BOSTON -- Kevin Youkilis launched a towering fly ball to the deepest part of Fenway Park. A few feet farther, and it's over the 420-feet marker in straightaway center; a foot or so to the right, and it lands in the Red Sox bullpen.
Instead of coasting around the bases, though, Youkilis had to motor at full speed for an inside-the-park home run.
"It would have saved me a lot of time and effort," he said after helping the Red Sox beat the Cleveland Indians 5-3 on Monday night -- Boston's fourth consecutive victory.
At 35-15, the Red Sox lead the AL East by 11½ games over Baltimore and hold a 13½-game lead over the rival New York Yankees. Boston has never had a bigger lead through 50 games.
"We're good," said Curt Schilling, who struck out 10 to rebound from his worst start of the season. "There's a lot more focus on the spread between us and the Yankees than we put on it. But to be 50 games into a season and be by double-digits up on anybody is good."
Schilling (5-2) had already tipped his cap after seven strong innings when Youkilis sent center fielder Grady Sizemore running into the Fenway triangle. He couldn't get to it before it hit the side of the Red Sox bullpen and kicked toward left field, where right fielder Trot Nixon ran it down.
"I've watched Johnny (Damon) knock himself completely out. That's a tough ball to play," Nixon said.
"What makes it tough," Sizemore said, "is that it can bounce in so many different directions. You never know if it's going to come out, or kick away. You can go for it, or lay back. But you never know."
Nixon -- who happened to hit the last inside-the-park homer for the Red Sox, on July 15, 2005, against the Yankees -- made a throw to the cutoff man but Youkilis was already coasting across the plate. From there, he retired to the dugout and, smiling and huffing heavily, assumed the fetal position on the bench.
"He runs right out of the batter's box every time," manager Terry Francona said. "Sometimes you get rewarded for that, not with a triple but with a home run."
Youkilis, who also doubled in the fourth, has hit in 20 consecutive games, raising his average from .280 to .354 -- fourth in the AL. Manny Ramirez also homered, moving into a tie for 25th on the career list with No. 478. Dustin Pedroia was 3-for-3 with two doubles and a walk.
Jonathan Papelbon pitched the ninth for his 13th save, but not before Josh Barfield's RBI double off the Green Monster made it 5-3. Papelbon struck out Casey Blake and Travis Hafner to snap Cleveland's four-game winning streak.
Schilling beat Cliff Lee (2-2) in a matchup of pitchers coming off their season worsts.
Schilling gave up five earned runs and 12 hits against the Yankees on Wednesday. But he allowed the Indians just one run and six hits, fanning 10 or more for the 93rd time in his career and his first this season, before leaving after seven to a standing ovation.
The biggest ovation of the game, though, was to welcome Nixon, who left in the offseason as a free agent after 13 seasons in the Red Sox organization.
Nixon and his wife received an award from the Jimmy Fund before the game for their charitable work, and Kathryn Nixon threw out the first pitch. Nixon received another warm welcome when he came to the plate in the second and again when he singled to right, where J.D. Drew has replaced him.
Lee gave up seven runs in the first two innings last time -- and eight in 4 1/3 -- but on Monday he retired the first eight batters and didn't give up a run until allowing back-to-back RBI doubles to Drew and Mike Lowell. Ramirez added a solo drive in the fifth to make it 3-0.
Ramirez, who hit the first 236 homers of his career for Cleveland, drove his eighth of the year into the Monster Seats to move into a tie with another ex-Indian, Jim Thome, for 25th on the career list.
- Sizemore made a diving catch to save a run in the fourth.
- The Red Sox just missed a triple play in the third, when Blake hit a chopper to Lowell, who stepped on third and threw to second. Pedroia's throw to first was too late.
- Boston LHP Jon Lester will throw 80-85 pitches in a rehab start at Triple-A Pawtucket on Tuesday night. RHP Mike Timlin will also rehab at Pawtucket, with scheduled appearances on Tuesday and Thursday.
- Blake was called out on strikes when Papelbon's pitch hit him in the hand while he swung at a 1-2 pitch.
- RP Manny Delcarmen was optioned to Pawtucket after the game to make room for Tuesday's starter, Josh Beckett.