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Kim and Little get their messages across

Despite giving him a quick hook in Oakland, Grady Little continued to insist that Byung Hyun Kim remained his closer of choice, even with the Red Sox on the brink of playoff elimination.

Kim, booed upon being introduced last night, went from tipping his cap to flashing an obscene hand gesture at the crowd, smiling all the while. The only gesture by a Sox player that rivaled Kim's for lack of respect was made by Pedro Martinez, who failed to appear for the introductions.

After the game, Sox officials handed out a statement in which Kim apologized for the gesture. "I apologize to the fans of the Red Sox, the people of New England, and baseball fans throughout the world," Kim said in the statement. "It was an instant, reflexive reaction that I regret.

"I appreciate the passion our fans have for baseball in Boston; all of us depend on them and their support. I am very sorry."

Fellow reliever Mike Timlin was near Kim during the introductions and "was embarrassed for myself and the Red Sox." Said Timlin: "He's a man. He's got to be able to control his emotions."

Little had yanked Kim one out away from a possible save in Game 1 -- lefthander Alan Embree entered and yielded a game-tying hit to Erubiel Durazo after Kim had put two runners on with a walk and hit batsman -- and TV cameras caught Kim's distress on the bench. The Red Sox manager didn't waste time talking to the distressed closer.

"I talked to him the next day during batting practice," Little said. "I told him that if it was 4-3 in the ninth, he'd be in the game. I told him, `Let's go.'

"He's still our man," Little said. "But he still might need some help."

Kim, whose English is passable but generally insists on having a translator present for interviews, is an elusive person in the clubhouse, often unavailable to English-speaking reporters.

Jin Hyung Park, who works for SportsChosun in Seoul, spoke to Kim after Game 1 and said the pitcher told him he was distraught.

"He thought when Grady Little came out of the dugout, he was coming to give him advice," Park said.

But Park said Kim was placated by his conversation the next day with Little.

"He feels comfortable after talking with Grady in the outfield before Game 2," Park said. "Little said to him he was very sorry about what happened in Game 1, and that he was going to use him as his closer, so be prepared."

Little, however, had Martinez warming up in the bottom of the eighth before a Sox rally was squashed.

Haircuts all the buzz

First baseman Kevin Millar made a less-than-grand entrance to the pregame press conference. Actually he missed the podium completely, misstepping on the back edge and tumbling behind the stage, making quite a stir. At first it was thought Millar might be injured, but he emerged after a while with an ear-to-ear grin, swearing his tumble wasn't staged.

"Swear to God, I didn't do that on purpose," said Millar as he took his seat with a bat in hand. "I feel great."

One of the first things he was asked was how the haircut count was coming in the Sox clubhouse.

"We have got some guys in there, about 15 of us that shaved our heads. It's going nice," Millar said. "This is what it's about. We've lost four in a row. Like I told you, the quirky thing sometimes works and we'll see what happens."

Millar took credit for the idea of shaving heads. "The bottom line was we had to change something," he said. "We're 0-2. The first thing that came to mind was that the mullet should be gone. We landed, we waited for our suitcases for about an hour, and Andy Abad, I grabbed him since he was the cleanest-shaved guy in the locker room and he cut my hair."

Abad did others, but Millar said he gave Bill Mueller a buzz cut and then took care of Todd Walker, who's known for his long, stylish hair.

Millar called Gabe Kapler "a natural-born killer. That was the whole idea. We have about 15 guys with these haircuts and it's going good right now."

Pen pal

A roar went up from the bleachers at the unexpected sight of Martinez strolling to the bullpen after the fifth inning. Little had said before the game Martinez would not be available last night, but apparently the ace -- like Derek Lowe in Game 1 -- was in the pen on an if-needed basis. Tim Wakefield also went to the pen. Little said only Game 4 starter John Burkett was not be available for relief duty . . . Asked if Martinez tried to push to start a possible Game 4, Little said, "no." . . . Sarah Wallace, 22, the daughter of Sox interim pitching coach Dave Wallace, is due to undergo surgery tomorrow for an eye injury sustained when the taxicab in which she was a passenger hit a car in Watertown Thursday night. Wallace said she was expected to have a full recovery.

Extra special

Trot Nixon's home run was the first walkoff home run in postseason play for the Sox since Carlton Fisk's epic 12th-inning home run in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series . . This was also the first extra-inning postseason game in Fenway Park since that '75 game . . . The crowd of 35,460 was the largest at Fenway Park since Sept, 28, 1990, when the Sox drew 35,735 on the final weekend of the regular season against Toronto. It was the largest postseason crowd since the Sox drew 35,578 for Game 2 of the 1975 ALCS against the A's . . . The win snapped the A's 10-game postseason winning streak against the Sox . . . Several hundred fans remained outside of Fenway as the players left, cheering loudly after a dramatic Red Sox win. Even though the Red Sox beat the A's, the loudest chant was the old standby directed toward the Yankees.

Nick Cafardo and John Powers of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

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