BOSTON -- At first, each home run was crucial.
Slowly they started to relieve stress.
Eventually it was a runaway at the Fens unlike any other in the past 35 years.
The Red Sox belted a franchise-tying eight home runs as they routed the Tigers, 20-4, to take two of three games against the American League Central leaders at Fenway Park on Wednesday.
"The Green Monster's one thing," Tigers manager Jim Leyland marveled. "But right field, you normally don't see them going out like that. But they were going out like ping-pong balls."
The last time the Sox went deep eight times was July 4, 1977, in a 9-6 win against the Blue Jays at Fenway Park.
The Red Sox homered in six frames and scored in seven of the eight innings they went to bat. When it was done, they had 19 hits, collected four walks and two hit-by-pitches.
Only five of Boston's 25 baserunners failed to cross home plate.
"It was one of those days," said Daniel Nava, who was one of a record-setting seven different Red Sox players to hit a home run. "I think we know we're a good team and they're a good team, too. But everything fell. Balls that may have stayed in the park didn't stay in the park."
When Stephen Drew wrapped a home run around Pesky's Pole in the second inning, the Sox took a 2-0 lead. Jacoby Ellsbury homered the next inning to tie the game at 3. David Ortiz hit his 25th of the season in the fourth to tie the game at 4.
Then it all came untied in the sixth.
With the bases loaded and no outs, Mike Carp pinch-hit for David Ross and drew a walk. Surging third baseman Will Middlebrooks was on deck when the Tigers went to a pitching change, relieving starter Rick Porcello and bringing in Al Alburquerque.
Middlebrooks walked over to the bench and swapped notes with hitting coach Greg Colbrunn. After Alburquerque missed with his signature slider, Middlebrooks crushed a fastball for his second career grand slam to push the Red Sox's lead to 10-4.
"That had as much meaning inside the game as any," manager John Farrell said of Middlebrooks' slam. "Where we were, what the score was, it gave us the cushion we continued to build on. … It'd be a really nice thing to see him continue that and stay on a hot streak."
After Middlebrooks homered, the game started to look more like a show-and-tell of one-sided talent.
"I think what it does is allow the guys on the team to relax," Nava said. "You get in the mindset where [the score is] 3-3, 4-4 and you're trying to get that run, get that lead, and all of a sudden Will broke it open like that and you can kind of take a deep breath."
Nava homered later in the inning.
Ryan Lavarnway smacked a ball off the top of the left-field wall the next inning. Originally ruled a double, it was overturned by crew chief Jeff Kellogg and the Red Sox homer total moved to six.
"A line drive off the top off the top of the Monster?" Middlebrooks said. "He crushed that ball."
Five batters later, Ortiz ran into his second homer of the game, delivering a souvenir to fans in the right-field bleachers. He hit two milestones in the game, passing Billy Williams for 47th all-time with 427 career homers on this blast, which came after he collected his 2,000th hit on a sixth-inning double.
"Great to see the reception and the ovation that he received, and rightly so," Farrell said.
Mike Napoli led off the next inning with a homer to right field.
It was the first time a Major League team hit eight homers in a game since the Blue Jays did it in 2010.
"It's hard to explain," Farrell said.
Ryan Dempster pitched six innings of four-run ball to collect his eighth win of the season in perhaps his last start for the time being, with Clay Buchholz likely to return to the Red Sox next week. But Dempster's sturdy start was an afterthought by the time the sixth inning was over.
The Red Sox plated eight runs in the sixth, five more in the seventh and two in the eighth.
Set to begin a four-game series against the Yankees in New York on Thursday, the Sox have catapulted themselves into the best run differential (plus-154) in the Majors while delivering the 16th 20-run performance in franchise history.
The momentum is building; the magical feeling hard to ignore.
"One through nine, we have a guy that can hit the ball over the fence," Dempster said. "That's something not a lot of teams have, but at the same time, we're putting up runs however we can get them.
"A night like tonight shows you we have the most runs in baseball and it comes in all kinds of different ways.