ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) -- The Boston Red Sox look as if
they're ready for postseason play.
Pedro Martinez pitched three scoreless innings in his final
playoff tuneup and Manny Ramirez hit a two-run homer as the Red Sox
beat the Tampa Bay Devil Rays 7-2 on Friday night.With their 17th win 24 games, the Red Sox improved to 95-65 --
the first time Boston has won that many since advancing to the
World Series in 1986."The number of victories doesn't matter," Boston manager Grady
Little said. "It's special because we're going to play some more
in October."Little had Martinez on a strict pitch count after picking him
the starter for Boston's playoff opener Wednesday at Oakland. The
right-hander allowed two hits and struck out two during a 51-pitch
outing.Little also rested several starters -- including Johnny Damon,
Bill Mueller and Kevin Millar -- one day after Boston clinched the
AL wild-card berth."Everything went smoothly out there tonight," Little said.
"We got the work in with the people we wanted and we were able to
win the game, too."John Burkett (12-9), who got just one out and gave up seven runs
in Boston's 14-3 loss to Baltimore on Wednesday in his last start,
allowed two runs and four hits over three relief innings for the
win."I made some adjustments and I was able to keep the ball
down," Burkett said.Ramirez gave the Red Sox a 2-0 lead with a two-run homer in the
first off Jeremi Gonzalez (6-11). He's 6-for-15 with three homers
against Gonzalez.Gonzalez hit Boston's Nomar Garciaparra in the upper left arm
with a pitch in the third inning. It was the 95th batter hit by
Tampa Bay's staff this season, one more than the major league
record set by the Devil Rays last year."That's something we're really going to address next spring,"
Devil Rays manager Lou Piniella said. "I know I'm not pleased with
it. I know they're unintentional. At the same time, all it's going
to do is keep getting us in problems with other teams."Damian Jackson pinch-hit for Garciaparra during a three-run
fourth and drove in a two runs with a single to give the Red Sox a
5-0 lead. Adrian Brown earlier had an RBI single.Garciaparra said he was fine and will play Saturday."You always like to win," he said. "We get motivated. We go
out there and we work."Ramirez went 1-for-2 and was replaced by pinch-runner Bill
Haselman after walking in the fourth. He is hitting .325, two
points below AL leader and Red Sox teammate Mueller.Gonzalez allowed five runs and seven hits over four innings to
fall to 0-6 in his last seven starts since beating Baltimore on
Aug. 19. He has been pitching with a tender rib cage muscle.The Devil Rays (61-99) have lost seven of eight and need to win
their final two games to avoid a third consecutive 100-loss season."All the young kids we have here, we were concerned about
September," Piniella said. "Our tanks are pretty empty. Would it
be nice not lose to 100 games? Yes. I hope we can muster enough and
come out and play two good ballgames."Travis Lee homered off Burkett in the fourth to get the Devil
Rays within 5-1.Gabe Kapler hit a solo homer to make it 6-1 in the sixth. Damian
Rolls had an RBI single in the bottom half.Tampa Bay loaded the bases with two outs in the seventh, but
failed to score. Brandon Lyon worked out of the jam by inducing an
inning-ending grounder from Rocco Baldelli.Doug Mirabelli's RBI double in the ninth made it 7-2.
The Devil Rays became the last team in the majors to reach
1 million in home attendance with an announced crowd of 21,240.
Tampa Bay has drawn 1,008,904 this year at Tropicana Field. ... Red
Sox OF Trot Nixon (left calf) missed his third straight game.
Little said Nixon might see some action as the DH this weekend. ...
Tampa Bay SS Julio Lugo (four games) and DH Aubrey Huff (three
games) had home run streaks end. The team record of five straight
games was set by Jose Canseco in 1999. ... Little said Saturday's
starter, RHP Jeff Suppan, will go only four or five innings. RHP
Tim Wakefield, who pitches Sunday, is expected to throw three