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Sox Stay Atop Of Wild Card

Even without a designated closer, the Boston Red Sox managed to close out the Oakland Athletics on Wednesday night.

Jose Offerman's tiebreaking triple ignited a three-run seventh inning that gave the Red Sox a 7-4 win over the Athletics in a matchup of the AL's top wild-card contenders.

Before the game, Red Sox manager Jimy Williams shuffled his pitching staff. Starter Bret Saberhagen will miss at least his next start with a weak right shoulder so Williams moved Tim Wakefield, who was the club's closer the last two months, into the rotation.

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  • That leaves Boston without a regular closer. But it didn't hurt the Red Sox on Wednesday as Rich Garces (1-1) worked one hitless inning for the win and Derek Lowe pitched the final two for his sixth save.

    "He, along with the rest of the relievers, allows us to do what we did today after what we did with Wakefield," Williams said of Lowe. "Certainly setting a game up is sometimes more difficult because you have to go two innings."

    Williams stuck to his plan of not naming just one closer. Boston's regular closer, Tom Gordon, was lost for at least the remainder of this year with an elbow injury in June.

    The closer will be determined on a day-to-day basis.

    "When they call down and tell you you're in the game, then you go into the game," Lowe said. "I'd like to do it, but I'll do what they want me to do."

    The Red Sox lead the A's by two games in the race fr the fourth playoff spot. Boston has taken two of three from Oakland, with the final game of the series Thursday night at Fenway Park. Red Sox ace Pedro Martinez pitches the finale, his first start since being scratched by Williams for showing up late at Fenway on Saturday.

    "It would be a huge lift if we could beat him," said Oakland manager Art Howe, whose team started its current seven-game road trip by sweeping the Blue Jays last weekend. "If we do, we'll have great momentum going home. If we don't, we're just going to have to start some. We have Toronto coming in and somewhere down the road we have Boston coming in."

    Boston, which made a costly error and a poor baserunning decision after building a 4-0 lead, posted its sixth win in eight games. The Red Sox also handed Kevin Appier his first loss since being traded to the Athletics.

    Oakland is 22-11 since the All-Star break. Center fielder Rich Becker, acquired earlier in the day from Milwaukee for a player to be named, batted leadoff for the A's and went 1-for-3 and scored a run.

    With the scored tied at 4, Trot Nixon opened the seventh with a triple to the triangle in center field off Appier (12-10). Offerman then got his ninth triple of the year, hitting a ground ball over the first-base bag down the right-field line.

    John Valentin doubled and later scored on Troy O'Leary's single off reliever Buddy Groom.

    "We got four runs back, but unfortunately it wasn't enough," said Appier, who had won his first three starts for the A's since they got him in a trade with Kansas City on July 31.

    Nomar Garciaparra's RBI single made it 4-0 in the fifth, but his poor baserunning cost the Red Sox a run. With runners on first and third and one out, O'Leary sent a deep fly to center.

    Garciaparra was out trying to advance to second for the inning's final out before Brian Daubach tagged up and scored.

    Valentin then dropped Miguel Tejada's popup to third base for an error to open the sixth. Pat Rapp walked three of the next four hitters, forcing home a run.

    Rheal Cormie relieved and Jason Giambi greeted him with a three-run double to tie it.

    The Red Sox moved ahead 1-0 in the third on Offerman's sacrifice fly.

    Boston added two runs in the fourth on Butch Huskey's RBI double and Jason Varitek's run-scoring single.

    Rapp allowed just one hit, but gave up four runs three earned

    in 5 1-3 innings. He faced the minimum batters in the first four innings, allowing only a single to Becker in the fourth. Becker was caught stealing.


  • Red Sox right-hander Bret Saberhagen will miss at least his next start with a weak shoulder and closer Tim Wakefield is taking his place in the rotation Sunday in Texas.
  • Giambi, who missed Tuesday's win with a slightly strained right knee, had the bat fly out of his hands and into the stands after swinging and missing in the eighth.
  • Oakland was held homerless, snapping a string of homering in 18 straight games.

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