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August 7, 2009

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Rays complete Red Sox sweep

A YEAR after showing they can hold off the Red Sox and Yankees, the Tampa Bay Rays are trying to prove they can come from behind in a pennant race, too.

The American League champions finished a two-game sweep of Boston with a 6-4 victory on Wednesday night, bolstering their confidence that they can get back to the playoffs - and sending the Red Sox into a key series against the Yankees on a down note.

"We never felt we were out of it," rookie left-hander David Price said after pitching six strong innings to tighten the AL wildcard race. "A lot of people counted us out, but nobody in here did."

The Rays moved a season-best 12 games over .500 and remained 5 1/2 games behind first-place New York in the AL East. The second-place Red Sox fell 2 1/2 off the division pace heading into a four-game series at Yankee Stadium.

"I'm just concerned about the Rays," Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said, shrugging off a question about the Boston-New York series. "We've got to go out and keep playing our game."

Elsewhere in the AL, it was: Tigers 4, Orioles 2; Indians 8, Twins 1; Yankees 8, Blue Jays 4; Mariners 11, Royals 6; White Sox 6, Angels 2; and Athletics 7, Rangers 5.

In the National League, it was: Mets 9, Cardinals 0; Giants 10, Astros 6; Braves 6, Padres 2; Diamondbacks 4, Pirates 3; Phillies 7, Rockies 0; Nationals 5, Marlins 4; Reds 4, Cubs 0; and Brewers 4, Dodgers 1.

In St Petersburg, Florida, facing the Red Sox for the first time since getting the last four outs of last season's AL championship series, Price (5-4) allowed two runs and six hits to improve to 5-1 with a 2.72 ERA at home compared to 0-3 with an 8.20 ERA on the road.

Carlos Pena, Carl Crawford, Pat Burrell and Jason Bartlett homered for the Rays, who have won 13 of 15 regular-season meetings between the teams at Tropicana Field since the start of 2008.

Pena hit a two-run homer off Brad Penny (7-6) in the second inning. Crawford, celebrating his 28th birthday, went deep with a man on in the third. Burrell added a solo shot off Penny for a 5-2 lead in the sixth. Bartlett hit a solo shot off Manny Delcarmen in the seventh.

"They're a good team. I don't think it's this place," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "It's who we're playing. They play us very tough."

Boston's Jason Bay and Victor Martinez hit solo homers off Price, who struck out five and walked none.

With the sweep, just three games separate the teams in the standings, and Tampa Bay leads the season series 8-4, including five of six at Tropicana Field in Florida.

Maddon feels the Rays match up well with New York and Boston. But he's not content with merely being in wildcard contention.

"Just getting to the playoffs is what matters, but I do believe in striving to be division winners and always aiming high. I don't ever want us to aim low," the manager said.


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