ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP)—Alan Embree didn’t bother to follow the flight of the ball.
“I’m not icing my shoulder, I’m icing my pride right now,” the Boston reliever said Friday night after giving up a 459-foot homer to pinch-hitter Eduardo Perez in the ninth inning.
Perez’s drive gave the Tampa Bay Devil Rays a 5-4 victory over the Red Sox.
“A walk-off is just one of the worst feelings you can feel, and I got a good taste of it tonight,” Embree said. “There was no doubt. He crushed the ball. As soon as I let go of the pitch, I pretty much walked off the mound.”
Perez connected on the first pitch from Embree (0-1) after the World Series champions scored twice in the top of the ninth to tie the game against Danys Baez (3-0). The long drive struck one of the catwalks supporting the roof at Tropicana Field before falling into the upper deck.
“As a pinch-hitter, I remember one time Hal McRae telling me, `Be ready for the first pitch. Don’t let it go by,”’ said Perez, who homered twice off Randy Johnson in Tampa Bay’s victory at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday night. “I think it’s helped me a lot throughout my career, doing that. It’s not that I’m a free swinger. I’m just being aggressive.”
Julio Lugo went 3-for-4 and had three RBIs for Tampa Bay, which was three outs from beating knuckleballer Tim Wakefield for the first time in six years when pinch-hitter Trot Nixon drew a leadoff walk and scored on Mark Bellhorn’s double.
Boston made it 4-all on Johnny Damon’s RBI single.
“The momentum didn’t stay in our corner,” said Red Sox manager Terry Francona, who didn’t second-guess his decision to bring in Embree.
“I felt pretty good about it until that ball left Perez’s bat. It certainly wasn’t cheap. … We played the game right. We gave ourselves a chance to win and a good hitter comes through. It just didn’t work out in the end.”
Wakefield, who is 11-1 lifetime against Tampa Bay, allowed four runs—two earned—and seven hits in six innings. He walked three and struck out two in his first start since signing a $4 million, one-year contract extension through 2006.
In seven strong innings for Tampa Bay, Scott Kazmir limited the Red Sox to Bellhorn’s double and singles by David Ortiz, Edgar Renteria and Damon, who also drove in Boston’s only run off the 21-year-old left-hander with a fifth-inning sacrifice fly.
Lugo had a two-run double in the third and made it 3-1 with an RBI single in the fifth. The Devil Rays added an unearned run off Wakefield on first baseman Kevin Millar’s throwing error in the sixth.
“I had a lot of problems throwing strikes, especially later in the game,” Wakefield said.
Boston pulled to 4-2 when Manny Ramirez tripled and scored on Millar’s eighth-inning single off reliever Travis Harper. Baez prevented further damage by getting pinch-hitter Jason Varitek to hit into an inning-ending double play, then returned for the ninth to try for his second save.
In two outings against Boston late last season, Kazmir allowed no runs, three hits and struck out 15 in 9 1-3 innings. He beat Pedro Martinez on Sept. 14, becoming the youngest left-hander to win at Fenway Park since Detroit’s Hal Newhouser in 1941.
The Red Sox were much more effective against Kazmir last Sunday in Boston, taking advantage of four walks and scoring three runs in five innings on the way to Wakefield’s 10th consecutive victory against Tampa Bay dating to April 1999.
They had a chance to break through Friday night, but failed to score after loading the bases with two outs in the fourth when Jay Payton flied out to end the threat.
The game-winning homer was the third of Perez’s career, first since Aug. 10, 2002, with St. Louis.
“It’s a tough loss any time you can come back in the ninth and tie the game up,” Bellhorn said. “It’s kind of heartbreaking to lose it that way, but that’s the game.”
Thanks to a walk-up gate of 7,595, attendance was announced as a season-high 30,530 at Tropicana Field—well above the Devil Rays’ average of just 11,550 for their first 11 home dates. … Boston 3B Bill Mueller sat out his second straight game because of flulike symptoms. … Ramirez was hit in the back of the leg by a pitch in the fifth inning, but remained in the game. … Kazmir is the second-youngest player in the majors behind Arizona pitcher Marcos Carvajal at 21 years, 2 months. … Baez got his first save in Tampa Bay’s 16th game Thursday night. A team had not gone that far into a season without a save opportunity since 1988, when Baltimore got its first chance in its 21st game.