ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP)—Pedro Martinez pranced through the champagne-soaked clubhouse in a drenched Harvard baseball T-shirt, hugging teammates and savoring another Red Sox playoff berth.
Boston clinched its second straight trip to the postseason Monday night, beating the Tampa Bay Devil Rays 7-3 behind Manny Ramirez’s AL-leading 43rd home run and Johnny Damon’s go-ahead, three-run shot.
“We haven’t accomplished anything yet,” Ramirez said after getting repeatedly sprayed with champagne. “We’re going to take it to another level and see what happens.”
The Red Sox, assured of no worse than the AL wild-card berth, closed within three games of the AL East-leading New York Yankees with six games remaining.
Boston players shook hands and exchanged hugs and high-fives after the final out, then hustled into the clubhouse where the celebration really got wild.
Players ran around, spraying one another with champagne, posing for pictures, smoking cigars and dancing to hip hop music. When the champagne ran dry, they doused each other with beer and water.
Amid the party, though, there was a unified message: They aren’t finished, yet.
“We’re happy to be in the playoffs, but there’s a lot more this team has to do,” Damon said.
“This is the beginning. I think they feel that way, too,” manager Terry Francona said. “But I want them to have their fun. It’s very sweet.”
The Red Sox, held hitless for four innings, went ahead on Damon’s homer and Ramirez’s 458-foot, two-run drive after Tampa Bay starter Scott Kazmir was ejected for hitting Ramirez and Kevin Millar with pitches in the fourth inning. The Devil Rays led 2-0 at the time.
Tampa Bay manager Lou Piniella also was tossed after Kazmir plunked Ramirez and Millar in a span of four pitches. The first one appeared to be retaliation for Boston’s Bronson Arroyo hitting Aubrey Huff and Tino Martinez the previous inning.
Kazmir said he was not trying to hit anyone.
“I didn’t see why I wouldn’t stay in the game,” he said. “I was just doing what I had been doing all game—throwing inside.”
Arroyo (10-9) has hit 20 batters this season, most in the major leagues. The right-hander settled down after giving up Julio Lugo’s RBI double in the second and a sacrifice fly to Rocco Baldelli in the third to win his fifth straight decision and improved to 8-2 since ending a six-game losing streak on July 9.
The umpires huddled after Arroyo hit Martinez with an open base, but did not issue a warning. Kazmir, who held the Red Sox hitless through 3 1-3 innings, hit Ramirez with the first pitch, and both benches were warned.
Millar was hit on a 1-1 pitch, though that one just appeared to get away from the 20-year-old Kazmir. The benches emptied, but no punches were thrown. The umpires huddled again and ejected Piniella and Kazmir, who was acquired from the New York Mets in July.
“It woke us up a little bit,” Francona said. “And him leaving the game certainly didn’t hurt our chances to win. That kid has quite an arm.”
The rookie struck out of six of 11 batters before hitting Ramirez.
“I don’t know how he could be traded,” Damon said.
Play resumed after a nine-minute delay with Tampa Bay leading 2-0. Jorge Sosa (4-7) replaced Kazmir and gave up five runs in the fifth. Jason Varitek and David McCarty also homered for the Red Sox, hitting solo shots off Lance Carter in the eighth.
The bullpens and benches cleared in Boston’s previous game, too, an 11-4 victory over the Yankees at Fenway Park on Sunday. In the top of the eighth, Red Sox reliever Pedro Astacio was ejected for throwing behind Kenny Lofton.
Arroyo allowed two runs and six hits in 6 1-3 innings. Cummings’ homer was the only hit allowed by four Boston relievers.
After remaining in Boston Sunday night to wait out Hurricane Jeanne, the Red Sox left Fenway Park at 8:40 a.m. for a flight that landed at St. Petersburg-Clearwater Airport shortly before 1 p.m. … The Red Sox have hit 216 homers, second-most in team history. They hit 238 last season. … Kazmir, who pitched six shutout innings to win at Fenway on Sept. 14, has struck out 15 while allowing no runs and three hits in 9 1-3 innings against the Red Sox.