Wed, Oct 08, 2003 - Page 20 News List

Ramirez blasts the Red Sox forward

MLB PLAYOFFS Boston won its fourth playoff series since its last World Series title in 1918. The Red Sox will now meet the Yankees in the AL championship series

AP , OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA

Boston Red Sox outfielders Johnny Damon, left, and Damian Jackson collide while attempting to catch a hit by Oakland Athletics' Jermaine Dye in the seventh inning in game five of the American League Division Series playoffson Monday. Jackson and Damon both left the game with undisclosed injuries.

PHOTO: EPA

Pedro Martinez pitched seven gritty innings, and Manny Ramirez broke his slump with a decisive three-run homer as the Boston Red Sox completed a three-game playoff comeback, beating the Oakland Athletics 4-3 Monday night in Game 5 of their American League division series.

Boston got its fourth playoff series victory since its last World Series title in 1918, while Oakland's frustration continued. The A's have lost nine straight games in which they could have clinched postseason advancement, extending a major league record.

Boston meets the Yankees, its traditional rival, in the AL championship series starting Wednesday night in New York. The Red Sox had to withstand a rally attempt in the ninth to get there.

Reliever Scott Williamson, making his fifth straight appearance for Boston, led off the inning by walking Scott Hatteberg and Jose Guillen. Red Sox manager Grady Little went to Derek Lowe, the Game 3 starter and Game 1 loser out of the bullpen. This time, Boston's No. 2 starter came through.

After Ramon Hernandez bunted pinch-runner Eric Byrnes and Guillen into scoring position, Lowe threw a called third strike past pinch-hitter Adam Melhuse _ the A's backup catcher who had three hits in Game 4 Sunday.

Moments later, Chris Singleton topped a weak grounder down the first-base line -- but Kevin Millar didn't charge it in time to prevent it from going foul. Lowe then walked Singleton, loading the bases.

The A's countered with pinch-hitter Terrence 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.

"This team has been remarkable all year in our ability to never quit, never give in," Boston's Jason Varitek said.

The game that began as a tense duel between former Cy Young Award winners Martinez and Barry Zito took a different tone in the final innings after a scary injury to Damon, Boston's leadoff hitter and center fielder.

Damon left the field in an ambulance following a frightening head-to-head collision with second baseman Damian Jackson. Both players were converging on Jermaine Dye's fly ball in the seventh.

Jackson shook it off, but Damon was knocked unconscious with a concussion. The game was delayed 10 minutes until Damon, awake and alert, raised his hand to loud cheers from the Coliseum crowd as he was loaded into the ambulance on a stretcher. He was taken to a hospital for evaluation.

Boston had taken a 4-1 lead on Ramirez's homer -- punctuated by a showboating walk to first base.

Oakland battled back with runs on Miguel Tejada's double in the sixth and pinch-hitter Billy McMillon's RBI single in the eighth, which chased Martinez.

But Boston's relief crew, which blew Game 1 of the series and numerous leads during the regular season, bailed out Martinez with three straight outs in the eighth after the ace allowed two hits and a run.

It was all just a prelude to Lowe's season-saving work in the ninth.

"I knew we were going to make it because I have confidence in my teammates," Ramirez said.

The Red Sox will face the Yankees in the playoffs for just the second time, following a 4-1 loss in the 1999 AL championship series. New York won 10 of 19 games against Boston during the regular season, but the Red Sox frequently teed off on Yankees pitchers.

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