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Ross HRs lift Red Sox
Boston Red Sox catcher David Ross (3) rounds first base after hitting a home run during the second inning against the Houston Astros at Fenway Park on Friday. (Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports)
Ross connected for his second and third homers and went 4 for 4. David Ortiz hit his second mammoth homer in as many nights and Will Middlebrooks had his sixth of the season as the Red Sox stroked nine extra-base hits off Erik Bedard (0-2) and two relievers.
Dempster (1-2) gave up four hits and two runs while matching his season high with 10 strikeouts in six innings. Four relievers finished up.
Dustin Pedroia had three hits for the first-place Red Sox, who have won three straight and four of the last five to go to 16-7. They have been in first place for all 26 days of the season, a club record.
Jose Altuve hit two sacrifice flies for the Astros (7-16), who lost their seventh straight road game.
Ortiz is hitting .500 (12 for 24) with two homers and six RBIs in six games since coming off the disabled list.
Boston pitchers struck out 14, giving the Red Sox 232 Ks for the month, the most a Boston staff has ever had in any month.
The Rangers scored two runs in the first on doubles by Elvis Andrus, Lance Berkman and Nelson Cruz, who has 13 RBIs in the past six games.
The Red Sox took a 1-0 lead in the first inning when Jacoby Ellsbury led off with a single off the glove of first baseman Brandon Laird and then rode home on Pedroia's first double.
Dempster had four strikeouts through two innings and his pals gave him another run in the bottom of the second when Ross hit a 1-and-2 pitch with two outs for his first homer of the season. Pedro Ciriaco followed with a triple but couldn't score and Ellsbury grounded out.
Houston got a run back in the third when Matt Dominguez doubled, took third on a flyout and scored when Robbie Grossman grounded out to second.
But the Red Sox answered as Pedroia led off the bottom of the inning with a pop-fly double and scored when Mike Napoli doubled with two out. It was the 17th extra-base hit and 12th double for Napoli, both club records for April.
Middlebrooks led off the fourth with his home run and Ross followed with his second moon shot, this one knocking Bedard out of the game. It was the third time this season the Red Sox went back-to-back.
Houston got a run back in the fifth when Dominguez collected his second double, took third on a wild pitch and scored on Altuve's sacrifice fly.
Jonny Gomes, who misplayed the double, made a diving catch to his right to end the inning to rob Jason Castro. Ortiz then connected with one out in the bottom of the inning.
NOTES: Red Sox right fielder Shane Victorino missed his second straight and fourth game in less than a week with back spasms. Manager John Farrell reported improvement but hinted Victorino may well have to sit out the weekend. ... Houston manager Bo Porter says he's keeping right-hander Philip Humber in the rotation despite back-to-back disastrous starts. ... Slumping Red Sox shortstop Stephen Drew, just 5 for 42 this season, got the night off against the lefty starter, with Ciriaco playing short. Farrell said Ciriaco could get another start this weekend, which would likely be at third base. ... Houston rookie Brad Peacock, acquired in the deal that sent Jed Lowrie to Oakland, starts against Boston left-hander Felix Doubront on Saturday night. ... Center fielder Justin Maxwell, who had played in every inning of Houston's first 20 games before fracturing his left hand, won't need surgery and is slated to miss four to six weeks. ... Triple-A left-hander Rudy Owens, a candidate to join the Astros' rotation, will miss four to five months with a stress fracture of the left foot. He will have surgery Monday. ... Castro batted third for the 13th straight game. ... Red Sox reliever Joel Hanrahan (hamstring) gave up two hits, including a home run, and two hits pitching for triple-A Pawtucket on Friday night.