ST. PETERSBURG -- The Red Sox have excelled in a number of facets of the game during their eight-game winning streak, but the top of the order stood out as a force to be reckoned with in Wednesday's 8-2 win over the Rays.Boston had rolled through its lineup exactly twice
ST. PETERSBURG -- The Red Sox have excelled in a number of facets of the game during their eight-game winning streak, but the top of the order stood out as a force to be reckoned with in Wednesday's 8-2 win over the Rays.
Boston had rolled through its lineup exactly twice at the end of four innings, meaning leadoff hitter Eduardo Nunez would be first up in the fifth. Given the hot streaks of Nunez and the batter due up behind him, Boston was set up for an offensive eruption.
A liner up the middle kicked off Jake Odorizzi's right foot and removed the right-hander from the game. Nunez's second hit of the game triggered a five-run avalanche that saw the Red Sox bat around.
Andrew Benintendi and Mookie Betts followed with singles, with Betts' hit driving in Nunez. The Red Sox have not lost any of the six games in which Nunez has scored.
When the lineup found its way down to the eighth spot, Sandy Leon provided a game-breaking two-run single that made it 6-0.
"Every night it seems like it's somebody new," cleanup hitter Hanley Ramirez said. "That's a good thing, because you don't have to rely just on one guy. From the top all the way to the bottom, anybody can beat you in the lineup."
Hits might be coming from all over for the Red Sox, but lately, they're coming most often from the first two hitters in Wednesday's lineup. Since coming over via trade, Nunez has 21 hits in his first 11 games with the Red Sox, a franchise record. Nunez has produced eight multihit games with Boston while batting from any of the top four spots in the order.
Meanwhile, Benintendi is 11-for-22 in his last six games with three doubles, three RBIs and five stolen bases. By swiping second Wednesday, he upped his stolen-base streak to four games, the most for a Red Sox player since Jacoby Ellsbury ran his way to a six-game streak in 2013.
Benintendi scored on a passed ball and Betts would come home soon after on a wild pitch. Ramirez, who had been intentionally walked, helped preserve the inning by forcing second baseman Brad Miller to come tag him in the basepaths between third and home, allowing Brock Holt to move up to second.
"I thought we ran the bases exceptionally well in the fifth inning," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "We were able to move up 90 feet. And the key to the inning actually was Hanley, where he kept us from getting into a double play. He stayed in the rundown long enough for Brock to advance to second base, and then a couple of balls get by [Wilson] Ramos that we are able to capitalize on."
The speed of Nunez, Benintendi and Betts is slump-proof, and as their bats have clicked at the top of the order, the Red Sox have proved supremely difficult to defeat.
Connor Mount is a reporter for MLB.com based in St. Petersburg.