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Rays go back to work in style

A day after Wade Boggs' 3,000th hit, Tampa Bay puts together one of its best team efforts in a 5-3 win over the Indians.

The thing about baseball is that it never lets emotions linger too long.

So less than 24 hours after the most dramatic night in the team's brief history, the Devil Rays were back to business.

At least on Sunday, life after Wade Boggs' 3,000th hit looked pretty good.

The Rays can credit their 5-3 win over the Cleveland Indians before an announced 33,052 to ateam effort.

They got excellent starting pitching from Wilson Alvarez, who forced RBI king Manny Ramirez to ground into a fielder's choice with the bases loaded in the fifth to end the inning and help preserve the win.

"He's a dangerous hitter and I had to make a good pitch to get him out, especially with the bases loaded," Alvarez said. "That was the key to the ballgame."

Add to that solid work from the bullpen and timely contributions from seldom-used players such as Mike DiFelice (2-for-4 with a homer) and Paul Sorrento (2-for-4, a homer and two RBI), and the result was the second series win in the past nine.

"It was a great series," manager Larry Rothschild said. "You win two out of three from the Indians and in the other game Wade gets his 3,000th hit with a home run. It's a pretty good script. I don't know who's writing it, but I'd like to talk to him and keep it going."

It is true that Cleveland was without some of its key players and lost starter Jaret Wright to a right shoulder muscle strain in the third inning. But the Indians made no room for excuses.

"Sure, we would like to get our regulars back, but I also would like to have Cindy Crawford sitting right next to me now, but she's not here," Indians manager Mike Hargrove said. "You make do with what you've got."

What the Rays had was a new and improved Alvarez, whose effort Rothschild described as "crisp" and "electric."

Sporting a newly dyed blond crew cut, Alvarez (6-6) looked extremely sharp in his first game since going on the disabled list July 24. He held the Indians in check for five innings and routinely threw in the low 90s.

"After being on the DL a second time I wanted to do something good for the team," Alvarez said. "I tried my best. I went out there positive. Everything felt good and I don't feel any pain at all. We won, that's the most important thing."

Added DiFelice: "He came out and had real great velocity. It was almost a little scary sometimes when a guy is feeling that good. I think he kind of surprised their hitters that he had that kind of velocity. It's good to see him come back and go out there and give everything he had for five innings. It's real positive."

The showdown with Ramirez was particularly gratifying to Alvarez, who surrendered a three-run homer to the slugger in a 5-4 loss in Cleveland on May 9.

"You go back to the game in Cleveland, he had Ramirez in a similar situation and he ended up hitting the ball out of the park after a hell of an at-bat," Rothschild said. "This time Wilson won that battle, and it ended up being the game."

Alvarez's only real blemish was a first-inning home run by Roberto Alomar, who appears to love Alvarez's pitching. He is hitting .498 (18-for-43) with three home runs and 18 RBI against him.

DiFelice continued the form that has helped him earn more playing time. Wednesday night in Seattle, DiFelice had a career-high four hits, but his four-game hitting streak was snapped Friday. He got right back on track Sunday as he hit a leadoff home run 373 feet over the leftfield fence to tie the score at 1 in the third..

"I'm just trying to keep it simple, trying to go up there and have confidence and get a good pitch to hit," DiFelice said. "I'm a pretty aggressive hitter, and I when I have an opportunity to play I just want to swing hard and do something positive."

Perhaps inspired by the arrival of outfielder Jose Guillen from Triple-A Durham before the game, centerfielder Terrell Lowery made a bold statement with a team single-game record three doubles. He reached base on his first four trips.

"Every day is a battle and I go out there and try to have good at-bats," Lowery said. "Baseball is a funny game and it could turn any time. So you can't feel too good and you can't think it's that easy. You have to keep working."