Rays Increase AL East Lead

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Matt Garza pitched seven strong innings in his first outing since throwing a one-hitter, and the host Tampa Bay Rays beat the Boston Red Sox and nemesis Tim Wakefield, 3-1, last night.

The win extended the Rays' lead in the AL East to 2 1/2 games over the Red Sox.

Garza (7-4) allowed an unearned run and five hits, and Dioner Navarro snapped a fourth-inning tie with an RBI single. Navarro's hit was off Wakefield (5-6), whose 19 career victories against the Rays - nine at Tropicana Field - are the most by an opposing pitcher.

The Rays have won seven of eight, improving the best record in the major leagues to 51-32. They are 5-0 at home against the Red Sox, who have won all six games the teams have played at Fenway Park.

Grant Balfour got the last four outs for his second save. Balfour worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the eighth and struck out three in the ninth, including Jason Varitek to end it with the tying run on second. The Rays put closer Troy Percival on the disabled list with a strained left hamstring.

Garza was coming off the first complete game of his career, the one-hitter over Florida in which Hanley Ramirez homered in the seventh inning.

Although the 24-year-old righthander wasn't as sharp this time, he did retire the first nine batters before Jacoby Ellsbury beat out a dribbler and continued to third when Rays catcher Navarro picked up the ball and threw wildly past first.

J.D. Drew drove in Ellsbury with a sacrifice fly, but he and Manny Ramirez could not deliver with a runner in scoring position when the Red Sox - behind 2-1 - threatened in the sixth.

Garza worked out of the jam by getting Drew to pop to first base and Ramirez, who's just 10-for-54 in his last 16 games, to foul out to first to end the inning.

The Red Sox squandered an opportunity in the eighth when they loaded the bases on an error and two walks. Balfour replaced J.P. Howell with two outs and walked Ramirez, then escaped when Mike Lowell - who had been 5-for-10 with two homers, two doubles and 18 RBIs with the bases loaded this season - grounded to shortstop.

After striking out Kevin Youkilis and Brandon Moss to begin the ninth, Balfour gave up a double to Alex Cora before fanning Varitek to end it.

The loss was the fourth in 23 decisions against Tampa Bay for Wakefield, who is 9-2 lifetime at Tropicana Field.

The Rays scored an unearned run in the first when Carl Crawford raced home on a wild pitch after shortstop Cora's two-out fielding error kept the inning alive. Another wild pitch led to their second run, with Evan Longoria moving up to second before Navarro's RBI single snapped a tie at 1 in the fourth.

This program aired on July 2, 2008. The audio for this program is not available.