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Martinez makes short work of Rays

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- You half-expected to see people running their laps along the warning track with the game in progress. You were waiting for pitchers to look you in the eye and say, "I just wanted to get my work in." You were expecting the crowd to head straight for the Early Bird Special.

Playing with a mix-and-match lineup that had City of Palms Park written all over it, the Red Sox waltzed to their 95th victory of the season last night, knocking off Lou Piniella's Tampa Bay Devil Rays, 7-2, at Tropicana Field last night.

Pedro Martinez pitched three scoreless innings, allowing two hits and walking none. He threw 51 pitches in his final tuneup before opening up the American League Division Series Wednesday in Oakland, Calif. He finished the season with a 2.22 ERA, which will give him his fifth career title. His two strikeouts raised his total to 206, which might be enough to hold off Esteban Loaiza (199), Roy Halladay, and Mike Mussina (195 each), and give him his fourth strikeout crown.

The Red Sox gave the heavily Boston-flavored crowd of 21,240 a taste of their offensive prowess, as Manny Ramirez (37) and Gabe Kapler (4) homered. Manny's altitudinous wallop off Jeremi Gonzalez in the first should have counted as two. Or three.

John Burkett, fresh from the shortest outing of his career ( 1/3 of an inning Wednesday) went three innings, allowing two runs, one being Travis Lee's 18th home run. Burkett got the gift win, his 12th. Brandon Lyon worked a nice seventh and Scott Williamson worked a very impressive eighth. Mike Timlin worked the ninth and accepted the handshakes.

Party on

It has come to the attention of the Red Sox party that some folks back home feel they overdid the celebration bit following Thursday's night's wild-card clincher against Baltimore.

Too much celebrating? Kevin Millar said he must have forgotten to read the manual.

"For people to be concerned about how much people celebrate something is ridiculous," declared the Red Sox first baseman/outfielder/DH, whose "Cowboy Up" has become the team's slogan (everybody, coaching staff included, wears red "So Cowboy Up" T-shirts now). "This team had fought through 159 games to get to that point. You know what? I don't think we celebrated enough."

"What I want to know," Millar continued, "is who wrote the script? Who wrote the script for celebrations? What is it? Clinch wild card, no beers? Clinch Division Series, 4 to 9 beers? Clinch LCS, 6 to 9 beers? Win World Series? No limit? I never had more fun in my life, running down Yawkey Way in my spikes with Derek [Lowe] and Todd [Walker] and heading into that tavern [the Baseball Tavern] with a couple of thousand people behind us chanting, `Bring On Oakland!' We were there 10 minutes. I wish we could have stayed four hours. And we might have, if we didn't have a bus, and a plane to catch."

Manager Grady Little doesn't get animated too often, but there was a rare edge in his voice as he discussed the topic. "They deserved that," he said. "It's a big haul from spring training on the first of February all the way up to last night. It's a celebration of their accomplishments, and it's a relief, too. A lot of these guys have never been in that position before, and it was special for them. I heard a lot of talk we might have celebrated too much. That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard. That's probably somebody saying that who's never been in that situation, or somebody who didn't want the Red Sox to win. That's what it boils down to me. Someone who doesn't want the Red Sox to win and who isn't happy they're getting ready to play in October."

"No matter what happens around here," said Walker, "somebody will have something negative to say. If we were to win the World Series in six, someone would say we should have won it in four. The thing about the celebration was that we were doing it with the fans. The great thing for us as players is to win for ourselves, sure, but I think it would mean even more to us in that clubhouse to do it for the people of Boston."

"It would be one thing if I were standing here talking to you, holding a Jack Daniels," Millar said. "But we had our fun, we got on the plane, and it's over. We know what's at stake."

One thing, however: even those supporting the team's inalienable right to party agree that "Wild Card Champion" hats and T-shirts were a bit much.

A hit record

Nomar Garciaparra was hit with a third inning Gonzalez pitch in the tricep area. "I'm fine," he said. "Just another bruise. Just another color to add to my body." It was the 95th batter hit by Tampa's staff, one more than the major league record the Rays set last year . . . Eyebrows were raised during and after Williamson's powerful 1-2-3 eighth. "Very impressive," Little said. "He threw some split fingers on hitters that nearly disappeared and which nearly disappeared on the catcher, too. He was crisp, sharp, and nearly unhittable." Doug Mirabelli, the catcher in question, was in agreement. "His stuff was electric," Mirabelli reported. "Did you see Lee swing at that first pitch fast ball? Lefthanded hitters who knew him from the National League don't want to see that split finger, so they will swing at not-so-good pitches early in the count.". . . The Devil Rays sent two shots back at Lyon in the seventh. Catcher Toby Hall's was deflected toward Walker, who threw him out, while Aubrey Huff's bullet went for a base hit. Trainer Jim Rowe rushed out to check on Lyon, who remained in the game and got out of a bases-loaded jam . . . Martinez finished September with a 4-0 record and 0.82 ERA . . . He gave up two earned runs or fewer in 19 games where he pitched six or more innings . . . His 186 2/3 innings were his fewest in a full season since he threw 194 2/3 innings in 1995 . . . The loss was the Devil Rays 99th . . . Ramirez fanned with the bases loaded in the third. Amazingly, he is 0 for 8 in such situations this season.

Long gone

Millar was written into the starting lineup as the DH, but Little changed his mind after a pregame session in his office with Ramirez. Little opted for the slugging Dominican and Ramirez responded by launching a first-inning 0-and-1 pitch from Gonzalez into the upper deck. Or, so it appeared. The ball never seemed to come down. It was No. 37 for Ramirez, and, runs batted in Nos. 103 and 104. So how did Manny get into the lineup? "Manny's the one guy I didn't really have a conversation with before I lined up the lineup," Little explained. "He expressed interest in getting in." Did he also tell the mentor he was planning on putting a hole in the ceiling, which he almost did with that first inning homer? . . . The lineup was predictably interspersed with substitutes, and that will be the case tonight and tomorrow. Little planned on using both Martinez and tomorrow's starter Tim Wakefield for three innings. Jeff Suppan might go five or six tonight. Basically, we're talking spring training, with ribbons. "We've got it mapped out like spring training, both the lineup and the pitching," Little acknowledged . . . Trot Nixon reported he was aiming for a DH role tomorrow, with an eye toward being in the starting lineup against Tim Hudson and the A's Wednesday. Little on the subject of Bill Mueller and Ramirez going for the batting title: "I could probably go talk to Bill Mueller and get one response, and then go talk to Manny Ramirez and he wouldn't know what the hell I was talking about. He's just getting ready for Wednesday." Little said Mueller would play tonight, but he wasn't sure for how long . . . The skipper floated the idea Wakefield and Lowe would each be considered for emergency bullpen duty in the playoffs, in part because each has a background in relief . . . Noted baseball afficionado Stephen King was among the Red Sox fans in attendance . . . What's up with erstwhile defensive replacement Damian Jackson? Playing in relief of Garciaparra, he booted a fifth inning Carl Crawford grounder for his fourth error in the last two games.

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