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Rays nip Red Sox 7-6 for sweep, widen AL East lead

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[July 03, 2008]  ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) -- Evan Longoria went 3-for-4 and drove in three runs Wednesday night, helping the surging Tampa Bay Rays beat the Boston Red Sox 7-6 for their second three-game sweep of the World Series champions this season.

GlassThe Rays improved the best record in baseball to 52-32, rallying from a three-run deficit in the seventh inning and extending their lead in the AL East to a franchise-best 3 1/2 games over the second-place Red Sox, who matched a season high with their fifth consecutive loss.

Tampa Bay is 6-0 at home against Boston, which has swept a pair of three-game series from the Rays at Fenway Park.

Longoria had a RBI single off Daisuke Matsuzaka in the first inning, and his two-run double off Craig Hansen (1-3) was the big blow in a six-run seventh and gave the rookie 15 RBIs in his last 10 games.

Jason Bartlett also had a two-run single in the seventh, making it 7-4 and setting off chants of "Sweep! Sweep! Sweep!" among the crowd of 36,048, the Rays' fourth sellout of the season and just the 12th in the club's 11 seasons.


Gary Glover, the third of four Tampa Bay pitchers, allowed one run in 1 2-3 innings to get the win.

The Red Sox made it interesting in the ninth for the third straight night, pulling within 7-6 on Kevin Youkilis' sacrifice fly. They had the tying run on first base, but Mike Lowell was caught stealing when Jason Varitek swung and missed on a hit-and-run play.

Dan Wheeler then struck out Varitek for his third save in as many opportunities.


Dustin Pedroia went 4-for-5, finishing a single shy of becoming the first Boston player to hit for the cycle since John Valentin in 1996. He homered in the first off Scott Kazmir, then tripled and scored in the third and doubled and scored in the fifth while helping the Red Sox build a 4-1 lead.

Pedroia, who's 25-for-44 during a 10-game hitting streak, flied to center in the sixth before delivering a two-out RBI double off Glover that trimmed Tampa Bay's lead to 7-5 in the eighth.

The Red Sox wasted scoring opportunities in the second and fourth against Kazmir, and wound up paying for the lack of production. The Tampa Bay starter escaped both of those jams with help from Boston's Julio Lugo.

Lugo grounded out with runners at second and third to end the second, then was called for interfering with shortstop Bartlett trying to break up an inning-ending double play with the bases loaded in the fourth.

Jacoby Ellsbury beat the relay to first, allowing a run that would've put Boston up 3-1. But Lugo stood up as he was sliding wide of second base to hinder Bartlett's throw, and Ellsbury was ruled out -- denying the run and ending the inning.

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Pedroia led off the fifth with a double, then scored on J.D. Drew's triple. Two outs later, Drew hustled home on Kazmir's wild pitch to make it 4-1.

Bartlett began the Tampa Bay seventh with a double off Manny Delcarmen. He stole third and scored on Akinori Iwamura's RBI single. Carlos Pena drew a bases-loaded walk from Hansen to cut Boston's lead 4-3 before Longoria's double put the Rays ahead.

Kazmir, who hasn't lasted six innings in any of his last four starts, allowed four runs and seven hits in five innings.

Matsuzaka allowed one run and two hits in five innings in his third outing since returning from a stint on the disabled list with a mild right rotator cuff strain.

Notes: Pedroia has homered eight times in his last 39 games after hitting one in his first 45 this season. ... Boston CF Coco Crisp served the final day of a five-game suspension for his role in the June 5 benches-clearing brawl between the Red Sox and Rays. He's eligible to return to the lineup against the Yankees on Thursday. ... Rays reliever Al Reyes, out since June 10 because of right shoulder tendinitis, is progressing and may throw batting practice this weekend. ... Red Sox DH David Ortiz (wrist) hit soft toss before the game and may begin taking some batting practice in an indoor cage next week. ... High school RHP-SS Casey Kelly, Boston's first-round draft pick from nearby Sarasota, visited the Red Sox clubhouse.

[Associated Press; By FRED GOODALL]

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.




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