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Newly-confident Rays win again

It took the Rays three months and 11 tries to beat the Red Sox once, and they obviously enjoyed the feeling. Wednesday, they went out and did it again.

The 9-5 victory didn't have the drama of Tuesday, when the Rays scored five runs in the ninth, the best comeback in their history, to grab a 5-4 victory and salvage an emotionally draining day-night doubleheader after losing the opener by a record margin, 22-4.

"(Tuesday) night's win was pretty big," Rays first baseman Steve Cox said. "It wasn't necessarily (Tuesday) night's win, but it was the win after how badly we got beat. How can a team get beat by 18 runs or whatever it was, then come back and win the next game in the ninth inning, then come out (Wednesday) night and throw up what, nine runs?"

How can it happen?

"It's a crazy game," Cox said.

There definitely seemed to be something of a carryover effect, from the way the Rays carried themselves to the way they swung the bats.

"I would hope so," Rays manager Hal McRae said. "And I hope it carries over until (today) because (Tuesday) is done."

The consecutive victories were the Rays' first since June 27-28. With another win tonight, the Rays would take a series, one the Red Sox badly need to stay in the postseason race. They will, though, have to beat Pedro Martinez to do it.

Against the decidedly more mortal Frank Castillo on Wednesday, the Rays scored six runs in the second inning and another in the third, running their string of unanswered runs to 12. Andy Sheets and Jared Sandberg, the stars of Tuesday's comeback, again led the attack, each hitting a home run.

"We came out smoking tonight," Cox said.

The 7-0 lead should have made it an easy night for Joe Kennedy, who in theory is the Rays' best starting pitcher.

Instead, it became a disappointingly short one, as Kennedy struggled for the second straight start and _ much to his surprise _ was pulled two batters into the fourth inning after only 67 pitches.

"I didn't think we had the luxury to let a good offensive effort slip away," McRae said. "Having only won X amount of games, we've got to win games. We've got to keep the spirit of the players up and losing, losing a big lead, is damaging to the morale of the guys."

When Kennedy lasted only four innings in Toronto on Friday, his first start after a seven-game suspension, he admitted he was not properly prepared to pitch.

After allowing nine hits and a walk to the 18 batters he faced Wednesday night, the 23-year-old left-hander said he didn't know what, if anything, he was doing wrong.

"I have no idea; it's just one of those things," he said. "It's just two starts. When it gets to four, five, six in a row, that's when you start worrying about it a little bit."

Kennedy allowed the Sox back into the game with a four-run third inning. He was gone after giving up a pair of singles to open the fourth, and the Sox cut the lead to 7-5 on a throwing error by Sheets.

But then it was time for something completely different _ a dominant performance by the Rays' much-maligned bullpen. Jesus Colome went three innings without giving up a hit. Victor Zambrano was nearly as good over his three innings, allowing one single.

"The bullpen was the key," McRae said. "We needed that. It makes you a better ballclub when the bullpen can come in and get the job done."

It was particularly encouraging to get good performances from Colome and Zambrano, both demoted after early struggles.

"The guys who pitched we were counting on heavily when the season started," McRae said. "We need those guys to pitch well for us to do well."

Colome was especially impressive, showing the ability to consistently keep the ball down and showcasing an effective slider. But his most talked about throw of the night was the one he made to first after fielding a ground ball, nearly bowling Cox over with a blazing fastball from about 25 feet.

"That was a web gem," Cox said. "The toughest play I ever made. It was 98 (mph), with movement."