ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) – The Tampa Bay Devil Rays rallied for five runs in the eighth inning Wednesday night to beat the Boston Red Sox 7-4 and knock the defending world champions out of first place in the AL East.

Jorge Cantu chased Boston starter Tim Wakefield with a two-out RBI single, and Jonny Gomes’ two-run triple off Mike Timlin (7-3) put the last-place Devil Rays ahead 5-4.

Eric Munson followed with a two-run double and Alex Gonzalez added an RBI single to ensure Boston’s 64-day stay atop the division would end.

The loss, coupled with New York’s 2-1 victory over Baltimore, left the Yankees in first place for the first time in more than two months.

Manny Ramirez homered for the third time in two games for the Red Sox, who appeared to be in good shape when Wakefield took a 4-2 lead into the eighth. The knuckleballer is 13-1 lifetime against the Devil Rays and had allowed one hit and only three baserunners over the previous five innings.

Trever Miller (2-2) pitched 1 1-3 innings for the victory. Danys Baez worked the ninth to earn his 39th save in 47 opportunities.

Ramirez, who homered twice against Tampa Bay on Tuesday night, led off the fifth inning with his 39th homer, a line-drive shot off starter Scott Kazmir, who yielded four runs and seven hits in 5 2-3 innings.

Travis Lee hit a solo homer off Wakefield in the second, and Tampa Bay added a run later in the inning on second baseman Alex Cora’s throwing error.

Before the game, Tampa Bay manager Lou Piniella declined to discuss reports that the Devil Rays have reached an agreement with him to buy out the final season of a $13 million contract that runs through 2006.

“I’m going to steal a page from Joe Torre, and I’m not going to comment about this at all until the end of the year,” Piniella said.

“My primary concern here is our team and our players. I don’t want any distractions. When the time is appropriate, we’ll comment about my situation.”

The Devil Rays also declined comment.

A night after swatting five homers and tying an AL record by having four players finish with four hits apiece, the Red Sox staked Wakefield to an early lead without help from the long ball.

Cora had a bases-loaded sacrifice fly and Bill Mueller and Edgar Renteria followed with RBI singles to put the Red Sox ahead 3-0 in the third. The damage could have been a lot worse if Kazmir hadn’t gotten Ramirez to pop to second with the bases loaded to end the inning and drop to 1-for-16 lifetime against the rookie left-hander.

The Boston slugger snapped the drought his next time up, though, smacking the first pitch of the fifth into the left-field stands for a 4-2 lead. Ramirez and David Ortiz, who also homered twice Tuesday night, have combined for 85 homers – a single-season record for Boston teammates.

Notes: Ramirez and Ortiz combined for 84 homers in 2004. … Ortiz went 0-for-4 with a walk, ending a 10-game hitting streak. … Lee has four homers in 27 career at-bats against Wakefield. … Red Sox CF Johnny Damon had a cortisone shot in his ailing left shoulder and was out of the starting lineup. Damon expects to play Friday when the team opens a three-game series at Baltimore. … Red Sox RHP Curt Schilling left the team to tend to a personal matter.

AP-ES-09-21-05 2227EDT


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