thanks to steals of second and third by Ichiro Suzuki and an RBI single by Dustin Ackley. That was it against Lackey (8-8), who settled in and led the Red Sox to their 14th win in 17 July games.
The Sox, who have won seven straight at home, tied the game on an RBI single by Kevin Youkilis in the bottom of the first and went ahead when Jacoby Ellsbury hit his fifth home run in the last seven games, his seventh this month, leading off the third. Boston then broke it open with a five-run seventh, after Lackey had been told he was through for the night.
The Mariners got a three-run homer from Mike Carp in the eighth, which paved the way for Jonathan Papelbon's 22nd save in 23 chances.
"I thought he was tremendous," Boston manager Terry Francona said of Lackey. "He really pitched. He needed to, with Felix on the mound. I thought we actually did a pretty good job against (Hernandez) we made him work, but he's always a strikeout or a double play from getting out of an inning. We finally broke through, but it took us awhile."
Hernandez (8-9) used four double plays to stay alive.
Meanwhile, Lackey cruised, finishing with four strikeouts and no walks to record his second three-game winning streak of a crazy season. In his last 12 decisions, he has lost three straight, won three straight, lost three straight and now won three straight.
And in this current run, Francona says command has been the key.
"His stuff to me is the same, actually been pretty consistent especially since he came back from the DL," the manager said. "I just think he needs to locate. When he doesn't, he gives up hits. When he locates, he gets people out, I think it's about as simple as that."
Despite the win, Lackey's ERA still sits at a whopping 6.28. But to Francona, the important thing is the winning streak, recorded with the Sox missing three-fifths of their starting rotation due to injuries.
"I know his ERA is higher I know what it is, and at the end of the year it's probably going to be higher than we want it," Francona said. "That doesn't mean if he pitches like this the rest of the year it's not huge for us. That's what we're kind of hanging our hat on and I think he is too. He has the ability to be a really good pitcher and shoulder a really big burden and it looks like he wants to do that."
As far as thinking about the high ERA, Lackey said, "What am I going to do about it? I'm just going to go out there and try to win every time I get a chance."
Dustin Pedroia had three hits in extending his hitting streak to a career-high 19 games. And, speaking of streaks, Daniel Bard, summoned for an out in the eighth after Franklin Morales gave up a three-run homer to Mike Carp, extended his scoreless innings streak to 23, his club-record scoreless appearance run to 22 games. The innings streak is the club's longest in 25 years.
The Red Sox, who maintained their two-game lead over the winning Yankees, reached the 60-win mark in their 97th game, the fastest they've been to 60 since 1979.
Notes: The Red Sox held a moment of silence before the game in memory of Myra Kraft, wife of New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft. ... Seattle RHP David Aardsma had successful Tommy John surgery Friday. ... Injured Seattle pitchers Erik Bedard and Shawn Kelley are both scheduled to throw simulated games in Boston on Saturday. Manager Eric Wedge said he hopes to have Bedard, out since June 27 with a knee injury, start a game next week. Kelley, on the 60-day disabled list, hasn't pitched all season because of an elbow injury. ... Former Red Sox third baseman Mike Lowell, who retired after last season, visited the clubhouse before the game. ... Josh Reddick got his second straight start in right field in place of a slumping J.D. Drew. "He's swinging the bat awfully well," said manager Terry Francona, who said he phoned Drew Thursday night to tell him of the decision. Francona said LHP Jon Lester (side strain) is on pace to return Monday against Kansas City.