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Timely hitting propels Red Sox past Devil Rays

To the immense relief of the Epstein family of Brookline and the Henry family of Boca Raton, Fla., the Red Sox last night delayed no further in demonstrating to the folks at home that, yes, they are perfectly capable of winning in Fenway Park without No. 5.

While a reenergized Nomar Garciaparra (who homered for the Cubs last night) has been smiling so much in his new uniform that one member of the Chicago media said he looks like the Stepford Ballplayer, there were happy faces aplenty on Yawkey Way, where the Sox beat the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, 8-4, and staged the type of two-out rally -- a five-run uprising in the sixth -- that makes most everyone go home feeling like a contributor.

In front of a crowd of 35,191, the team's 53d straight sellout this season, the Sox won for the first time at home since the July 31 trade that sent Garciaparra to the Cubs.

"You've got to get hits when they're needed," said Kevin Youkilis, who delivered a two-run double in the sixth, the last of five straight Boston hits (and a walk) that broke a 3-3 tie. "We've had a couple of games this year where we've had 13 or so hits and scored two runs. Today we strung together hits with two outs."

Despite the return of the Sick One, Manny Ramirez (three whiffs and a long fly out), the Sox went 12 up and 12 down through the first four innings against converted reliever Jorge Sosa. But they struck for three runs in the fifth in a rally touched off by David Ortiz's single, the first of four hits in the inning, plus an RBI ground out by the heir to the Garciaparra position (if not fortune), Orlando Cabrera.

The Devil Rays struck right back in the sixth with Rocco Baldelli's two-run triple, one of three hits by the son of Rhode Island, but the Sox answered with a five-spot touched off again by Ortiz, who lined a two-out single to right. Kevin Millar walked, and Jason Varitek, whose double the previous inning had knocked in Boston's first run, lined a single to right to break the tie.

Cabrera, who entered the game batting .206 (7 for 34) in his American League incarnation, floated a single to left to score Millar, making it 5-3 and knocking out Sosa.

"He's been trying too hard," Francona said of Cabrera. "He didn't scald the ball, but that had to have helped."

Bill Mueller blooped a run-scoring single off reliever Bobby Seay to make it 6-3, and Youkilis followed with his two-run double, high off the wall in left-center, to make it 8-3.

"That was huge," said new first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz, who was hitless in four trips while batting in the No. 2 hole for the first time this season. "Give Papa Jack [hitting coach Ron Jackson] credit. He said if we could get this guy [Sosa] in the stretch, we were going to get him.

"And two-out rallies always seem to hurt a team a little more."

The five-run lead was a sufficient cushion for Bronson Arroyo, who last week was stunned by Toby Hall's grand slam in a 5-4 defeat at Tampa but went 6 2/3 innings last night for his fifth win against eight losses this season, just his second win in nine starts at Fenway Park.

Mike Myers, the lefthanded reliever acquired in a waiver deal last Friday from Seattle, made his Fenway Park debut an impressive one, not only by his whiff of Aubrey Huff (who had had two singles and a double off Arroyo) to end the seventh, but also with his choice of music to accompany him as he jogged in from the bullpen. It was the theme from the slasher flick, "Halloween," whose masked killer was a character named Michael Myers.

"They [Sox officials] came up to me in Detroit and asked me what kind of music I wanted them to play," Myers said. "They played that for me the last couple of years, but just about 20 seconds or so of it. It's just for fun, but I was fired up out there. I wanted an opportunity to pitch in a game here, and it was great to come in a win. Hopefully there'll be more like this."

There would be no horrors this night for the Sox, just a bit of highlight-reel weirdness. Just before Myers entered, Julio Lugo of the Rays hit a spinning ball down the grass on the foul side of the first-base line. The ball, easily a couple feet foul, suddenly took a looping detour and struck the first-base bag at a crazy angle. Lugo, who hadn't bothered to run upon contact, managed to reach safely even though he didn't start running until the ball hit the bag.

"I wanted no part of that ball," said Mientkiewicz, who was playing behind the bag and watched as the ball caromed toward second, where it was gloved by Arroyo. "I used to get those on turf, balls with a ton of spin on them. I've seen balls stay on the dirt the whole time, but I've never seen one that was hit on the grass end up hitting the bag. Those are the kind that can really make you look foolish. I was going to treat it like a grenade. If it came close to me, I was going to jump on it."

Terry Adams, who gave up a run in the eighth, and Keith Foulke, who worked the ninth just for the exercise, finished off the D-Rays to even this four-game set at a game apiece.

The Sox won easily even though the first three batters in the order -- Johnny Damon, Mientkiewicz, and Ramirez (who declared an end to his three-day bout with the flu) -- combined to go 0 for 12.

Sox pitchers, after giving up 11 home runs in the previous two games, kept the ball on the premises. Arroyo did a nice job of cutting off the D-Ray rally in the sixth, stranding Baldelli at third after his triple by striking out Tino Martinez and retiring Robert Fick and Hall on fly balls.

"As much as the sky is falling," Millar said, "this team's right there."

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