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09/07/10 11:27 AM ET

Blowout loss has Boston changing gears

The Red Sox still have a number, but there may not be much magic in it. After Tuesday night's 14-5 loss to Tampa Bay reeled them back to 7 1/2 games behind in the race for the American League Wild Card -- giving the Rays a postseason-clinching magic number of 18 with 24 games to go -- Boston responded with its first tepid wave of the white flag.

Clay Buchholz, who had been poised to start Wednesday night on short rest if the Sox were in position to sweep closer to the Wild Card-leading Rays, was scratched and instead manager Terry Francona will hand the ball to Tim Wakefield.

That's life in the tough AL East: The Red Sox still have the fourth-most wins in the AL; unfortunately for them, they have the third-most wins in the AL East.

While Boston retrenches, Tampa Bay remains on the hunt for the Yankees by sticking with Matt Garza the night after inching within 1 1/2 games of the division lead.

After psyching himself up for a showdown duel with Buchholz, Garza will strive to maintain his edge. In the mental game, the pressure to keep a team down is a greater motivator than the opportunity to knock a team out.

"You always love coming to Fenway, it's awesome," Garza said. "It's always a challenge. You know they're going to be pumped. You know the crowd's going to be against you. That's always fun. I love it. This is a big rush. A big adrenaline rush."

Tuesday night's one-sided loss may have turned off the adrenaline tap at Fenway Park, but if anyone can stir the Red Sox back to life against the Rays, it is Wakefield, the veteran knuckleballer with a solid track record against Tampa Bay, recent stumbles notwithstanding.

Despite losses in three of his last four decisions against them, Wakefield's 20-4 career record against the Rays is his best against any opponent

Rays: Hellickson struggles
Right-hander Jeremy Hellickson allowed three runs over 1 2/3 innings of relief Tuesday night, soon after being chosen the Minor League Player of the Year by Baseball America. ... An 0-for-23 drought has deposited Carlos Pena (.203) perilously close to the Mendoza Line. ... The big score didn't call for Carl Crawford to run -- he did go 4-for-4 before calling it a night after five innings -- so he couldn't add to a streak of 35 straight successful steal attempts against the Red Sox, since last being nailed by a Boston catcher on May 20, 2004.

Red Sox: Captain returns to action
Captain Jason Varitek, out since June 30 while recovering from a broken right foot and added to the expanded roster, returned to action by taking over for starting catcher Victor Martinez in the sixth on Tuesday. Varitek went 0-for-2. ... Daisuke Matsuzaka's fourth-inning walk of Jason Bartlett was the sixth bases-loaded walk issued by Boston pitchers in the last three games.

Worth noting
Red Sox pitchers have committed the unusually high number of 19 errors this season -- half the combined total of pitchers' miscues by the other four AL East teams.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.