Rapid Reaction: Red Sox 6, Athletics 5

BOSTON -- A day after the Red Sox took a 13-0 bath against Oakland in the mud and the blood and the beer of an unforgiving night at Fenway Park, the sun shone again on the Sons of John Farrell, who have spent the first 24 days of the 2013 season in first place and will tie a franchise record if they’re still on top by the break of dawn Friday.

By the end of Boston’s narrow 6-5 win over the Athletics on Wednesday afternoon, a full moon hung over the right-field grandstand while the Red Sox high-fived their way past closer Andrew Bailey, who struck out the side in the ninth inning for his fifth save in six chances and third on this 10-game homestand.

Bailey did so without uttering an audible profanity, at least not one that could be heard in the press box, five floors above the home plate. The same could not be said for Athletics reliever Grant Balfour, the notoriously foul-mouthed Aussie who seemed bent on bellowing an f-bomb for every one of the stitches on the baseball he held in his hand.

David Ortiz on Saturday had made this something less than Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood with his choice of adjectives for his beloved city; Balfour, meanwhile, will not soon be invited to Sesame Street.

Imagine if the Sox had scored on Balfour, who walked two in the ninth but left both runners stranded. This might have been the first game ever to be given an NC-17 rating.

A strike zone the size of his dash compartment also challenged the comportment of Sox starter Jon Lester, who ran his record to 4-0 but not before walking six, forcing an early exit with a 6-3 lead, two out and the bases loaded in the sixth inning.

Junichi Tazawa picked up Lester, inducing Coco Crisp to line out to left to end the inning, but the Athletics kept up the pressure, scoring in the seventh on Jed Lowrie’s two-out double and a single by Josh Donaldson, and again in the eighth when Chris Young lost a ball over the Monster with a home run off Koji Uehera. It was the second home run of the game for Young, who lined a hanging breaking ball off the Sports Authority sign in left field for a three-run home run off Lester in the fourth.

The Sox tied the score in the bottom of the inning on back-to-back doubles by Ortiz and Mike Napoli and a two-run triple by Stephen Drew, the Sox shortstop trying to dig out from an early-season slump.

The Sox knocked out Oakland starter Brett Anderson with three more runs in the fifth, the first six batters in the inning reaching safely. Shane Victorino had an RBI double, and Ortiz and Daniel Nava also singled in runs.

Victorino left the game after barely making it down the line on his sixth-inning grounder. No details on his injury were immediately available.

The game also was finished with three umpires, plate umpire Jerry Layne leaving the game after taking a ball off his hand. Mike Estabrook took over behind the plate.

The Sox are now 14-7, 3-3 on the 10-game homestand that concludes with a four-game set against the newest American League entry, the Houston Astros.