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Varitek's blast the spark

Solo homer ignited team's four-run sixth

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Most of the glory went to the superstars, Pedro Martinez and Manny Ramirez, with some left over for the unlikely savior in the pen, Derek Lowe. But the guy who started the rally that broke open the clincher for the Red Sox was Jason Varitek. With the Sox trailing, 1-0, and Oakland starter Barry Zito cruising, Varitek changed the course of the game by taking Zito deep leading off the sixth inning.

Varitek, who strode to the plate with one hit in 14 career at-bats against Zito, worked the count to 3-and-2 before he ripped an 88-m.p.h. fastball over the left field wall.

"I was just trying to work the count and get on base," Varitek said. "I didn't quite get it on the best part of the bat but I got enough of it."

Absolutely. And the homer, Varitek's second of the series and fourth of his career in the postseason, started something sweet for the Sox. With Zito wearing down, the next batter, Johnny Damon, forced the lefty to throw nine pitches before walking him. Zito then hit Todd Walker with a pitch before Manny Ramirez slugged a three-run shot to bury Zito.

Varitek, as always, downplayed his role.

"I'm proud of everybody in this clubhouse," he said. "There isn't one person in this clubhouse who hasn't had some sort of adversity this year, but everybody stuck with it, and here we are."

Hudson gives his side

In a somber locker room, Tim Hudson explained an altercation he was involved in at a Boston bar Friday night.

Hudson and Zito went to Q, a private club in the Quincy Market nightspot Hennessy's, where a man pointed a finger in Hudson's face. Hudson said he moved the man's finger, shoved him, and the man shoved Hudson back. Zito apparently was not involved. Bouncers intervened, and Hudson, Zito, and the man left.

Hudson, who had to leave Game 4 Sunday after one inning because of a left oblique strain, said the incident was unrelated to his injury.

"There were no punches," Hudson said. "All the Red Sox fans the whole night were great. There was just one wiseguy that was kind of smart. It's not as big a deal as everyone made it out to be. It was an altercation, I'm not denying that at all. But the fact that it happened to Tim Hudson was the fact that it was blown up to a scale that everyone thinks `Oh, I was wrestling the bouncers, handling eight men.' "

A's manager Ken Macha dismissed the barroon incident as a "nonissue."

Comfort zone

The Sox once hoped Byung Hyun Kim would anchor their bullpen in the postseason. But by the time they reached the decisive game of the Division Series, their focus had turned more toward getting him back on track for next year after he suffered a crisis of confidence and a bout of disillusionment. In the latest effort, Little met with Kim on the flight from Boston Sunday night and reassured the righthander he could have a solid opportunity to join the starting rotation next spring.

Little said a number of people in the organization have met with the Korean star in recent days.

"There has been a whole lot of communicating to try to get him comfortable here so he can be more productive," the manager said.

Evidently feeling disrespected after Little yanked him twice in closing situations and by the Fenway fans booing him, Kim seemed about to shut himself down with shoulder soreness after he stirred a controversy before Game 3 by flipping off the crowd in Boston.

"He's in the same situation as any player who isn't getting perfect results like they always want," Little said. "The bottom line is, the kid is only 24 years old, and he's in a strange place. We've had him in a couple of different jobs. It's still an adjustment for him, and it could go into spring training, but I think it will help a guy like him tremendously to start off in spring training in one place and grab a role on a ball club and stick with it for a whole season."

Kim threw in the outfield before last night's game and was fine to pitch, according to Little. But Scott Williamson has surpassed Kim as a leading option at the back end of the bullpen. Williamson, who did not pick up a win or save during the regular season for the Sox, earned the wins in Games 3 and 4 of the Division Series.

"I'm not going to sit here after [166] games and tell you who my closer is," Little said. "Hell, I still don't know. But [Williamson] has done a good job for us the last two days, and we like people who are on a roll."

The only pitcher who was not available last night was John Burkett, who threw 108 pitches to help win Game 4.

Zeroed in

Martinez is 4-0 with a 2.13 ERA in six career postseason appearances. He was 1-0 with a 3.86 ERA in two games in this series . . . Miguel Tejada went 0 for 19 (his longest hitless streak since a career-high 0 for 22 from Sept. 3-10, 1999) before he doubled in the sixth inning . . . The Sox invited Martinez to fly ahead of the team to Oakland to give him more rest before his crucial start, but he elected to fly with the team, which arrived in San Francisco about 12:30 a.m. Still, Martinez tried to get his rest on the flight by stretching out across a row of seats under a tent of blankets. "It looked like my grandson playing in the living room," Little said of checking on Martinez. "I didn't want to disturb him. He looked comfortable to me." . . . Little did not imitate Knute Rockne and deliver an inspirational speech before Game 5. Nor did he get a dramatic address from any of his players. "Just the general Kevin Millar bull," he said . . . Principal Sox owner John W. Henry was unable to attend the game because his mother is ill.

Globe correspondent Tim Casey contributed to this report.

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