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Ortiz Puts Boston on Curse Control

Designated hitter's two-run double in the eighth lifts Red Sox to a 5-4 win over A's to tie series, 2-2.

October 06, 2003|Peter Schmuck | Baltimore Sun

BOSTON — Everybody knows about the star-crossed history of the Boston Red Sox, but the Curse of the Bambino may have met its match.

The Oakland Athletics have been one game away from the American League championship series four years in a row, and that's exactly where they stayed through two heartbreaking games at Fenway Park.

The Red Sox rallied from a two-run deficit in the late innings Sunday to score a 5-4 victory that evened the division series at two games apiece and set up a climactic Game 5 showdown between 2002 Cy Young Award winner Barry Zito and three-time Cy Young winner Pedro Martinez today in Oakland.

Designated hitter David Ortiz, who came to the plate hitless in 16 playoff at-bats, lined a two-run double to right field off A's closer Keith Foulke in the eighth inning to put the Red Sox over the top.

Reliever Scott Williamson pitched two perfect innings to register his second victory in less than 24 hours and send the raucous sellout crowd of 35,048 home to ponder the Pedro-related possibilities.

Could this finally be the year of the Red Sox, or are they being set up for another dramatic fall?

"This ballclub, the fans of Boston, they just keep grinding all the way to the last out," said Red Sox Manager Grady Little. "And we've had some players come through for us this year, day after day, and they continue to do that. We feel we have a chance. As long as we have a uniform on and they have a schedule for us telling us there is another game, we feel like we have a chance."

The A's certainly have to wonder what it's going to take to win three games in a division series. They have lost eight consecutive times when they have been on the brink of winning the first playoff round, so the Red Sox don't exactly have the market cornered on negative karma.

"It's just a fact," said A's General Manager Billy Beane, "that's all it is. We have the ability to change that fact. I don't think any of these guys were thinking about that when they went out there today."

Maybe not, but after Saturday night's strange defeat, the A's had to feel snakebitten when starter Tim Hudson strained a muscle in his side after pitching only one inning Sunday.

Knuckleballer Steve Sparks pitched admirably, and the A's scored three times in the sixth inning, Jermaine Dye's two-run homer giving them a 4-2 lead. After Todd Walker homered for Boston in the sixth, Foulke, who led the AL in saves this season with 43, took over in the eighth with a 4-3 advantage. But he gave up a one-out double to Nomar Garciaparra, a two-out single to slumping Manny Ramirez and the game-winning shot to Ortiz.

"I think at some point, you have to look at the other side," Beane said. "Nomar hit a ball off the wall, and Manny Ramirez had a big hit.... About $35 million in salary came through for the Red Sox. That's their job. Give some credit for someone's success instead of someone's failure."

Oakland Manager Ken Macha gave his team a lot of credit, which is something he could not do after the A's thoroughly bungled Game 3 on Saturday night. This time, they hung tough after the Hudson setback and came within an inning of advancing into the AL championship series against the New York Yankees.

Once again, however, they failed to make the most of several scoring opportunities against John Burkett, generally considered the most vulnerable starter in the Boston playoff rotation. Burkett gave up four runs and nine hits over 5 1/3 innings, leaving after Dye's homer.

"Our guys played their rear ends off," Macha said. "It was a tremendous ballgame. They were tremendous. I can't see why we aren't going to come out and play a great game tomorrow."

Zito overpowered the Red Sox for seven innings in Game 2, but will be coming back on three days' rest.

Martinez threw a season-high 130 pitches in his Game 1 start, which is why Little chose not to pitch him in Sunday's game. That decision is looking pretty good right now.

"We're very aware of what's in front of us," Macha said. "Pedro is a great pitcher, and two Cy Young guys are going out there to pitch against each other."

Hudson, who suffered a strained oblique muscle on his last pitch of the first inning, didn't hedge his opinion of today's game.

"I'll take Barry Zito over Pedro Martinez every day," he said.

Countered Burkett: "We've got the best pitcher on the planet going."

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