No-mah slump for Sox shortstop
NEW YORK -- After a frustrating night at the plate in losing Game 5 of the American League Championship Series, Red Sox manager Grady Little spent quite some time insisting that his team needed to stop relying on the long ball and start stringing some hits together if it hoped to get out of its 3-2 series hole.
He pointed out that 21 of Boston's 32 runs in the postseason had scored on home runs. He said he'd like to see more of a rat-a-tat-tat attack mixed in on occasion.
But why choose one or the other? As evidenced by the 9-6 win the Red Sox banged out Wednesday night in Game 6 at Yankee Stadium, a combination of the two approaches Little mentioned works quite well.
Jason Varitek opened the scoring for the Red Sox with a long solo homer into the upper deck in left field and Trot Nixon closed the scoring with a nail-in-the-coffin shot into the upper deck in right in the ninth. But it was Boston's ability to extend innings with multiple hits that proved key in sending the series to what could be an epic Game 7.
"We've been waiting ever since the postseason started to get the line moving," Little said after the Red Sox drilled 16 hits against five Yankees pitchers. "That's what we call it in the dugout -- getting the line moving. [It means] get some baserunners, get some base hits in an inning."
It wasn't something that had been happening much for the Sox, who averaged more than six runs per game in the regular season but hadn't scored more than five in their first 10 postseason games.
All of that changed in a big way on Wednesday.
After falling behind 1-0 in the first inning on a home run by Jason Giambi and then seeing a 4-1 lead turn into a 6-4 deficit on a homer by Jorge Posada in the fifth, Boston stormed back with a little bit of everything.
Nine singles, four doubles, two homers, a triple and five walks.
"It's tough to keep a team like that down as long as we have," said Yankees manager Joe Torre. "That's quite an offense they've got, and they've done that so many times to us."
Varitek got the Sox going against New York starter Andy Pettitte in the third, leading off with a moon shot into the upper deck in left field on a hanging curveball. It was Varitek's second homer and third extra-base hit of the series off Pettitte, who promptly walked the next batter, leadoff man Johnny Damon.
The hottest hitter in the Red Sox lineup -- Todd Walker -- was next, and he pushed Damon to third with a sharp single to right. Nomar Garciaparra grounded into a shortstop-to-third forceout in what could have been a real bummer for Boston. But Pettitte, who wiggled out of a couple of early innings in winning Game 2, couldn't capitalize on the break.
Manny Ramirez drew a four-pitch walk to load the bases, and David Ortiz, who was batting .188 in the series going into the game, drilled an opposite-field single into left to drive home Walker and Garciaparra.
Kevin Millar, who batted .158 in the first five games of the ALCS and struck out in his first at-bat Wednesday, followed with a bloop single to center, and Ramirez hustled home from second for that 4-1 lead.
"Answering their early run was big," said Garciaparra, who broke out of a horrific slump with a triple and three singles in five at-bats. "I don't know if there was a sense of urgency, but that was big."
Even bigger was the way Boston responded to New York reclaiming the lead. Garciaparra opened the top of the seventh with a triple and scored on left fielder Hideki Matsui's throwing error, and the floodgates were again open. The Sox used two walks and four hits in the inning -- including a double by Ramirez and another RBI single by Ortiz -- to take a 7-6 lead.
"It started right there when Nomar and Manny had the back-to-back extra-base hits," said Little. "We haven't seen that the whole postseason."
And still the Sox, who set scores of offensive records during the regular season, weren't done. AL batting champ Bill Mueller, who broke out of a pretty nasty slump of his own with three hits, banged his second double of the game with one out in the ninth before Nixon delivered the dagger.
"When we were leaving last night, I told everyone these bats would come alive," said Alan Embree, who picked up the win in relief. "They stepped up. This is the offense we've had all season long."
Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.