Red Sox 10, Devil Rays 8, 11 innings
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP)—There’s no letup in the Red Sox.
Just 24 hours after clinching a playoff spot for the second straight year, Boston crept closer to the New York Yankees in the AL East, beating the Tampa Bay Devil Rays 10-8 on Kevin Millar’s two-out, two-run homer in the 11th inning Tuesday night.
The Red Sox, assured of no worse than a wild-card berth, moved within 2 1/2 games of the Yankees in the division. New York was rained out and will make up its scheduled game with Minnesota as part of a doubleheader Wednesday.
“This one was nice because we’re there in the East,” Millar said. “It was a big game for us to keep winning.”
The Red Sox matched their win total for last season and have won 95 in consecutive seasons for just the third time in franchise history. They also did it in 1977 (97) and 1978 (99), in addition to 1948 (96) and 1949 (96).
Boston also climbed 33 games over .500 for the first time since Oct. 1, 1986, improving the best record in the majors since Aug. 1 to 39-16.
“We want to win every game we play. We’re just going to balance health, production and winning,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. “I don’t think we ever let the intensity down.”
David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, Doug Mirabelli, Doug Mientkiewicz and Pokey Reese drove in a run apiece for the Red Sox, who also got a bases-loaded triple from Johnny Damon to help erase a four-run deficit after a slow start against left-hander John Halama.
“It’s huge. We knew the Yankees have a really tough series with Minnesota coming up,” Damon said. “Everybody was making a deal about us celebrating about being in the playoffs. It’s not like we were giving up the AL East. We’re going out and trying to get wins. That’s all we can do. All we can do is worry about ourselves.”
Boston rallied from deficits of 5-1, 6-5 and 8-7, pulling even for the last time on Ramirez’s RBI double in the sixth. The Red Sox didn’t have another hit until Ortiz doubled off Danys Baez (4-4) with two outs in the 11th. Millar followed with his 18th homer on a 1-1 pitch.
“What are you going to do?” Tampa Bay manager Lou Piniella asked. “We scored eight runs, they scored 10. The fans got their money’s worth. It’s just a shame that we lost, but what are you going to do?”
The Devil Rays built a 5-1 lead by scoring one in the first, two in the second and two in the third off Boston starter Derek Lowe, who lasted 2 1-3 innings and has allowed 17 runs and 21 hits in just 8 1-3 innings over his last three outings.
Mirabelli’s two-out double started Boston’s four-run rally in the fourth. Bill Mueller was hit by a pitch before Mientkiewicz singled to load the bases. After Reese walked, forcing in the first run of the inning, Damon ripped his triple down the right-field line to make it 5-all.
The Red Sox went ahead 7-6 in the fifth on RBI doubles by Mirabelli and Mientkiewicz, but Terry Adams couldn’t hold the lead. Lugo singled with two outs in the bottom half and Fordyce followed with just his second homer in 143 at-bats this season.
Boston made it 8-8 when Orlando Cabrera singled and scored on Ramirez’s RBI double in the sixth. Tampa Bay reliever Travis Harper escaped further damage when he got Mirabelli to ground into an inning-ending double play with the bases loaded.
Boston’s bullpen allowed one baserunner—on a walk—after the fifth inning. Tampa Bay’s relievers were just as effective until the 11th.
“Our kids played their hearts out,” Piniella said. “We gave it everything we had. I pitched my closer (Baez) three innings, which we haven’t done all year. Tough loss. What are you going to do?”
Ortiz has 81 RBIs in his last 81 games. … Lowe appeared in his 383rd game for Boston, tying Roger Clemens for third on the all-time list. Tim Wakefield is second with 386, well behind all-time leader Bob Stanley’s 637. … Devil Rays senior advisor Don Zimmer, 73, plans to return for another season. … Tampa Bay LF Carl Crawford stole his AL-leading 58th base in the first inning.