<
>

Red Sox sweep Tigers on stellar pitches, timely hits

BOSTON (AP) -- Tim Wakefield finished off the Detroit Tigers on
Sunday. Now comes the real challenge for the streaking Boston Red
Sox.

Boston beat Detroit 6-1, ending a stretch of 26 games -- 23
against teams below .500 at the time of the game -- in which the Red
Sox won 20. Next up are consecutive three-game home series against
Anaheim and Texas, their closest pursuers in the AL wild-card race.

"I think we can beat any team right now," Johnny Damon said
after the four-game sweep. "Our team is rising up."

Curt Schilling starts Tuesday night's opener against the Angels,
who trailed Boston by two games after the win over Detroit. Texas
was three behind.

"On Tuesday night, you get a chance to set the tempo for the
rest of the series," Schilling said.

Sunday's win and New York's 6-4 loss in Toronto cut the Yankees'
AL East lead over the Red Sox to 4½ games -- the closest Boston's
been to first since June 23.

Wakefield (11-7) allowed three hits in eight innings and Boston
won its sixth straight and 11th in the last 12.

"My concentration was a lot better," said the knuckleballer,
who gave up seven runs in five innings in a win at Detroit on Aug.
8. "I mixed in my breaking ball and my fastball a little bit more
this time."

Helped by a wind blowing out that gave more movement to his
knuckler, Wakefield gave up Nook Logan's double in the third, Craig
Monroe's 10th homer in the fifth and Logan's single in the eighth.

"It was my first time to see him and his ball has so much
movement," Logan said.

The Red Sox scored four runs in the fifth off Wilfredo Ledezma
(3-2) and two in the seventh on Mark Bellhorn's 14th homer against
Craig Dingman.

"We've all known the whole year that we can do this," Bellhorn
said of the team's surge. "You want to get hot in the end."

Wakefield's performance capped a series that featured brilliant
pitching by the Red Sox, who outscored the Tigers 20-6 and outhit
them 42-22.

"Coming here or anywhere else, when you score that many runs in
four games, you're going to lose," Detroit manager Alan Trammell
said.

Wakefield, who missed his first complete game since Aug. 19,
1998, at Kansas City, threw 100 pitches, 73 for strikes, before
Curtis Leskanic worked a hitless ninth.

Wakefield, 6-1 in his last seven starts, struck out seven and
walked one, the 11th time in 12 games that he walked fewer than
three.

Ledezma allowed two singles through four innings before giving
up four runs and four hits in the fifth, all with two outs.

"He was pitching pretty well," Trammell said. "I'm not going
to let Wil go six (innings). He's been sick."

Gabe Kapler singled and stole second, and Damon walked. Bellhorn
was safe on an infield single, loading the bases. Manny Ramirez
singled in two runs, and David Ortiz singled in another.

Gary Knotts replaced Ledezma and gave up Kevin Millar's RBI
single that made it 4-1 and sent Ortiz to second. Orlando Cabrera
then got Boston's sixth single of the inning, but left fielder
Marcus Thames threw out Ortiz at home.

Jason Smith led off the game by striking out but reaching first
when the ball got by catcher Doug Mirabelli for a wild pitch.
Wakefield picked off Smith, struck out Brandon Inge and retired
Carlos Guillen on a popup.

"I knew leaving the bullpen that I had pretty good stuff,"
Wakefield said, "but I can't use that as a barometer sometimes.
I've left the bullpen with great stuff and not lasted five
innings."

After Monroe's homer gave the Tigers a 1-0 lead, Wakefield
retired his next seven batters without a ball leaving the infield.<
^Notes:@Trammell was ejected in the seventh by plate umpire Bill
Welke, who had just called out Guillen on strikes. Guillen argued
the call, bringing Trammell out of the dugout. "I just tried to
stick up for my player," Trammell said. ... Wakefield's 11-7
record is the same he had at the end of last season. He was 11-5 in
2002. ... Guillen and Ramirez returned after sustaining minor knee
injuries Friday night and missing Saturday's game. ... The Red Sox
won their seventh straight game at Fenway Park. ... The Tigers had
at least one extra-base hit for the 56th game in their last 58. ...
Boston has won seven of eight series in August. ... Detroit took
Ledezma from Boston in the winter meeting draft on Dec. 16, 2002.