Final in 11

Playoff Series: Game 3 of 5

Boston leads 3-2 (as of 10/4)

Game 1: Wednesday, October 1
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in 12
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Game 2: Thursday, October 2
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Game 3: Saturday, October 4
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in 11
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Game 4: Sunday, October 5
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Game 5: Monday, October 6
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7:30 PM ET, October 4, 2003

Fenway Park, Boston, Massachusetts 

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W: S. Williamson (1-0)

L: R. Harden (1-1)

Nixon's walk-off homer keeps Red Sox alive

BOSTON (AP) -- Three errors in one inning. Two bizarre plays at the plate in another. Two obstruction calls in the game and -- perhaps the weirdest thing of all -- a perfect performance from the Boston bullpen.

And then all the wackiness gave way to something quite routine for the Red Sox this season -- a game-winning home run.

Game 3 breakdown
Unsung Hero
Mike Timlin. Three perfect innings. That's something you don't see too often in a Red Sox reliever. Timlin entered in the eighth and shut down the A's three best hitters, Miguel Tejada, Eric Chavez and Ramon Hernandez. He finished just as strong, striking out Eric Byrnes and Erubiel Durazo in the 10th.

Goat
Byrnes. Colliding into Jason Varitek can't feel good. But Byrnes let the pain get the better of him. No call from the ump meant no run for Oakland. Had he touched home plate instead of shoving the Sox catcher and walking back to the dugout, the A's would be making ALCS plans right now.

Turning Point
The sixth inning. Following the Byrnes debacle, Tejada followed with another mental lapse. After bumping into Bill Mueller at third, Tejada failed to finish off the play. Obstruction was called, but in third-base umpire Bill Welke's view, not enough to award an extra base. The throw home was high and wide. Good chance Tejada could have scored. Instead, he stopped to argue and it cost the A's the victory.

It Figures
Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz are a combined 1-for-25. Tejada and Chavez, a combined 1-for-29. Ugly.

On Deck
Tim Hudson vs. John Burkett in Game 4 on Sunday at Fenway. The last time Hudson pitched on three days' rest was in Game 4 of last year's first-round series against Minnesota. He was rocked by the Twins, lasting only 3.1 innings in an 11-2 loss. Burkett hasn't pitched since Sept. 26.

Sore-legged pinch-hitter Trot Nixon homered in the 11th, and Boston took advantage of Oakland's bumbling baserunning and fielding to beat the Athletics 3-1 Saturday night and avoid elimination in their best-of-five AL playoff series.

"All the home runs you hit in your career in the regular season don't mean much unless you start hitting some in the postseason," said Nixon, who missed the last five games of the regular season with a strained calf muscle. "This is what you work for."

Boston managed just seven hits but forced Game 4 Sunday thanks to four Oakland errors -- three in the second inning. The A's also had two runners thrown out at the plate in a bizarre sixth that sent the umpires to their rule books and A's manager Ken Macha into a fury.

The score remained 1-1 until the 11th -- the second time in three games the teams have needed extra innings. But the Red Sox have thrived under pressure, winning a league-leading 23 games this season in their last at-bat.

Rich Harden, Oakland's fifth pitcher, came on to start the 11th and got Kevin Millar to pop out. Doug Mirabelli then singled to right and Nixon, batting for Gabe Kapler, hit a 1-1 pitch to straightaway center field.

"He was waiting for that pitch, I guess," Harden said. "I give him credit."

Raising his fist in the air as he rounded the bases, Nixon was met at home plate by his teammates in a celebration reminiscent of the one that greeted the team's wild-card clincher -- the last time they had played at Fenway.

Boston's much-maligned bullpen threw four perfect innings, three by Mike Timlin, before Scott Williamson pitched the 11th for the win.

"We've done a lot of talking about that bullpen since opening day this year," Boston manager Grady Little said. "Tonight we were awfully proud of what they did."

John Burkett pitches Sunday against Tim Hudson. A Red Sox win would send the teams back to Oakland for Game 5 Monday, and Pedro Martinez probably would face Barry Zito for a chance to advance to the AL championship series.

"We really believe that we're still in this thing," said Derek Lowe, who allowed six hits and an unearned run in seven innings.

It was the seventh consecutive time that the A's have lost a playoff game in which they had a chance to advance. Despite making the playoffs in four straight years, Oakland has not won a postseason series since sweeping Boston in 1990 to make it to the World Series.

Boston Red Sox players

It's pandemonium at Fenway Park after Trot Nixon's game-winning home run.

The A's had won 10 consecutive playoff games against the Red Sox, also sweeping them in 1988. The Red Sox have not won the World Series since 1918, but their recent history bodes a little better: They rallied from an 0-2 deficit to beat Cleveland in the first round of the 1999 playoffs.

Oakland was the last team to blow a 2-0 lead in the first round, losing three straight to the New York Yankees in 2001 -- a skid that with Jeremy Giambi's mistake on the bases.

"We played a poor second inning," Macha said. "I think we gave them seven outs in the second inning. It's amazing they only got one run."

Returning to the site of their over-the-top celebration of the wild-card clincher, the Red Sox brought a festive mood despite a 2-0 deficit.

Several players -- including Nixon -- got crew cuts as a symbol of team unity. Backups taped cheers to the back of their jackets to prompt the fans behind the dugout to heckle Oakland starter Ted Lilly.

Lowe was up to the task, and the A's wasted the best chance they had.

With runners on first and third in the sixth, Miguel Tejada dribbled a ball toward third base. Lowe fielded it and threw it past catcher Jason Varitek, who blocked the plate as Eric Byrnes slid past.

Varitek ran to get the ball -- getting a two-handed shove from Byrnes on the way -- and Byrnes made no effort to touch the plate. Umpire Paul Emmel made no signal until Varitek tagged Byrnes, who hurt his left knee on the play.

"I didn't care if my leg had fallen off," Byrnes said, "I would have gone back and touched the plate."

Then things got weirder.

Ramon Hernandez hit a grounder past shortstop Nomar Garciaparra for an error that allowed Erubiel Durazo to score. Third baseman Bill Mueller collided with Tejada, and umpire Bill Welke signaled obstruction.

Tejada trotted nonchalantly toward home. Varitek got the ball and tagged him out. The A's argued for several minutes, but under rule 7.06 (b) it is the umpire's judgment whether to award an extra base to an obstructed runner.

"The runner is in peril to be put out," said Steve Palermo, a baseball supervisor of umpires. "Bill Welke determined that Miguel Tejada would not have scored if there had not been obstruction."

Millar started off the second with an infield hit, diving headfirst into the base to beat the throw from Eric Chavez at third. On Varitek's grounder, Tejada booted the ball to put runners on first and second.

Chavez fielded Kapler's grounder and stepped on the bag for one out, but a bad throw to first allowed the runners to advance.

When Damian Jackson hit a grounder to Chavez, he caught Varitek caught in a rundown. But Chavez got in the Varitek's way on a throw back from the catcher and was called for interference.

Welke signaled for Varitek to score.

Game notes


Manny Ramirez is 1-for-12 with 11 runners left on, and David Ortiz is 0-for-13. ... Tejada is 1-for-15 and Chavez 0-for-14.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

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