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Rays ride bullpen, momentum

The Rays went months without being able to beat the Red Sox, absorbing some painful losses along the way. Then they beat them twice in 24 hours.

Wednesday's 9-5 win didn't have the drama of Tuesday's 5-4 victory that salvaged an emotionally draining day-night doubleheader after the Rays lost the opener 22-4. And it had only a bit of suspense when it appeared the Rays might let a 7-0 lead get away.

But relievers Jesus Colome and Victor Zambrano did a fine job after a disappointing effort by starter Joe Kennedy, and Tuesday night stars Andy Sheets and Jared Sandberg again sparked the offense.

"The bullpen was the key," manager Hal McRae said. "We needed that. That makes you a better ballclub, when the bullpen can get the job done."

Having lost 22 of their past 27 games against Boston before this week, the Rays are in position to take a series, and an important series, from the Sox, though they have to beat Pedro Martinez to do it.

Having won Tuesday's game with a five-run ninth inning highlighted by Sandberg's three-run homer, the Rays were aggressive Wednesday and posted six in the second inning.

Was there a carryover?

"I would hope so," McRae said. "And I hope it carries over until tomorrow because today is done."

They loaded the bases on two singles and a hit batter, scored one run on Sandberg's sacrifice fly, one on rookie Carl Crawford's single, another on Randy Winn's double and three on a home run by Andy Sheets. It was the second three-run homer of his career, the first since May 5, 1998.

The Rays expanded the lead to 7-0, and ran their string of unanswered runs to 12, when Sandberg lined a home run over the Green Monster.

That should have been enough for Kennedy, who in theory is the team's best starting pitcher.

Instead, it was the beginning of a disappointing end.

Kennedy allowed the Red Sox back into the game with a messy third inning that featured five hits and a walk and produced four runs.

After Tony Clark led off with a double that dropped oddly in front of Winn, Kennedy walked Rickey Henderson with one out, then allowed four consecutive hits, an infield single by Trot Nixon that loaded the bases, then run-scoring hits by Nomar Garciaparra, Manny Ramirez and Jason Varitek.

When Kennedy started the fourth in similar fashion, allowing singles to Tony Clark and Rey Sanchez, McRae decided he had seen enough after only 67 pitches.

The three-inning outing was the shortest of Kennedy's career. More troubling, it followed a four-inning performance in Toronto on Friday that Kennedy admitted he was not properly prepared for.

In the two outings, which followed his seven-game suspension, Kennedy has allowed 11 runs (nine earned) and 16 hits over seven innings.

The Red Sox got within 7-5 when Clark scored on a throwing error by Sheets on an attempted double play, but the Rays much-maligned bullpen shut them down.

Colome didn't allow a hit over three innings, and Zambrano, pitching better after a stint at Triple-A Durham, added two more zeros.

And the offense tacked on two more runs just to be sure. The Rays got one in the fifth, when Chris Gomez singled in Aubrey Huff with two outs. And they got another in the sixth when Sandberg and Crawford each hit their first major-league triples. It was the second time in Rays history they hit back-to-back triples, the first by Winn and Cox on May 24.