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Boston now 2½ behind Yankees

BOSTON (AP) -- It took the Boston Red Sox just 19 days to slash
eight games off New York's AL East lead. And they're not done yet.

"We're just going to take care of what we can take care of,"
reliever Mike Timlin said after Friday night's 2-0 win over the
Texas Rangers cut the Yankees' lead to 2½ games. "We won today.
We're going to win tomorrow."

That's a pretty safe prediction considering the Red Sox have a
10-game winning streak for the first time in nine years and have
won 16 of their last 17 games.

"I expected it," Pedro Martinez said of Boston's spectacular
surge. "I thought we had the talent all the way to have a run like
this one."

Martinez allowed four hits in seven innings, and Manny Ramirez
and Bill Mueller homered, moving the Red Sox the closest they've
been to first place since before games of June 12. The Yankees lost
to Baltimore 3-1.

Boston, which trailed by 10½ games on Aug. 16, is on its longest
winning streak since winning 12 in a row from Aug. 3-14, 1995.

The Red Sox have lost just once since Aug. 15, when Toronto's
Ted Lilly pitched a three-hit shutout to beat Martinez on Aug. 23,
and their run has given them a 4½-game lead in the wild-card race
over Anaheim, which beat Cleveland 10-5.

But Boston wants to win the division, which would give the Red
Sox home-field advantage in the playoffs.

"We're still reaching in front of us and trying to get
somewhere else," Jason Varitek said.

Martinez (15-5) pitched shutout ball for the second time in five
starts, striking out nine, walking one and leaving after matching
his season high with 117 pitches.

"I felt pretty good command of every pitch I had," he said.
"I'm in good shape. I feel at the tippy top part of my game."

Timlin and Alan Embree pitched the eighth, and Keith Foulke
worked the ninth for his 27th save in 32 opportunities. Boston
leads the AL with 11 shutouts.

John Wasdin (2-3) allowed two runs and four hits in 6 1-3
innings for Texas, which fell seven games behind Boston in the
wild-card race. The Rangers lost their fifth straight game, the
last two by 2-0.

"It's unfortunate that he ran into Martinez," Texas manager
Buck Showalter said. "There's been a lot of guys who say that over
the years."

Ramirez hit his 37th homer with two outs in the first, and
Mueller hit his 11th leading off the third. Both came on the first
pitch from Wasdin.

"I did what I wanted to do. I threw two perfect pitches" on
the homers, he said. "They've got some serious momentum. We've
just got to find a way to find our momentum."

Wasdin got out of jams in the fifth and sixth innings, when the
Red Sox put their first two batters on base.

Martinez struggled in the seventh when Laynce Nix struck out
with one out but reached first when the ball got by Jason Varitek.
Kevin Mench struck out, and Nix took third on a single by Gary
Matthews Jr.

Pinch-hitter Andy Fox had a 2-2 count when Matthews tried to
steal on the next pitch, a ball. But Varitek threw him out,
stranding Nix at third.

"That's one of his biggest weaknesses, holding runners,"
Showalter said of Martinez. "We thought we could take advantage of
it. (Matthews) just got a little late break."

Martinez allowed just three hits and a walk through six innings.

In the first, he walked Hank Blalock with two outs then struck
out Mark Teixeira. Matthews led off the third with a single before
Martinez retired the next three batters.

Alfonso Soriano hit a two-out single in the fourth, but Martinez
retired Nix on a groundout to first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz. And
in the sixth, Martinez allowed a leadoff double to Eric Young, who
took third on Michael Young's groundout. But Blalock struck out and
Teixeira fouled out to third baseman Mueller.

No team can afford to waste opportunities against a hot team
closing in on the division lead.

"I look at the scoreboard," Boston manager Terry Francona
said. "I look at the standings because it's important. But I'm
really more concerned about us."

Game notes
With Boston cleanup hitter David Ortiz sidelined by a sore
shoulder, Varitek batted fourth for the second straight game and
second time this season. ... Texas LF David Dellucci left the game
in the top of the second with lightheadedness. "He had blurred
vision. The doctor thought he might have been dehydrated,"
Showalter said. ... The Red Sox have won 11 straight at Fenway
Park. ... Texas was blanked for the eighth time.