Series: Game 1 of 3

Boston leads 1-0 (as of 4/15)

Game 1: Tuesday, April 15
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Game 2: Wednesday, April 16
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Game 3: Thursday, April 17
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Devil Rays 5

(5-8, 1-2 away)

Red Sox 6

(8-5, 2-1 home)

    6:05 PM ET, April 15, 2003

    Fenway Park, Boston, Massachusetts 

    123456789 R H E
    TB 010000040 5 11 0
    BOS 101120001 6 15 0

    W: M. Timlin (2-0)

    L: A. Levine (1-1)

    Hillenbrand knocks in winning run in ninth inning

    BOSTON (AP) -- It has been called Closer by Calamity and Closer by Catastrophe. By any name, the Boston bullpen experiment has been a failure so far this season.

    Shea Hillenbrand rescued the Red Sox after another late collapse Tuesday night, breaking a ninth-inning tie with his fourth hit of the game to lead Boston to a 6-5 victory over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

    "You can't just pinpoint the Red Sox, or the Red Sox bullpen (as the problem) right now,'' Hillenbrand said. "It's a team. We've got to pick each other up.''

    Boston took a 5-1 lead before Ramiro Mendoza gave it all back in the eighth without retiring a batter. But in the ninth, Boston loaded the bases with one out and Hillenbrand bounced a single up the middle to win it.

    Mike Timlin (2-0) inherited a 5-3 lead and two baserunners from Mendoza and gave up the tying, two-run single to pinch-hitter Marlon Anderson. But Timlin retired five consecutive batters after that to prevent further damage and earn the win.

    Al Levine (1-1) pitched a perfect eighth but gave up a leadoff walk to Bill Mueller in the ninth. Nomar Garciaparra singled Mueller to third, then Bobby Seay walked pinch-hitter Todd Walker on four pitches to load the bases.

    Hillenbrand fouled off the first pitch from reliever Travis Harper, then knocked the second through the middle.

    Casey Fossum pitched seven strong innings for the Red Sox, allowing six hits and a run, striking out four and walking none. But Boston's much-discussed closer-by-committee failed for the third time in five tries.

    No one has been worse than Mendoza, who was booed when he was introduced at the home opener and again after each hit Tuesday. After failing to retire a Tampa Bay batter, his ERA went from 11.57 to 16.71.

    "He faced four hitters and didn't get any of them out,'' Red Sox manager Grady Little said. "This kid will help us out. He's just getting off to a rough start.''

    After the game, the closer-by-committee lost its first member when the Red Sox optioned Bobby Howry to Triple-A Pawtucket, with plans to replace him on Wednesday. Howry had blown his only save opportunity and allowed at least one run in each of his four appearances.

    "It's not a message,'' Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein said. "It's just a move to get a guy going.''

    Rhode Island native Rocco Baldelli had three hits for the Devil Rays in his first game at the ballpark he frequented while growing up. But he also got caught trying to steal third right before Aubrey Huff doubled in the sixth -- depriving Tampa Bay of a scoring opportunity.

    "Coming to Fenway, I don't know if there's any way I wouldn't have enjoyed myself,'' Baldelli said. "Obviously, you enjoy it a lot less when you lose.''

    Rey Ordonez singled to lead off the eighth, moved to third when Carl Crawford singled and scored on a wild pitch. Damian Rolls singled to put runners on first and third, then Baldelli singled to make it 5-3.

    Timlin relieved Mendoza and got Huff on a groundout before Anderson tied it with a single to right. Timlin got Ben Grieve on a fly to right and Toby Hall on a groundout.

    The Red Sox went ahead in the first when Johnny Damon led off with a double and scored on Manny Ramirez's single. Damon also homered in the third -- his fourth in four games.

    Boston added one in the fourth on consecutive doubles by Hillenbrand and Jeremy Giambi, and two in the fifth when the two had back-to-back RBI singles.

    Nick Bierbrodt had his second poor start against the Red Sox this season, allowing five runs on 10 hits and a walk in 4 2-3 innings. On April 3, he gave up seven runs in four innings of a 14-5 loss.

    Game notes

    Red Sox third base coach Mike Cubbage returned, three days after collapsing on the field with a diabetic seizure. Pitching coach Tony Cloninger, who has bladder cancer, was also back at the ballpark; he watched the game from the clubhouse and hopes to return to his regular duties in a few days. ... Kevin Millar has a 12-game hitting streak for Boston. ... Fossum didn't make it out of the fifth inning in his last start. ... Baldelli, a native of Cumberland, R.I., singled to right in the first inning to extend his hitting streak to 12 games -- a club rookie record. ... Terry Shumpert's second-inning home run for Tampa Bay hit a sign above the new Green Monster seats and bounced back onto the field. ... Seven of Tampa Bay's 13 games have been decided in the last inning.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press