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Devil Rays' Gamble Turns Sour

The Tampa Bay Devil Rays went against the percentages and lost.

Troy O'Leary, facing a right-handed reliever after a pitching change, grounded a one-out single in the bottom of the 10th inning Sunday to give the Boston Red Sox a 3-2 win over the Devil Rays.

The Red Sox won their fourth in a row and again O'Leary led the way with his sixth straight two-hit game.

Nomar Garciaparra singled off Albie Lopez (2-2) to start the 10th and Mike Benjamin, who pinch-ran for Mo Vaughn earlier, bunted for a single.

After Reggie Jefferson, a left-handed hitter, lined out against lefty reliever Matt Ruebel, the Devil Rays brought in righty Jim Mecir to face the left-handed O'Leary.

O'Leary bounced Mecir's fourth pitch down the first-base line past Fred McGriff for the winning run.

"I think he brought in Mecir thinking I was going to hit into a double play," said O'Leary, platooned against lefties most of last season but hitting slighty better against them this year.

Mecir had faced Boston only once previously this year, coming Friday night in a 5-1 loss when he allowed a double by O'Leary and three runs on three hits in one-third of an inning.

"He's been getting lefties out all year," said Devil Rays manager Larry Rothschild, ejected by third-base umpire Rockey Roe in the sixth inning. "Jefferson's been struggling against lefties. Jim (Mecir) was going to be in against the next batter."

Lou Merloni had three singles for the Red Sox, who posted their 10th last at-bat win of the season.

Bobby Smith had a solo homer and Wade Boggs went 3-for-5 for the Devil Rays, who lost for the ninth time in their last 11 games.

Tampa Bay collected 13 hits, but left nine runners on and hit into three double plays.

"We played good and our pitching and defense were sound," Boston manager Jimy Williams said. "We had some big defensive plays."

Tom Gordon (4-1) worked two innings for the win.

Smith snapped a 1-for-20 slump when he led off the sixth with a home run that put Tampa Bay ahead 2-1.

Boston evened it at 2 in the bottom half on Vaughn's RBI single following a leadoff walk to John Valentin and single by Garciaparra.

Devil Rays starter Tony Saunders, who missed his last start because of elbow stiffness, had control problems that led to the Red Sox taking a 1-0 lead in the first. Darren Lewis walked on four pitches and went to third on a wild pitch that completed Valentin's walk. Garciaparra followed with a sacrifice fly.

Saunders went six innings, giving up two runs on four hits.

The Devil Rays tied it in the fifth on Boggs' two-out RBI double.

Boston starter Steve Avery had his third straight strong outing, giving up just two runs in six innings. He was attempting to in his third consecutive start for the first time since May of 1994.

"We've been getting good pitching lately and that will help you get a good streak going," Boston catcher Jason Varitek said.

Notes: Sunday's start was moved back to 5:05 p.m. EDT from 1:05 following Saturday's rainout because of a forecast for heavy morning showers. The skies cleared and it was partly sunny at the original starting time, though. ... Boggs turns 40 Monday. ... There were three runners picked off first, two by Avery and one by Saunders.

©1998 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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