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Weird, Wild Stuff as Red Sox Beat A's

Boston survives bizarre plays and an obstruction call that sent umpires to the rule book to win, 3-1, in the 11th inning and stay alive in the series.

October 05, 2003|From Associated Press

BOSTON — Three errors in one inning. Two bizarre plays at the plate in another. Two obstruction calls in the game and -- perhaps the weirdest thing of all -- a perfect performance from the Boston bullpen.

Then all the wackiness gave way to something quite routine for the Red Sox this season -- a game-winning home run.

Sore-legged pinch-hitter Trot Nixon homered in the 11th, and Boston took advantage of Oakland's bumbling baserunning and fielding to beat the Athletics, 3-1, Saturday night and avoid elimination in their best-of-five AL playoff series.

Boston managed only seven hits but forced Game 4 today thanks to four Oakland errors -- three in the second inning. The A's also had two runners thrown out at the plate in a bizarre sixth that sent the umpires to the rule book and A's Manager Ken Macha into a fury.

The score remained 1-1 until the 11th -- the second time in three games the teams have needed extra innings. But the Red Sox have thrived under pressure, winning 23 games this season in their last at-bat.

Rich Harden, Oakland's fifth pitcher, came on to start the 11th and got Kevin Millar to pop out. Doug Mirabelli then singled to right and Nixon, batting for Gabe Kapler, hit a 1-1 pitch to straightaway center field.

"He was waiting for that pitch, I guess," Harden said. "I give him credit."

Boston's much-maligned bullpen threw four perfect innings, three by Mike Timlin, before Scott Williamson pitched the 11th for the win.

John Burkett pitches today against Tim Hudson. A Red Sox win would send the teams back to Oakland for Game 5 on Monday, and Pedro Martinez probably would face Barry Zito for a chance to advance to the AL championship series.

"We really believe that we're still in this thing," said Derek Lowe, who gave up six hits and an unearned run in seven innings.

It was the seventh consecutive time that the A's have lost a playoff game in which they had a chance to advance. Despite making the playoffs in four consecutive years, Oakland has not won a postseason series since sweeping Boston in 1990 to make it to the World Series.

The A's had won 10 consecutive playoff games against the Red Sox, also sweeping them in 1988. The Red Sox have not won the World Series since 1918, but their recent history bodes a little better: They rallied from an 0-2 deficit to beat Cleveland in the first round of the 1999 playoffs.

Oakland was the last team to blow a 2-0 lead in the first round, losing three in a row to the New York Yankees in 2001.

When the A's finally had a chance to go ahead in the sixth, they wasted it.

With runners on first and third, Miguel Tejada dribbled a ball toward third base. Lowe fielded it and threw it past catcher Jason Varitek, but Varitek blocked the plate as Eric Byrnes slid past it. As Varitek ran to get the ball, Byrnes made no effort to touch the plate. The umpire made no signal until Varitek tagged Byrnes.

Then things got weirder.

Ramon Hernandez hit a grounder past shortstop Nomar Garciaparra for an error that allowed Erubiel Durazo to score. Third baseman Bill Mueller collided with Tejada near third base, and umpire Bill Welke signaled obstruction. Tejada trotted nonchalantly toward home, slowing up way short of the plate.

Varitek got the ball and tagged out Tejada, infuriating the A's, who argued for several minutes that Tejada should have been allowed to score. Under rule 7.06 (b), it is the umpire's judgment whether to award an extra base to an obstructed runner.

"Bill Welke determined that Miguel Tejada would not have scored if there had not been obstruction," said Steve Palermo, a baseball supervisor of umpires.

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