Rapid reaction: Red Sox 9, Yankees 5

BOSTON -- The first day of September will come and go, and these truths will remain immutable:

-- The Red Sox will be in first place in the American League East.

-- Josh Beckett will have four wins without a loss against the Yankees.

-- Jacoby Ellsbury continues to win the hearts and minds of MVP voters.

-- Jason Varitek, David Ortiz and Jonathan Papelbon will make it hard to imagine life without them -- should it come to that.

The Red Sox assured themselves of holding onto the top spot, regardless of what happens in Thursday night's rubber game, by beating the Yankees 9-5 on Wednesday night before 38,021 in Fenway Park. No over-the-top displays of emotion, just some good old-fashioned hardball in a game in which the Sox responded to a four-run Yankees rally in the sixth by scoring three runs in the bottom of the inning to take the lead for good.

Beckett became the first Sox pitcher since Al Nipper in 1987 to beat the Bombers four times in a season. Ellsbury gave him the lead for keeps with his tiebreaking home run in the sixth, his 24th of the season. He also doubled and scored and has been on base five times in two games, while his center field counterpart and pinstriped contender for MVP honors, Curtis Granderson, is hitless (three walks) with four whiffs over the past two nights.

Varitek did his part for his batterymate with a game-tying, check-swing double down the left-field line just before Ellsbury unloaded and then deposited his 10th home run of the season in the Sox bullpen for the final spread.

Ortiz, meanwhile, hit a two-run home run in the fifth, his 28th of the season, to help the Sox build a 4-2 lead.