SERIES: Division Series, Game 4; Athletics lead, 2-1.
To do that, they must first knock off Tim Hudson and the rest of the A’s in Game 4.
Pinch-hitter Trot Nixon hit a two-run homer in the 11th inning Saturday as Boston avoided elimination with a 3-1 win, despite managing just seven hits.
“This is what playoff baseball is all about. This is Fenway at its finest,” Nixon said.
“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. This is what you play for.”
Boston ace Pedro Martinez will not be brought back on short rest to pitch in Game 4, but will go in Game 5. Instead, veteran right-hander John Burkett, who is 2-0 with a 2.70 ERA in three division series starts, gets the call Sunday.
“He has been very consistent for us the whole season,” Boston manager Grady Little said. “He brings a whole lot of experience to the mound. Burkett is a competitor, he is a battler, and everybody in that clubhouse is glad when he’s on the mound.”
Oakland will counter with Hudson on three days’ rest.
The last time Hudson pitched on short rest was in Game 4 of last year’s first-round series against Minnesota. He allowed seven runs—two earned—and five hits in 3 1-3 innings as the Twins won 11-2. Minnesota went on to take the series.
It was the third straight season the A’s failed to make it past the first round. They hope Hudson will keep them out of a fourth straight do-or-die Game 5.
“Unfortunately we’ve fallen short in the past,” said Hudson, who allowed three runs over 6 2-3 innings in Oakland’s 5-4, 12-inning win in Game 1 on Wednesday. “We’ve been in this position before, and we’ve let it slip away. I think guys this year, we’re really determined to go out there and play some good clean baseball, and try not to make the mistakes that have hurt us in the past.”
Oakland failed that particular test on Saturday night, making four errors— three in the second inning—and two baserunning blunders that ended with two runners being thrown out at the plate in the sixth inning.
“We played a poor second inning,” A’s manager Ken Macha said. “I think we gave them seven outs in the second inning. It’s amazing they only got one run.”
The A’s have lost their last seven games in which they’ve had an opportunity to close out a first-round playoff series.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Athletics - AL West champions. Red Sox - AL wild card.
PROJECTED LINEUPS: Athletics - 2B Mark Ellis (.248, 9, 52), DH Erubiel Durazo (.259, 21, 77, 100 BBs), 3B Eric Chavez (.282, 29, 101), SS Miguel Tejada (.278, 27, 106), 1B Scott Hatteberg (.253, 12, 61), C Ramon Hernandez (.273, 21, 78), LF Jose Guillen (.311, 31, 86 for Cincinnati and Oakland), RF Jermaine Dye (.172, 4, 20 in 221 ABs), CF Eric Byrnes (.263, 12, 51). Red Sox - CF Johnny Damon (.273, 12 HRs, 67 RBIs, 30 steals) 2B Todd Walker (.283, 13, 85), SS Nomar Garciaparra (.301, 28, 105, 120 runs), LF Manny Ramirez (.325, 37, 104), DH David Ortiz (.288, 31, 101), 1B Kevin Millar (.276, 25, 96), RF Nixon (.306, 28, 87), 3B Bill Mueller (AL-leading .326, 19, 85), C Jason Varitek (.273, 25, 85).
ATHLETICS PROBABLE STARTERS: Hudson (16-7, 2.70 ERA). Hudson has not pitched well in three career starts at Fenway, going 1-2 with a 7.80 ERA.
RED SOX PROBABLE STARTER: Burkett (12-9, 5.15 ERA). Burkett is 11-7 with a 4.19 ERA in 31 games, including 29 starts, at Fenway Park.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Athletics - 1B Hatteberg is just 2-for-10 against RHP Burkett in his career. … SS Tejada and 3B Chavez are a combined 1-for-29 in this series. … Right-handed batters are hitting just .214 against RHP Hudson this season. Red Sox - RHP Burkett, who made the playoffs with Texas and Atlanta before coming to Boston last year, is in the playoffs for the sixth time since 1996. … OF Ramirez is 1-for-12 and has left 11 runners on base, and DH Ortiz is 0-for-13 in this series. … Right-handed batters are hitting .290 against RHP Burkett this season.
POSTSEASON ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Athletics - 0-1 on the road. Red Sox - 1-0 at home.