In a series full of surprises, now this: The Boston Red Sox will play again.
"It didn't surprise us. We've been doing this all year," Darren Lewis said.
The Red Sox avoided being swept by the Cleveland Indians with a 9-3 win Saturday, only their second victory in their last 20 playoff games. They did it without injured AL batting champion Nomar Garciaparra and with more bad news on Pedro Martinez's sprained back muscle.
"We won 94 games this year without Nomar for a while, without Pedro for a while," said Lou Merloni, Garciaparra's replacement at shortstop. "It's just a testament to the guys we have here."
The seventh-inning runs were produced by two players who have struggled at the plate John Valentin with a tiebreaking, two-run double, and Brian Daubach with a three-run homer. Merloni singled in the final run.
Perhaps the biggest surprise was the strong performance from Ramon Martinez, Pedro's older brother, who pitched his first major league game in nearly 15 months on Sept. 2.
"He threw strikes," Cleveland manager Mike Hargrove said. "He kept his team in the game."
The Red Sox beat a team that was thinking sweep after its 11-1 domination of Boston in Game 2 at Jacobs Field.
Now they'll play another game in Fenway Park on Sunday with the odds still stacked against them. Bartolo Colon, dominant in Cleveland's 3-2 Game 1 victory, faces Kent Mercker, who was 2-0 in just five starts after being acquired from St. Louis on Aug. 24.
"It's the biggest game I've ever pitched in," Mercker said.
Colon will pitch for the first time this season on three days rest.
"Is he going tomorrow?" Cleveland's David Justice said. "I feel a lot better."
The Red Sox ended their postseason futility streak at home, winning for the first time in eight games since a victory in Game 5 of the 1986 World Series. Their 1-18 stretch began in the next game when Bill Buckner's infamous error gave New York a comeback win two days before the Mets won the World Series.
That's something Boston hasn't done since 1918, Cleveland since 1948 when it beat another Boston team, the Braves.
The Red Sox chances got a boost from the hitting problems of four Indians. Justice, Kenny Lofton, Manny Ramirez and Sandy Alomar were a combined 0-for-35 in the series until Lofton singled in the seventh off winning pitcher Derek Lowe scored the run that tied it at 3.
Dave Burba had allowed one hit before leaving after four innings with tightness under his right forearm and a 1-0 lead. He said the problem surfaced about two weeks ago.
"What frustrated me is that I felt I let my team down," Burba said, "I felt I let the air out of the balloon."
Losing pitcher Jaret Wright replaced him and the game began slipping away as he allowed two runs in the fifth and Valentin's go-ahead homer in the sixth.
Lewis' sacrifice bunt attempt turned into a forceout at third and Trot Nixon struck out.
But Jose Offerman walked, loading the bases. Then Valentin, 0-for-10 before his homer and whose throwing error allowed the tying run to score in the seventh, doubled.
|John Valentin got busy with the wood in Game 3.|
Daubach, who tailed off sharply late in the season, then homered.
Garciaparra missed the game with a bruised right wrist suffered Sept. 25 when he was hit by a pitch by Baltimore's Al Reyes. Garciaparra, 2-for-6 with a homer in the first two games, sat out after swinging in the batting cage .
Pedro Martinez's health check didn't go much better. He had left the opener with a sprained muscle under his right shoulder blade after four innings.
He threw for the first time since then before Saturday's game but stopped after about one minute when he felt discomfort. He planned to try again Sunday with hopes of starting a possible fifth game Monday.
"When somebody goes down, we seem to have somebody step in," Lewis said.
Ramon Martinez, who underwent rotator cuff surgery on his right shoulder on June 30, 1998, was 2-1 this season, finishing with two strong starts against Baltimore. On Saturday, he allowed two runs on five hits and three walks while striking out six in 5 2-3 innings.
"A strong performance, but a continuation of the way he's pitched in his last two or three starts," Boston manager Jimy Williams said.
Ramon Martinez gave up the tying run in the sixth when Roberto Alomar doubled, took third on Ramirez's groundout to first and scored on Harold Baines' grounder.
When he was replaced by Lowe, Martinez tipped his cap as the crowd gave him a standing ovation. His brother was the first to shake his hand in the dugout.
"He just told me it was a great job," Ramon Martinez said. "He was very happy."
Cleveland took a 1-0 lead on Justice's sacrifice fly in the fourth. But Wright, 1-5 with a 5.97 ERA in the second half of the season, struggled. A single by Merloni and a double by Varitek put runners at second and third. That set up another confrontation with Lewis.
Wright hit him in the helmet in last year's first game of the division series, then hit him with a curveball April 23 that prompted the Lewis to charge the mound.
With fans derisively chanting, "Ja-ret, Ja-ret," Lewis singled in Merloni.
"I heard it but it doesn't affect your pitching," Wright said. "I didn't get it done, basically."
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