10/04/2003 11:53 PM ET
Game 3 game balls
MLB.com rates the performance of the Red Sox, A's
The Red Sox are tired of hearing about the “Curse of the Bambino.” For that matter, so is the entire city of Boston. But with finishes like Saturday’s 3-1 victory in 11 innings, that curse could soon be forgotten.
Of course, Boston needs two more victories to pull out the Division Series against Oakland. But Trot Nixon’s home run moved the team in the right direction. The last time Fenway Park hosted an extra-inning playoff game was Game 6 of the 1975 World Series. Carlton Fisk won that game with his classic home run off of the left-field foul pole.
Here is a look at the key components of Saturday’s effort.
Five Elephants: Leading Hannibal’s army
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
Four Elephants: Stars of the circus
Three Elephants: A trunk full of talent
Two Elephants: Needs to drop a few tons
One Elephant: Watch where you step
Ted Lilly: It’s easy to go unnoticed when Mark Mulder, Tim Hudson and Barry Zito precede you all season in the starting rotation. But Lilly made his presence felt on Saturday at Fenway Park, working seven strong innings and allowing a mere two hits. He gave up one unearned run, struck out five and continued to build off his strong final month.
Eric Byrnes: The scrappy young outfielder had three more hits, giving him five for the series. But his failure to go back and touch home plate cost the A's a run in the sixth.
Ken Macha: The Oakland manager pulled Lilly, basically a six-inning starter all season, at the right time in the eighth, replacing the left-hander with Chad Bradford with the heart of the Boston order coming to the plate.
The sixth inning: After the dust and bodies had settled, the A’s scored one run in what could have been a three or four-run, series-clinching rally. Byrnes was trying to shake off the after-effects of slamming into the human wall known as Varitek, instead of going back to touch home plate, eventually being tagged out when Varitek retrieved Lowe’s wild throw. Later in the inning, Tejada assumed an obstruction call was coming after colliding with Mueller at third, when Garciaparra committed an error on Hernandez’s high chopper with the bases loaded that allowed the tying run to score. Tejada stopped running, Varitek played through and Tejada was tagged for the third out.
Oakland defense: The A’s gift-wrapped a Red Sox run in the second inning, with Tejada muffing a double-play ball and two errors by Eric Chavez at third. In fairness to Oakland, its defense steadied as the game moved on.
Miguel Tejada Tejada was hitless in five at-bats, leaving him with an .067 average in the series. He committed a costly second-inning error and stopped running after assuming an interference call in the sixth, coming up short of giving Oakland the lead. Not exactly a Most Valuable Effort.
Five Socks: A perfect fit
Four Socks: Clean and comfortable
Three Socks: Has a couple of holes
Two Socks: Needs a washing
One Sock: Giving off a foul odor
Trot Nixon: What a time for Nixon’s first hit of the series. The Boston outfielder knew he hit a Rich Harden fastball well to dead center in the 11th inning, but he thought the swing was a little late to drive the ball out. Guided by a force seemingly stronger than the weather, the ball reached the stands. Extra side points to Doug Mirabelli, who started the game-winning rally with a single to right.
Derek Lowe: Lowe is a true example of playoff baseball -- do all you can to win the game at hand and don’t worry about tomorrow until it comes. After throwing 42 pitches in relief and suffering a heartbreaking extra-inning loss on Ramon Hernandez’s surprise bunt in Game 1 at Oakland on Wednesday, Lowe threw 100 pitches Saturday, allowing one unearned run. He pitched out of a seventh-inning jam, retiring Billy McMillon and Erubiel Durazo with the bases loaded and one out, while using his sinker to retire 14 A’s via groundball outs.
Jason Varitek: Is there a tougher catcher in baseball than the Georgia Tech product? Varitek blocked the plate perfectly to prevent Eric Byrnes from scoring the tying run in the sixth inning, and then had the presence of mind to retrieve Derek Lowe’s wild throw that rolled close to the backstop and tag out Byrnes. The Oakland center fielder might have touched home plate, if he wasn’t still smarting from running into Varitek.
Mike Timlin: It’s fashionable on the East Coast to criticize the Boston bullpen on a daily basis. But leave the playoff-tested Timlin out of that particular diatribe, after he threw three more hitless innings Saturday.
Manny Ramirez: The team’s top producer continued to falter with runners in scoring position. Ramirez is hitting .083 for the series, but his psychic powers are growing sharper. Ramirez pointed to the outfield before the final pitch of the game, seemingly calling Nixon’s game-winning shot.
The first inning: Johnny Damon doubles. Nomar Garciaparra walks. Two on against Ted Lilly, with nobody out. Lilly strikes out Bill Mueller, the American League batting champion, Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz and the Red Sox leave empty-handed.
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.