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Willy Aybar, Gabe Gross and Fernando Perez homered off Tim Wakefield and the AL East-leading Tampa Bay Rays beat the Boston Red Sox 10-3 last night to move closer to their first playoff berth.
Matt Garza gave up two long home runs to David Ortiz, but the Rays otherwise held the Red Sox in check to win the season series against the defending World Series champions 10-8 and extend their division lead over them to two games.
Tampa Bay, which had never won more than 70 games in a season before this year, can clinch at least a wild-card playoff berth by beating Minnesota twice during a four-game series that begins today at Tropicana Field.
The Rays (90-60) became the sixth time in major league history to win 90 games immediately following a stretch of at least 10 consecutive losing seasons. The others are the 1912 Washington Senators, 1914 Boston Braves, 1956 Cincinnati Reds, 1979 Montreal Expos and 2006 Detroit Tigers are the others.
The Red Sox, who lost four of six to Tampa Bay over the past 10 days, dropped a road series for the first time since being swept by the Los Angeles Angels on July 18-20. Their eight losses to the Rays at Tropicana Field are the most they've had in a season road series since they went 1-8 at Yankee Stadium in 2001.
Aybar, who was 3-for-5 with three RBIs, hit a two-run homer off Wakefield (9-11) in the first inning. Aybar drove in the last of the six runs charged to the knuckleballer with a third-inning single off Devern Hansack.
Gross and Perez homered two pitches apart in the second. Perez also had RBI single in the third, when the Rays built their lead to 8-2.
Ortiz hit a two-run homer in the first and added his 21st of the season, a solo shot off that remained lodged in one of the catwalks that support the roof of the domed stadium, in the third.
And although the Red Sox still trailed 8-3, the homers turned out to be enough to keep Garza from getting the win.
Rays manager Joe Maddon lifted his starter with two on and two out in the fifth, with Ortiz strolling to the plate with a chance to get Boston back in the game. The slugger worked the count to 3-2 against Grant Balfour (5-2) before flying out near the warning track in center field.
Garza allowed three runs and five hits in 4 2-3 innings. Wakefield, whose 19 career victories against Tampa Bay are tied with Mike Mussina for the most by a Rays opponent, gave up six runs and six hits in 2 1-3 innings.
Balfour pitched two scoreless innings for the win. J.P. Howell and Chad Bradford shut down the Red Sox over the last 2 1-3 innings.
Several unruly fans among the sellout crowd of 36,048 were removed from the stands in the eighth inning. Play stopped briefly at one point while players watched police and stadium security handcuff a fan behind the Rays dugout.
This program aired on September 18, 2008. The audio for this program is not available.
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