Series: Game 3 of 4

Boston leads 2-1 (as of 9/17)

Game 1: Monday, September 15
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Game 2: Tuesday, September 16
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Game 3: Wednesday, September 17
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Game 4: Thursday, September 18
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Devil Rays 7

(60-91, 26-50 away)

Red Sox 0

(88-63, 49-27 home)

    7:05 PM ET, September 17, 2003

    Fenway Park, Boston, Massachusetts 

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    TB 012002110 7 16 0
    BOS 000000000 0 6 1

    W: V. Zambrano (11-9)

    L: J. Suppan (12-10)

    Red Sox blanked for first time at Fenway

    BOSTON (AP) -- These were supposed to be the games that put the Boston Red Sox into the postseason.

    They had the lead in the AL wild-card race and seven games left against the last-place Tampa Bay Devil Rays. None of Boston's last 14 games is against a team with a winning record, while Seattle still has six to play against the West-leading Oakland Athletics.

    But it's turning out to be harder than expected for the Red Sox, as Victor Zambrano and Lance Carter shut them out on six hits Wednesday night to lead Tampa Bay to a 7-0 victory and shrink Boston's lead in the wild-card race.

    "You definitely want to beat teams like the Devil Rays," Red Sox second baseman Todd Walker said. "But it's major league baseball. We're not playing church softball. You can't hang up four wins in a row just because you're playing the Devil Rays."

    The Mariners beat Texas 5-1 to move 1½ games behind Boston in the wild-card standings. The Red Sox remained 5½ games behind New York in the AL East after the Yankees lost 5-3 at Baltimore; New York's magic number for clinching the division is six.

    Tampa Bay, which is 33½ games out in the AL East, had 16 hits to win for just the second time in nine games. Rocco Baldelli homered, Marlon Anderson was 3-for-4 and Al Martin was 2-for-2 after entering as a pinch-hitter in the sixth.

    Zambrano (11-9) improved to 4-0, with one save, in his last five appearances at Fenway. He walked five, struck out three and hit two batters.

    Zambrano's last seven wins have come against teams with winning records.

    "He basically shut them down by himself," Baldelli said.

    It was the first time the Red Sox were shut out at Fenway Park since Aug. 28 of last year, when Mike Mussina blanked Boston on three hits; the previous day, David Wells and Steve Karsay combined to shut out the Red Sox on five hits.

    "It's hard to shut out Boston in Boston," Devil Rays manager Lou Piniella said. "It's hard to shut them out anyway, but especially in this ballpark."

    Jeff Suppan (2-3) allowed five runs -- four earned -- on 10 hits in 5 1/3 innings, walking three and striking out five. But he got little help from a Boston lineup that was missing injured outfielders Trot Nixon and Johnny Damon.

    Nixon, who has a strained left calf, pinch hit in the ninth but is still a few days away from returning full-time. Damon, who has an abdominal strain, will not play Thursday night but manager Grady Little said he didn't know what would happen beyond then.

    "They'd better be back pretty quickly, otherwise we won't make the playoffs," Walker said. "It's tough to expect Andy Abad and Adrian Brown to carry the load. We have to have our starting nine."

    Walker's ninth-inning double was Boston's 608th extra-base hit of the season, breaking the major league record set by the 1996 Mariners.

    Suppan left with runners on first and second, trailing 3-0. Scott Sauerbeck walked Aubrey Huff to load the bases, then struck out Travis Lee.

    Jonny Gomes was announced as a pinch-hitter, and Mike Timlin was brought in to pitch to him. Then Piniella brought in Martin, and he singled to right-center to make it 5-0.

    Anderson singled and scored the Devil Rays' first run in the second inning. Baldelli homered leading off the third, then Lee walked, went to third on Pete Laforest's single and scored on a base hit by Julio Lugo to make it 3-0.

    Game notes

    Carl Crawford snapped an 0-for-13 stretch with his leadoff single in the first. ... Baldelli's homer helped commemorate Rhode Island day at Fenway. ... Huff leads all major leaguers with 44 RBI since Aug. 1. ... CF Damon was a late scratch from the lineup with a left abdominal strain. Brown replaced him in the lineup for his first Red Sox at-bats. ... In the middle of the fourth inning, two umpires went out to the Red Sox bullpen and made them turn off their television. ... Boston's Abad got his first major league hit in the fourth inning. It was his 10th at-bat.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press