The Associated Press
OAKLAND, Calif. - Pedro Martinez, Johnny Damon, Manny Ramirez and even that maligned Boston bullpen - they all were tougher than any curse.
Boston Red Sox' Johnny Damon, right, and Damian Jackson, collide with each other trying to catch a fly ball in the seventh inning.
| ZOOM |
Damon, right, and Jackson lie injured as teammate Nomar Garciaparra checks on them.
| ZOOM |
After Martinez's pitching and Ramirez's three-run homer staked the Red Sox to a lead, starter-turned-reliever Derek Lowe pitched out of a bases-loaded jam in the ninth as Boston completed a three-game playoff comeback, beating the Oakland Athletics 4-3 Monday night in Game 5 of their AL division series.
Lowe struck out pinch-hitters Adam Melhuse and Terrence Long on called third strikes in the ninth to finish Boston's fourth playoff series victory since its last World Series title in 1918.
"It's not like anything I've ever felt before," Lowe said. "It's a win for Boston, for the Red Sox nation."
Boston meets the Yankees, its traditional rival, in the AL championship series starting Wednesday night in New York - but the Red Sox had to make a memorable stand in the ninth to get there.
And for once, good luck was wearing Red Sox in October.
"It feels pretty good, to tell you the truth," Boston manager Grady Little said. "Every single game in this series was outstanding. I think it was nothing short of what people expected, and it was all brought about by some outstanding pitching by both teams."
While Boston's players doused each other with champagne, Oakland's frustration extended to its fourth season. The A's have lost nine straight games in which they could have clinched postseason advancement, extending a major league record.
Many Oakland players were distraught after the final game of an extraordinarily tense series. Several Boston players took the field at the Coliseum, leading the cheers and shaking hands with more than a thousand fans who stood, screamed and chanted late into a gorgeous California night.
It wasn't so gorgeous for the Red Sox a few minutes earlier. Reliever Scott Williamson, making his fifth straight appearance for Boston, led off the inning by walking Scott Hatteberg and Jose Guillen.
Little went to Lowe, the Game 3 starter and Game 1 loser out of the bullpen. This time, Boston's No. 2 starter came through - just barely.
After Ramon Hernandez bunted pinch-runner Eric Byrnes and Guillen into scoring position, Lowe threw a called third strike past Melhuse - the A's seldom-used backup catcher who had three hits in Game 4 Sunday.
Lowe then walked Chris Singleton, loading the bases. The A's countered with Long, who was just 2-for-7 in the series.
Long took an inside fastball for another called third strike - and the Boston bench and bullpen emptied onto the field in celebration.
"I looked at it, and I thought I had a chance," Long said. "I didn't want to swing at a bad pitch."
Lowe also offended the Oakland bench by making several obscene gestures toward the dugout after the final strikeout. Miguel Tejada was reduced to screams and tears in the clubhouse, vowing Lowe was "going to pay" for it.
Boston was up 4-1 on Ramirez's sixth-inning homer, punctuated by a showboating walk to first base. Oakland battled back with runs on Tejada's double in the sixth and pinch-hitter Billy McMillon's eighth-inning RBI single, which chased Martinez.
Boston's relief crew got three straight outs in the eighth, but it was all just a prelude to Lowe's season-saving work in the ninth. Afterward, Lowe was apologetic for his exuberance.
"It's a situation where you won," Lowe said. "I don't even know exactly what I did. If you offended anybody, that's not sportsmanship. If you did do something, you're sorry, because that's not the way you play the game."
LOB-Boston 4, Oakland 7. 2B-Durazo (2), Tejada (1), JGuillen (1), Singleton (2). HR-MRamirez (1), off Zito; Varitek (2), off Zito. RBIs-MRamirez 3 (3), Varitek (2), McMillon (1), Tejada (2), JGuillen (1). SB-Damon (2). S-RaHernandez.
Runners left in scoring position-Boston 2 (MRamirez, Nixon); Oakland 4 (Long 2, Hatteberg, Dye).
|PMartinez W, 1-0||7||7||3||3||1||6||100||3.86|
|Embree H, 1||2/3||0||0||0||0||0||4||0.00|
|Timlin H, 2||1/3||0||0||0||0||0||4||0.00|
|DLowe S, 1||1||0||0||0||1||2||17||0.93|
|Zito L, 1-1||6||4||4||4||2||4||99||3.46|
PMartinez pitched to 2 batters in the 8th, Williamson pitched to 2 batters in the 9th.
HBP-by Zito (TWalker), by PMartinez (RaHernandez).
T-3:05. A-49,397 (43,662).
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