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Bafflingly, Rays now own Pedro

How do you explain baseball? That's what Devil Rays manager Lou Piniella wanted to know Wednesday after his team's 9-4 win over the Red Sox at Tropicana Field.

It was Tampa Bay's second straight victory over Pedro Martinez (16-9), who has lost four consecutive starts. Coupled with the Yankees' doubleheader sweep of the Twins, Boston fell four games behind New York in the East with four games left.

"I managed 10 years in Seattle and I never beat Pedro," Piniella said. "and until two weeks ago I had never managed a game we had beaten Pedro, and now we've beaten him two in a row. So how do you explain baseball?"

The Rays got 14 hits, three by first baseman Tino Martinez, whose 23rd home run, a three-run job in the eighth, ended the scoring. The team stole four bases, and pitchers Doug Waechter, Lance Carter and Trever Miller held Boston to seven hits, struck out seven and walked three.

Leftfielder Carl Crawford led off the first inning with a triple and scored on Orlando Cabrera's errant relay to third.

Martinez entered 11-3 with a 1.72 ERA against Tampa Bay, which started the right-hander on his four-game downturn with a 5-2 victory Sept. 14.

"I just didn't pitch," said Martinez, who has allowed 20 earned runs and 30 hits in 23 innings in his past four starts. "I just didn't make pitches and they got some lucky breaks. They hit some good pitches, so give them credit."

"I have no idea," Crawford said when asked about the past two games against Martinez. "I know we came ready to play; I'm sure they came ready to play. It just happens sometimes."

Waechter (5-7) pitched five innings and allowed three runs on five hits with five strikeouts.

"A good game all around," Piniella said.

COACHES ACCEPT OFFERS: Piniella's coaching staff will return next season.

General manager Chuck LaMar said hitting coach Lee Elia, third-base coach Tom Foley, first-base coach Billy Hatcher, pitching coach Chuck Hernandez, bench coach John McLaren, bullpen coach Matt Sinatro and special assistant Don Zimmer accepted the two-year contracts through 2006 offered last week.

Top front-office personnel, including director of player development and scouting Cam Bonifay and assistant general managers Bart Braun and Scott Proefrock, also accepted two-year deals.

"Lou and his staff has done an outstanding job," LaMar said. "We have to get better and my job is to get them better players, which we will do. Their work ethic and professionalism is setting the tone for success in the future."

The most anticipated decision was Zimmer's.

The St. Pete Beach resident said he could have sought an onfield coaching position but said he did not want the hassles of relocating.

"And how nice do I have it when I'm 15 minutes from my house?" he said. "And the Devil Rays have treated me good."

Zimmer, 74 on Jan. 17, said the Rays have a spark.

"Hopefully you're part of something that might get better next year," he said. "That's the fun of it. You get to see the kids get better from this year to next, and maybe with a couple of additions we're going to get better."

Of his passion for the game, Zimmer said, "If I didn't have that I would retire. When I don't want to go into that clubhouse I'll go home. But I still enjoy it, so I'm going to come back."

TEAM AWARDS: Crawford was voted MVP by the Tampa Bay chapter of the Baseball Writers Association. Infielder Jorge Cantu was outstanding rookie, and Martinez was given the Champion Award for professionalism on and off the field.

RAYS OF HOPE: The Rays' Ray of Hope Foundation presented checks to its designated charities: $10,000 to the YMCA of Greater St. Petersburg and the Gulf Coast Division Children's Home Society of Florida and $5,555 to St. Anthony's Hospital.

ODDS AND ENDS: Tampa Bay must win three of its final five games to reach 70. Crawford's triple was his majors-high 18th but first since Aug. 3. The Red Sox won the series 14-5. The Rays were 9-29 against Boston and New York and are 58-60 against the rest of the league. Today's doubleheader is the first at the Trop.

_ DAMIAN CRISTODERO, Times staff writer

TODAY: RAYS VS. TIGERS (DH)

PITCHERS: Tigers _ RHP Jeremy Bonderman (10-13, 5.14) and LHP Wilfredo Ledezma (4-3, 4.47); Rays _ LHP Mark Hendrickson (10-15, 4.90) and RHP Dewon Brazelton (6-7, 4.54).

NOTES: The games were scheduled for Sept.

3 and 4 but were postponed by Hurricane Frances. Bonderman has lost his past two decisions while allowing seven earned runs in 11 innings. Hendrickson's 30th start will make him the sixth Rays pitcher to hit that number. He has won his past two decisions, one in relief. Brazelton is 6-2 with a 2.43 ERA at the Trop.

OUTTA LEFTFIELD

A sore point with Devil Rays fans has been the number of Red Sox fans who showed up for the three-game series at Tropicana Field that ended Wednesday. Every time Boston's fans began chanting, Tampa Bay's fans booed. But Rays manager Lou Piniella didn't seem to mind the split loyalties in the stands. "At least they're coming," he said. "They're not getting in free, are they? They're paying."

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