BOSTON (AP) – Boston’s batters are making a mess of David Wells’ routine.

Scoring five times before making an out, the Red Sox staked Wells to another big lead on Wednesday and coasted to a 9-4 victory over Tampa Bay.

The long half-inning – Devil Rays starter Mark Hendrickson threw 30 pitches without getting an out – sent Wells to an underground batting cage to toss a warmup balls.

“First inning, you don’t expect to sit that long, and that was pretty long” Wells said. “I stayed loose and threw some balls in the cage.”

One start after staking Wells to a 17-1 lead, the Red Sox were ahead 6-0 before Wells took the mound and 9-2 when he left after seven. Wells (8-5) earned his seventh win in eight decisions, allowing two runs and six hits with a walk and four strikeouts.

“I think he can get used to having a lead for sure,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. “But at the same time once he gets that lead he knows what to do with it.”

The Red Sox average 7.1 runs in Wells’ starts, scoring at least seven runs in seven of his eight wins. He is 10-1 against Tampa Bay.

Johnny Damon homered and Kevin Millar scored three runs for the Red Sox, who won the last two games of the three-game series to stop a slump that briefly dropped them out of first in the AL East. Second baseman Tony Graffanino, acquired in one of two trades Tuesday, made his first start and received a standing ovation after an RBI double off the Green Monster in the fifth.

That was more than enough for Wells, who allowed only five singles and a run in the first six innings.

“Wells doesn’t walk people and he throws strikes,” Tampa Bay manager Lou Piniella said. “You don’t walk people and you keep it out of the power zones and you’ll have success.”

Manny Ramirez left in the fourth inning with a tight hamstring, and he did not come onto the field to shake hands with his teammates after the victory. Francona had no update on his condition, which will be checked again on Thursday before the Red Sox start a four-game series in Chicago.

Mark Hendrickson (4-7) failed to get an out, allowing two doubles, two singles and two walks to six batters. Dewon Brazelton pitched 5 2-3 innings of relief and gave up three more runs – two of them earned.

“It was just one of those days today,” Hendrickson said. “I think I threw three balls where I wanted to.”

Eduardo Perez hit a two-run homer in the ninth off John Halama, and Aubrey Huff and Jonny Gomes had three hits apiece. Third baseman Alex Gonzalez made three errors for Tampa Bay, which still managed its first winning multicity road trip (4-3) in over a year.

Hendrickson hasn’t had much success against Boston: He was 0-4 with a 9.55 ERA in five games against the Red Sox last year. But this was even worse.

Damon singled to lead off the first, Edgar Renteria walked and David Ortiz singled to drive in Damon. Manny Ramirez doubled to make it 2-0, then Millar walked to load the bases. Doug Mirabelli doubled off the Monster for a 4-0 lead, chasing Hendrickson, then Millar scored on a passed ball.

Graffanino grounded out, then Brazelton got Bill Mueller on a groundout and Adam Hyzdu on a fly ball that ended the inning.

Notes: Boston is scheduled to face six consecutive left-handed starters. The last time they faced six lefties in a row was in June 1914, according to Elias Sports Bureau. … Ramirez’s double was the 400th of his career. Ramirez left in the fourth inning as Francona began to empty his bench. … Julio Lugo was 0-for-3 to snap a 10-game hitting streak. … Christie Brinkley visited the Red Sox clubhouse after the game.

AP-ES-07-20-05 1726EDT

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