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Red Sox 7, Devil Rays 1

Red Sox find relief

They unload on Tampa's bullpen

By Amalie Benjamin
Globe Staff / July 28, 2007

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Forgive the Red Sox for a sense of calm midway through last night's game, despite being down, 1-0, on the road.

The Red Sox may have figured Jason Hammel, the reliever thrust into a starting role despite being winless in 10 career starts, wouldn't be long for the outing with a limited pitch count. And they had to like their chances against a bullpen with a 6.62 ERA.Plus there was this: Tim Wakefield had never lost inside the dome at Tropicana Field.

And this: Over the past six games -- not including consecutive 1-0 games against the Indians -- the Red Sox had scored 56 runs. So they had to figure their time would come. It did, a three-run sixth and a four-run eighth providing the punch in a 7-1 win over the Devil Rays before 33,144, many partial to the visitors.

"I think we had a confidence that we're capable of scoring runs at a large clip -- and not just one day," third baseman Mike Lowell said. "I do think we believe we can do that. And it's kind of nice because we feel like if the pitchers can just hold it close for a while, we feel like we're going to be hopefully about to explode."

Four pitches after Hammel was removed from the game by manager Joe Maddon, his replacement, Juan Salas, threw a cutter to Kevin Youkilis that came back over the plate, then landed in the seats in left field. Youkilis's three-run home run, after consecutive walks to Alex Cora and Julio Lugo, provided the Red Sox with a 3-1 lead.

"[It] definitely was tough when we weren't scoring any runs," said Youkilis, who homered for the first time in 19 games. "I felt we were getting no luck, a couple balls hit hard.

"You can't judge this team by the first five innings. There's al ways nine innings to play. That's what we did, we came back and scored a lot of runs."

With the Yankees splitting a pair against the Orioles -- winning a suspended game from earlier in the season -- the Red Sox picked up a half-game, and Wakefield snatched something from Yankees starter Mike Mussina. Wakefield won his 17th game against the Devil Rays, the most all time against the franchise. He has beaten Tampa Bay four straight times.

"In the domes it seems like his ball just moves so much more," Lowell said. "I think you notice that he starts throwing a couple more curveballs because I think it actually moves too much. He almost can't control it. I feel bad for Doug [Mirabelli]."

But not too bad.

Still, it appeared Wakefield (12-9) wouldn't get any run support, with Hammel holding the Red Sox hitless through 3 2/3 innings. The Devils Rays starter departed after 5 1/3 innings, having allowed just a single to David Ortiz. But Hammel walked consecutive batters in the sixth, and was charged with two runs -- and the loss -- when Salas imploded. Wakefield held on for six innings (despite his back stiffening in the fifth) before turning it over to Manny Delcarmen and Kyle Snyder.

"Tonight we certainly weren't doing a lot offensively early," manager Terry Francona said. "The way [Wakefield] pitched allowed us to be patient and stay patient, so we could do something later and it mattered."

Casey Fossum, who got the final out of the sixth, and Shawn Camp combined to allow four runs in the eighth. Fossum walked Ortiz with one out, and Camp was brought on to face Manny Ramírez, who singled to right, sending Ortiz to third. J.D. Drew singled to right to score Ortiz, and after Lowell popped to second, Coco Crisp broke the game open at 6-1 with a two-run double.

Mirabelli singled to right to score Crisp, closing out the scoring.

"You just can't give their bullpen a chance to keep the lead," said Maddon, whose team has lost seven straight. "They're that good."

And that was without facing Hideki Okajima and Jonathan Papelbon.

But Delcarmen, who came on in the seventh and pitched two scoreless innings, is scary to just about everyone these days, especially a Devil Rays team that was beaten down recently by the Yankees, who scored 17 (in the second game of a doubleheader) and 21 runs on consecutive days.

There's one member of the Red Sox who knows what that's like.

Lugo, who played for the Devil Rays from 2003-06, was happy to see some old teammates, his old fans, his old home. But he was even happier to be sitting in the visitors' clubhouse after the game. After the win.

"They took the lead," Lugo said. "We've got the confidence that we're going to come back. When you're on the other side, you don't know if you're going to come back. It's tough. I think those guys, right now, they're just overmatched."

Amalie Benjamin can be reached at abenjamin@globe.com.

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