Ramirez on target for AL batting title


BOSTON (AP) -- After doubling twice Saturday, Manny Ramirez has a
.349 average and a large enough lead in the AL batting race that he
could finish first no matter what he does in the season finale.

"I think that Manny won't start the game tomorrow,'' Boston
manager Grady Little said after Tampa Bay's Randy Winn homered
during a seven-run seventh inning to give the Devil Rays a 9-6
victory over the Red Sox.

"That's my thinking right now,'' Little said. "I'm not saying
he won't see action before the game's over. It's kind of a joint

Ramirez was not available for comment after the game.

"Manny's been getting after it pretty hard. He's been under a
lot of stress,'' Little said. "If he comes in in the morning and
is displeased with me about not playing, maybe he'll play.''

Ramirez went 2-for-4 to pad his lead over Kansas City's Mike
Sweeney, who went 0-for-4 earlier in the day and dropped to .340.
Even if Ramirez went 0-for-4 and Sweeney went 4-for-4 on Sunday,
Ramirez would win by .34545 to .34526.

Winn also singled in a run in the eighth for his 180th hit of
the season, breaking Quinton McCracken's 1998 club record as the
Devil Rays won for the third time in 18 games against Boston.

"You can easily quit when you have lost as many games as we
have lost,'' manager Hal McRae said. "So, I'm proud of the fact
that they haven't given up.''

Victor Zambrano (8-8) allowed four runs -- three earned -- six hits
and four walks in six innings, striking out five. Lance Carter
pitched three innings to earn his second save, despite Nomar
Garciaparra hit a two-out, two-run homer in the ninth.

Boston's Tim Wakefield moved into the league leaders in earned-run average with
six strong innings, but he dropped from third to fourth after being
charged with two runs in the seventh.

"He's the most valuable guy on our team,'' shortstop Nomar
Garciaparra said, noting that Wakefield started the season in the
bullpen. "He's done everything that's been asked of him. He
deserves it. It's a tribute to him.''

Wakefield had allowed just one run on three hits and two walks
before giving up a leadoff double in the seventh to Jared Sandberg.
Brent Abernathy singled to cut Boston's lead to 4-2 and chase

Bobby Howry (3-6) hit Felix Escalona, Damian Rolls advanced the
runners with a sacrifice bunt and Carl Crawford followed with a
run-scoring groundout to make it 4-3. Winn homered into the right
field corner to give Tampa Bay its first lead of the game.

Aubrey Huff reached on left fielder Benny Agbayani's fielding
error, Ben Grieve was intentionally walked and Toby Hall, who had
homered in the third, doubled to drive in another run and make it
6-4. Sandberg, coming up for the second time in the inning, and
Abernathy followed with RBI singles to make it 8-4.

The scoring outburst left Wakefield with a 2.81 ERA and may have
deprived him of a chance to finish 1-2-3 in the ERA race with Pedro
Martinez (2.26) and Derek Lowe (2.58). Oakland's Barry Zito, third
at 2.78, was scheduled to pitch Sunday.

Wakefield's ERA has been below 3.00 for some time, but because
he started the season in the bullpen he went into Saturday needing
4 2/3 innings to qualify.

Game notes
The last team to have two 20-game winners and a batting
champion was the 1959 Milwaukee Braves with Hank Aaron, Warren
Spahn and Lew Burdette, who tied the Dodgers at the end of the
regular season and lost a best-of-three playoff for the NL pennant.
... Wakefield had won four consecutive decisions. It was the first
time in nine starts he allowed more than two earned runs. ...
Ramirez would be the third Red Sox batting champion in four years.
Garciaparra won in 1999-00. Boston has had eight of the past 21
batting champions (Carney Lansford '81, Wade Boggs '83, '85-88).
... Zambrano tied for the team lead in wins with Joe Kennedy.