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Little Hit in 12th Goes a Long Way for A's in Opener

October 02, 2003|Thomas Bonk | Times Staff Writer

OAKLAND — Let's check those totals: three home runs, 20 hits, nine runs. So much for the pitching showdown that was forecast for Game 1 of the division series between the Boston Red Sox and the Oakland A's.

Neither of the heralded starters, Pedro Martinez and Tim Hudson, were still around at the end to see how a game that began Wednesday and darned near ended Thursday, but 50,606 at the Coliseum waited 4 hours 37 minutes to see the A's pull out a 5-4 victory in 12 innings.

It was worth the wait. Ramon Hernandez laid down a bunt with the bases loaded and two outs in the 12th inning to score Eric Chavez with the winning run.

The Red Sox lived up to their reputation as thumpers by hitting three home runs, two by second baseman Todd Walker. Boston worked over five Oakland pitchers for 12 hits, but the Red Sox bullpen couldn't close out the A's in the ninth.

Rich Harden was the winner in relief and Derek Lowe took the loss.

Walker's second home run, a two-run, two-out homer off left-hander Ricardo Rincon, erased a 3-2 Oakland lead in the seventh.

Martinez left with a lead, then as a spectator endured an A's rally in the ninth. Red Sox reliever Byung-Hyun Kim walked pinch-hitter Billy McMillon and hit Chris Singleton with a pitch.

Kim complained that Singleton was swinging, but he lost that argument. He pulled himself together and struck out Mark Ellis, but left-hander Alan Embree came in to face left-handed hitter Erubiel Durazo, and the A's designated hitter singled to left to score pinch-runner Eric Byrnes and send the game into extra innings, 4-4.

All in all, there wasn't a whole lot that could have been predicted. For instance, who could have seen that Martinez would have more walks (four) than strikeouts (three) and throw 130 pitches, more than he had all year?

Or that Walker, who had hit only 13 home runs all year, would hit two of them?

Or that the A's could win even though the heart of their lineup -- Chavez, Miguel Tejada and Scott Hatteberg -- would go one for 16?

Or that the Red Sox bullpen would falter?

OK, that probably wasn't too much of a mystery.

Hudson should have been paid by the pitch, at least through three innings, when he had thrown 55 and was fortunate to trail only 1-0.

The Red Sox had five hits the first three innings, including Walker's first home run, a line drive into the right-field stands, just inside the foul pole, with two out in the first.

Boston had Hudson in trouble again in the third. The Red Sox got runners on first and second with one out and then had the bases loaded with two out as slugger Manny Ramirez strode to the plate. But Hudson wriggled free again, forcing Ramirez to bounce out harmlessly to Ellis at second.

That failure to score wound up costing the Red Sox dearly in the bottom of the third when the A's took the lead.

Singleton led off with a double that was just inside the right-field foul line. Then Martinez lost his control, walking Ellis on four pitches and going 3-and-0 on Durazo before he finally got a strike across.

But then Durazo reached out and got his bat on a Martinez pitch that was low and away and sent it high and far, off the wall in right-center on one bounce. Singleton and Ellis scored easily on Durazo's double and the A's took a 2-1 lead.

With two out, Tejada made it 3-1 when he singled sharply into left field, scoring Durazo, but Tejada was caught in a rundown on his way to second and tagged out to end the inning.

Jason Varitek's one-out homer in the fifth into the right-field seats eliminated some of Hudson's breathing room and got the Red Sox to within 3-2. They might have had more, but with two runners on base and two out, Ramirez bounced out again to end the threat and leave his fourth and fifth runners on base in consecutive at-bats.

It wasn't Ramirez who was the problem, it was Walker, whose second homer gave the Red Sox a 3-2 lead in the seventh.

Mike Timlin, who took over for Martinez to start the seventh, pitched a perfect eighth but Kim and Embree couldn't close it out.

"I feel like we've been talking about our bullpen the entire season and we'll be talking about it some more during this postseason," Red Sox Manager Grady Little said before the game.

Going against the A's hadn't been that difficult for Martinez, which sort of makes them like everyone else Pedro faces. Martinez had a 6-2 record against the Oakland, and that included a 4-1 record and a 1.45 earned-run average in the A's ballpark.

You expected more of the same? Like most everything else that happened Wednesday night, that didn't add up either.

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