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Updated: Friday, September 19, 2003 1:13 AM EDT
MLB RECAP
Tampa Bay Devil Rays
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Stats: Batting | Pitching
R H E
3 7 0
Boston Red Sox
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Stats: Batting | Pitching
R H E
4 9 2
W Wakefield (11-7)
L Bell (4-4)
S Kim (14)
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BOSTON 4, TAMPA BAY 3
 

BOSTON (Ticker) -- With the wind cooperating, Tim Wakefield blew away the Tampa Bay Devil Rays .

The veteran knuckleballer allowed one earned run and seven hits in 8 1/3 innings and Manny Ramirez doubled, homered and drove in two runs as the Boston Red Sox inched closer to a postseason berth with a 4-3 triumph over the Devil Rays .

With Hurricane Isabel and its accompanying winds working its way up the eastern seaboard, Wakefield had one of his better outings of the season. He scattered six singles and a double, walked one and struck out four.

"It was nice to get a cool breeze now," Wakefield said. "It is pretty tough to play in those conditions."

"With the knuckleball, you can't say what you're going to do with the ball because it is doing so much stuff," Tampa Bay left fielder Carl Crawford said. "You just got to try to see it and hit it. The way it's moving all the time, it makes it really tough to hit."

Winning for just the second time since August 4, Wakefield (11-7) tired a bit in the ninth and closer Byung-Hyun Kim came on to record the final two outs.

Wakefield fell short of his first complete game since August 19, 1998.

"Wake was outstanding," Boston manager Grady Little said. "He was strong throughout the game."

"He gave me the opportunity to finish the game and that is all I could ask for," Wakefield said. "Unfortunately, I couldn't do that."

Ramirez gave the Red Sox starter some breathing room with an RBI double in the third and a home run in the sixth. He is batting .392 (31-for-79) over his last 20 games.

"Manny is amazing, he is the best in the league, so when he gets on fire he can carry this team. And right now, he is swinging the bat the way we need him to swing the bat," Boston first baseman Kevin Millar said. "Nothing surprises me with him. With his power he can go through the wind. There are a certain amount of guys that can do that, and he is one of them."

"Manny's statistical numbers speak for themselves, but he is an amazing player and is very consistent putting up career numbers every year," Red Sox third baseman Bill Mueller added. "It is just fun to watch and being part of that experience of seeing Manny go about his business the way he does."

The win moved Boston 2 1/2 games ahead of Seattle in the race for the American League wild card spot and got the Red Sox within five games of the first-place New York Yankees in the AL Eastern Division.

"We still have to battle, and I don't think anyone is taking this for granted right now," Red Sox second baseman Todd Walker said. "We are just going to continue to play like we have been playing and that should be good enough."

Tampa Bay starter Rob Bell (4-4) allowed three runs and seven hits in three innings. Chad Gaudin followed and yielded one run over the final five frames.

The Red Sox broke on top in the first. Walker doubled, took third on a popout to shallow right field and scored on an infield hit by Mueller, the league's leading hitter.

After Wakefield worked out of a jam in the second, Tampa Bay got even in the third on a groundout by Rocco Baldelli .

Boston forged ahead for good in the third. Damian Jackson opened the inning with a single and took third on a base hit by Walker. Nomar Garciaparra singled to left for a 2-1 lead, but Muller bounced into a double play.

Ramirez picked up his teammate with a ground-rule double down the right field line that scored Walker.

Tampa Bay got within 3-2 in the fourth on an infield single by Julio Lugo that scored Jared Sandberg .

Ramirez's 35th homer, a blast over the left field wall and out of Fenway Park, gave Wakefield a two-run cushion.

"That ball that Manny hit was crushed, right against the heavy wind," Little said. "I don't know whare that ball would have landed about a month ago."

Tampa Bay threatened in the ninth as an error by Walker at second base and a single by Toby Hall put two aboard with one out. Kim came on and walked pinch hitter Al Martin to load the bases, but the speedy Crawford bounced out to plate one run and Baldelli flied to center.

Mueller left with back spasms but did not think the problem was too serious.

"The back is all right, it is just a spasm," he said. "It is just one of those things that is progressively getting worse. I think through the accumulation of seven months of baseball sometimes this kind of stuff happens."


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