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CLIMBING BACK AND UP A NOTCH

The Rays rally to beat the Red Sox and pass them for second in the AL East.

What the Rays took out of Monday's tense 6-5 victory over the Red Sox was important enough: a confidence-boosting win to start the second half of their schedule and final homestand before the All-Star break, as well as the reclamation of second place in the American League East.

But what went into the hard-fought come-from-four-runs-behind win, before a spirited Trop crowd of 28,528, is what may have a more lasting meaning.

Gritty relief work, from a parade of six after an abysmal three-inning start by Matt Garza.

Dazzling defense, topped by a spectacular running then all-out diving catch by All-Star starter Carl Crawford.

And another small dose of the kind of situational hitting that they slowly seem to be rediscovering.

"Everyone contributed tonight; I love that," manager Joe Maddon said.

The last time the Red Sox came to town, they pretty much spoiled the Rays' party, a three-game late-May sweep sending them into a 12-20 tumble that knocked them from first place in the AL East (by a six-game margin) to third. These Red Sox, thanks to a mind-numbing string of injuries that swelled their disabled list to 11, are nothing like those, but the Rays (49-33) didn't have it easy.

The Sox took an early 5-1 lead, taking advantage of a brutal outing by Garza, who talked extensively about this being a big series but didn't pitch like it. But the Rays rallied to tie, scoring two in the fifth and sixth off Daisuke Matsuzaka, then took the lead in the seventh.

Matt Joyce started the go-ahead rally with a single, and Sean Rodriguez followed with another, sending pinch-runner B.J. Upton to second. Both runners moved up on Carlos Pena's grounder to second, and Upton scored easily on Jason Bartlett's sac fly to right.

Garza was undone by a 49-pitch, four-run third that didn't have to end up that way.

Carrying a 1-0 lead, Garza got the first two out in the third and had a 1-and-2 advantage over Eric Patterson, the bit player Boston picked off Oakland's scrap heap when Dustin Pedroia got hurt, but couldn't finish him off. They battled six more pitches (four fouls and two balls) before Patterson knocked a full-count pitch over the rightfield wall.

Garza couldn't get anyone else out, either, as the next five batters reached base (walk, triple, single, infield single, single) and three more scored.

Garza's inning could have been worse but for Crawford's catch for the second out.

Andy Sonnanstine did a good job cooling off the Sox bats - though he gave up another homer to Patterson - and the Rays battled their way back in.

Singles by Ben Zobrist and Crawford, a sac fly by Evan Longoria, a double by Willy Aybar and a passed ball led to two runs in the fifth.

The Rays got a bit more creative in the sixth, loading the bases on a Rodriguez double, Pena walk and a perfectly executed bunt single by Bartlett, then scoring two on John Jaso's up-the-middle single that chased Matsuzaka.

The Rays bullpen made a big stand in the seventh after the Sox loaded the bases with two outs. Grant Balfour created the mess, but he got the out he needed, striking out Adrian Beltre. Then Randy Choate did his part, striking out lefty J.D. Drew.

Joaquin Benoit zipped through the eighth, and Rafael Soriano handled the ninth.

Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@sptimes.com.

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