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Martinez: one from the heart

OAKLAND, Calif. -- It was like so many of his efforts this season -- a breeze at the start, a battle at the end. But for Pedro Martinez, the end was different. Better. Much better.

It ended not with a bang or a whimper, but with champagne flowing in an ecstatic Red Sox clubhouse following a 4-3 victory over the Oakland A's last night at Network Associates Coliseum in the fifth and deciding game of the American League Division Series.

Now it's on to the ALCS showdown against the Yankees, which begins tomorrow night in New York.

It was a group effort for the Sox, with Martinez throwing 100 pitches in seven solid innings, in which he allowed seven hits and three runs and left with a 4-3 lead. It stayed that way thanks to a bullpen outing that included a closing performance by Derek Lowe.

"I told [Lowe] he was going to be there for me and he did it," said Martinez, who walked off the mound in the eighth with his usual look to the heavens. In the ninth he watched Lowe overcome all the bullpen demons to extend the Red Sox' season for at least another four games.

"Petey battled all the way and we did what we had to do," said catcher Jason Varitek, whose leadoff home run in the sixth tied the game at 1-1 and set the tone for another remarkable rally.

For Martinez, who has maintained a loose code of silence with the media all season, it was a vindication of sorts for anyone who doubted his ability or heart.

He had made it clear that he wanted the ball in Game 5. And through the first six innings it looked like what Pedro wanted, he got. After Manny Ramirez broke a 1-1 tie in the sixth with a three-run home run into the left-field stands, Martinez had the cushion he thought he needed.

But after he allowed a leadoff double to center fielder Chris Singleton in the eighth and then an RBI single by pinch hitter Billy McMillon, Red Sox manager Grady Little had seen enough.

Martinez came out with great reluctance.

"Pedro pitched his heart out tonight," said Little. "He gave us every bit he had. We couldn't ask for any more right there and it's time to turn it over to those guys [in the bullpen]. They did a good job."

Little said he could see signs of fatigue in Martinez an inning earlier.

"I saw that look in his face coming off the sixth inning," said Little. "That showed me. From there on, we were going to protect him."

"Oh, you could see it in my eyes, that I didn't want to come out," said Martinez, who then made it clear he was talking about more than one game. "I did whatever was possible. To be out there every day, every game. I just did whatever I could. Honest to God, from my heart, that was all I had."

Martinez, who has problems with some of the Fenway faithful who questioned his commitment after an illness forced him to miss an August start against the A's, said he saw television flashes of Sox fans wishing and hoping back in Boston.

"I saw some images of those at Jillian's around Fenway," he said. "They were pretty emotional and biting nails and stuff. From now on they are going to be positive and be more talkative. And they really deserve anything we can get for them."

So there it was, an olive branch to the fans. A break in his media ban. Signs that Martinez is ready to continue his quest with a positive attitude he hopes can keep this dream season alive.

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