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'Ray' of hope: Sox tied for first

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That's a happy dugout. via d.yimg.com

It's a feeling the Red Sox haven't felt since the All-Star break.

First place in the American League East. How sweet it is. And it wasn't just a squeak of a victory. This was a dominant victory. The Red Sox pushed past the Rays and their ace, Scott Kazmir, with six home runs in a 13-5 blowout.

"It means a lot," said Mike Timlin, who pitched a one-walk inning of relief. "We've been working hard to get here. The Rays have been working hard to keep us from here.

"It just shows the perseverance of this team, the personality of this team not to give up. There's times when we could just sit back and say, OK, we've got a chance to just sew up the wild card. But you want to win your division. If you can do that, it means a lot more."

Starter Daisuke Matsuzaka went five innings and allowed just one run, but threw 101 pitches in the outing. Once again: the numbers lie. He walked just two and struck out seven, but for the Sox to make a push in the playoffs they'll need Matsuzaka to be getting into the 7th and 8th innings.

The offense looked dynamite -- literally -- with David Ortiz, Mike Lowell, Jason Varitek, Jason Bay, Kevin Youkilis and Jacoby Ellsbury all hitting home runs. Ortiz and Lowell hit theirs in the first inning.

This was a fantastic win, but the AL East isn't the Sox's just yet. If the regular season up to this point told us anything, it was that the Rays are never really out of it. They may have looked battered and beaten last night, but if they can do it for the first five and a half months of the season, they certainly can do it for the last half month.

Josh Beckett on the hill tonight versus the Rays' Andy Sonnanstine.