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Tavarez prevents Blue Jays from closing in on Red Sox

Sep 23, 2006 - 2:46 AM TORONTO (Ticker) -- Julian Tavarez helped the Boston Red Sox solidify a hold on what's become their annual finishing spot.

Tavarez pitched his second career complete game and Alex Gonzalez drove in three runs to help the Red Sox post a 7-1 win against the Toronto Blue Jays.

The win puts Boston (83-71) 2 1/2 games ahead of Toronto in the race for second place in the American League East Division. The Red Sox have finished second in the division for eight consecutive seasons.

Tavarez (4-4) allowed one run and seven hits to improve to 2-0 since joining the starting rotation on August 31. The righthander hasn't lost in his five starts for Boston.

"I feel really happy about (my performance) tonight," Tavarez said. "It was just one of those days where you get away with everything. If I had a fastball up (in the zone) or a hanging slider those guys would just hit it right to somebody."

The 33-year-old righthander threw 99 pitches - 60 for strikes - for his first complete game since September 5, 2000, when he pitched the Colorado Rockies to a 10-2 win over the Chicago Cubs. It was the second complete game by a Red Sox pitcher this season. Tim Wakefield went nine innings in a 3-0 loss to Seattle on April 15.

"Tavarez was outstanding," Boston manager Terry Francona said. "He sunk the ball, he threw strikes, he threw his changeup and he got ground balls. For a guy that wasn't in the bullpen a whole long time ago, to think he could throw a complete game is a stretch. He just did a great job."

Gonzalez had two hits and his RBI double following Mike Lowell's two-run home run in the second inning put Boston up, 3-0. Lowell's blast came two pitches after Lyle Overbay dropped a pop foul in front of the first base dugout with no outs.

"I was just real glad when I saw (Overbay) drop it because it gave me another chance," said Lowell, who is batting .375 (21-for-56) with 13 RBI in 15 games against Toronto this season. "It was a good feeling from where I thought I was going to be out to hitting a home run; that's a great trade there. (Lilly) left the pitch up a little more than he wanted to and I was able to make a good swing."

"I kind of overran it and then it kind of handcuffed me," said Overbay, who extended his hitting streak to 12 games with a double in the third inning. "It's one of those plays where you've got a chance to get and it just didn't happen."

Ted Lilly (14-13) lost his first game in his last four starts. The 30-year-old went 5 1/3 innings, allowing five runs - two earned - and five hits while striking out eight. Lilly was attempting to become the third lefthander in franchise history to win 15 games in a season, joining David Wells and Jimmy Key.

"My command was kind of spotty but that's part of the game," Lilly said. "I know I gave up a couple of leadoff walks in the second (inning) and again in the sixth, and both those guys scored."

Gonzalez added a two-run double as part of a four-run sixth inning that gave Boston its 7-1 lead.

"I got a big night tonight," Gonzalez said. "(Toronto) wants to battle for second place so we're just trying to play hard and win all these remaining games."

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