Bunt surprises Boston

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- It was the last thing anyone at the
Coliseum expected: a bases-loaded, two-out bunt by slow-footed
catcher Ramon Hernandez.

And it was just crazy enough to give the Oakland Athletics a
marathon victory.

Hernandez pulled off the surprise with a perfect bunt in the
12th inning, scoring Eric Chavez with the winning run to lift the
A's over the Boston Red Sox 5-4 in their playoff opener Wednesday

At 4 hours, 37 minutes, the game was the longest in Oakland's
postseason history, and it ended in the most improbable way: with
the hard-hitting A's executing a small-ball play to eke out a run.

"It was the biggest hit in my career," said Hernandez,
Oakland's All-Star catcher. "When you're playing a team like the
Red Sox that's got good pitching and good hitting, you've got to
try whatever you can to win."

By the time Chavez crossed the plate shortly after 11:45 p.m.
PDT, the teams were less than 14 hours away from the start of Game
2 on Thursday.

After Boston reliever Byung-Hyun Kim's troubles set up a tying
single by Erubiel Durazo with two outs in the ninth, Chavez did his

Chavez helped prevent Boston from taking the lead in the top of
the 12th, making a tremendous play at third base. On the basepaths
moments later, he alertly stole third, and Derek Lowe later
intentionally walked Terrence Long to load the bases.

"Freaky, just freaky," Chavez said. "It was probably the best
game I've ever been involved in."

Hernandez and Chavez both acted on their own, according to
manager Ken Macha.

"What an ending. Who would have thought that? A's win with a
bunt," Macha said. "Shame on anybody who missed it."

Todd Walker homered twice and had four hits, putting Boston ace
Pedro Martinez in position to pull off a win in the AL's toughest
road ballpark. Then came the latest postseason misadventure for
Kim, whose struggles nearly cost Arizona its World Series title two
years ago.

In the ninth, Kim walked a batter and hit another before Durazo
drove home pinch-runner Eric Byrnes with a tying two-out single off
Alan Embree.

"Both teams were battling, and the game has got to end
somehow," Boston manager Grady Little said. "We've had losses
like that during the season. We've rebounded well before, and
hopefully we can do that tomorrow."

Little said Lowe will be fine to start on Saturday in Game 3.

In the 11th, Little showed just how much he trusts his bullpen
by calling on Lowe.

Lowe got into trouble in the 12th, walking three batters and
allowing Chavez's steal with his deliberate motion.

After seeing Bill Mueller playing deep at third, Hernandez
dropped an exceptional bunt down the third-base line, and Chavez
scored without a throw. The A's mobbed Hernandez at first base.

"I looked over at third when I took the first pitch and watched
what's over there," Hernandez said. "I thought he was very deep,
and the first thing that comes through my mind is if I get it down
the third-base line, I've got a good chance to be safe."

After Keith Foulke pitched three innings of scoreless relief for
the A's, they went to rookie Rich Harden. He walked two batters and
threw a wild pitch in the 12th, but Chavez saved the inning by
fielding Gabe Kapler's sharp grounder and diving to tag third base
before Manny Ramirez got there.

Harden, called up to the majors after the All-Star break, got
the win.

Durazo, who had an early two-run double against Martinez, tied
it with a clean single to center that delighted most of the 50,606
fans in the packed ballpark.

The Red Sox, who added another heartbreaking playoff defeat to
the star-crossed franchise's overflowing collection. Boston has
lost seven of its last eight playoff openers.

Martinez and Walker were the stars of the first seven innings.
Martinez remained unbeaten in his playoff career by narrowly
outpitching Tim Hudson, but he didn't get the win.

Martinez yielded six hits and four walks in seven innings,
throwing a season-high 130 pitches. But Boston's imposing ace was
never far from trouble: He allowed three runs in the third, threw
out a runner at home in the fifth and barely escaped a bases-loaded
jam in the seventh.

Until Kim and Embree blew it, Boston's heavy-hitting lineup
appeared headed to a win thanks to two big blows from one of its
lightest bats.

Walker, a well-traveled second baseman in his first year with
the Red Sox, hit a solo homer in his first career playoff at-bat.
After two singles in the middle innings, he hit a two-run homer off
reliever Ricardo Rincon in the seventh, giving Boston a 4-3 lead.

Walker had the eighth multihomer game in the long postseason
history of the Red Sox, who are in their 85th season since their
last World Series championship.

Jason Varitek also homered and reached base four times for the
Red Sox, who tagged Hudson for 10 hits and three runs. The damage
could have been worse, but Ramirez stranded five runners while
going 0-for-5.

Though he also escaped several jams, Hudson's postseason
struggles continued: He has just one victory in six career playoff
starts. The right-hander appeared to be pitching through pain in
his final two innings, drawing the concern of Oakland's medical

Durazo got the biggest hit in Oakland's third-inning rally,
driving home Chris Singleton and Ellis with a hit into the
right-center gap. Miguel Tejada, who batted .143 in the division
series last season, followed with a single.

Game notes
A's owner Steve Schott said there's nothing to the rumors
of the Seattle Mariners coveting Oakland general manager Billy
Beane to replace Pat Gillick. ... The game was played 100 years to
the day after the Boston Americans faced the Pittsburgh Pirates in
the first World Series game ever.