ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) -- As he circled the bases, all Kevin
Millar could think about was that the game wasn't over.
"I felt great. But the bottom line was we had one more
half-inning to get out of it,'' Millar said Tuesday night after his
homer in the 16th inning sent the Boston Red Sox to a 9-8 victory
over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
"I was fortunate to get a ball I could handle and hit out of the park. Then, we went out there and shut the door. It was a big win for us.''
Millar, who entered as a pinch-hitter in the 14th, lined a 1-2
pitch into the left-field seats off loser Jorge Sosa.
Millar was sent to Boston by the Florida Marlins in the
offseason after he chose not to play for the Chunichi Dragons
despite agreeing to a $6.2 million, two-year deal with the Japanese
team. He said he did not want to play overseas as the United States
prepared for war with Iraq.
The Devil Rays, who stranded a club-record 21 runners, had the
potential game-winning run in scoring position in six innings
between the eighth and 14th, but couldn't take the lead. Red Sox
left fielder Damian Jackson threw out Travis Lee trying to score
from second to end the 12th.
"We had chances. So did they,'' Devil Rays manager Lou Piniella
said. "We battled and played hard. We just didn't get the big hit
when we needed it.''
The Red Sox were held to four hits after the sixth inning, but
had a couple of chances to win before Millar's homer bailed out a
revamped bullpen that blew a three-run lead in the late innings for
the second straight night.
Trot Nixon flied out with runners at first and third to end the top of the 12th. Devil Rays center fielder Rocco Baldelli threw out Nixon trying to score from second on Johnny Damon's single in the 15th.
"They always say that first win of the year is always the
toughest to get. I don't know if it can get much tougher than
this,'' Red Sox manager Grady Little said. "We're glad to have
that one behind us now so we can get going forward.''
Brandon Lyon, the seventh Boston pitcher, went three innings for
the victory in the longest game in Devil Rays history. The previous
one was 15 innings against Baltimore on Aug. 4, 2000.
Manny Ramirez drove in three runs for the Red Sox, two on a sixth-inning double that fell in front of Baldelli, who took a step backward before realizing the ball wasn't hit that hard.
Boston starter Tim Wakefield allowed five runs and five hits in
five innings before departing with a 6-5 lead. The Red Sox built
the advantage to three runs before the bullpen faltered.
Rey Ordonez, who was 3-for-8 with four RBI for Tampa Bay, doubled to drive in a run off reliever Mike Timlin in the sixth. The light-hitting shortstop hit a two-run homer off Bob Howry to make it 8-8 in the eighth.
Jeremy Giambi hit his first homer with the Red Sox, a two-run
shot in the sixth off Devil Rays starter Victor Zambrano. Boston
scored four times in the inning with Ramirez grounding out to drive
in a run and Shea Hillenbrand adding a sacrifice fly.
Tampa Bay rallied from a 6-3 deficit on Lee's two-run homer,
only to watch the Red Sox go ahead again when Damon and Nomar
Garciaparra walked ahead of Ramirez's double that made it 8-5.
The Red Sox wasted a strong opening-day performance by Pedro
Martinez when Alan Embree and Chad Fox blew a three-run lead in the
ninth inning of a 6-4 loss Monday. This time, Timlin and Howry
couldn't hold a three-run advantage.
Meanwhile, Tampa Bay's bullpen kept the Devil Rays in the game. Right-hander Lance Carter led the way, pitching four scoreless innings.
In addition to allowing Lee's homer in the fifth, Wakefield gave
up a two-run double to Al Martin in the first and an RBI single to
Ordonez. The knuckleballer walked three and struck out six.
Zambrano lasted 4 2/3 innings for the Devil Rays, yielding six runs on six hits. He gave up a two-run double to Garciaparra in the third and another double to the Boston star during a four-run fifth.
Boston pitching coach Tony Cloninger went back to Boston to
prepare for treatment for bladder cancer. He is expected to begin
treatment April 10. ... Red Sox spokesman Kevin Shea said there was
no news to report on the status of talks with Martinez on a
contract extension. ... Ordonez saved a run in the third when he
caught Ramirez's high infield pop while falling backward. He
positioned himself just behind the mound but appeared to lose sight
of the ball until the last moment.