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The dream stays alive

Sweep averted as Ortiz homer in 12th lifts Sox over N.Y.

Carlton Fisk in 1975. David Ortiz in 2004. Twelfth inning both times.

Hold on to those tickets for this afternoon's fifth game of the American League Championship Series. The left-for-dead Red Sox are still breathing.

Down three games to none, down 4-3, in the bottom of the ninth, the Sox last night rallied to tie the game against indomitable Yankee closer Mariano Rivera. They won it at 1:22 this morning when Ortiz hit a Paul Quantrill pitch into the Yankee bullpen to give the Red Sox a 6-4 Game 4 victory.

A lot of Bostonians will be sleepy-eyed and late for work today. No problem. Everyone in New England will be wide-eyed when Pedro Martinez gets the ball at 5:10 for the start of Game 5.

The Sox trail the American League Championship, 3 games to 1, but suddenly momentum has shifted Boston's way.

With Rivera on the mound to close out the Sox's season, Kevin Millar began the rally with a walk, and speedy Dave Roberts was summoned to pinch run. Roberts stole second and came home on Bill Mueller's single to center. The late-inning drama continued to unfold when Doug Mientkiewicz, batting for Mark Bellhorn, sacrificed Mueller to second, putting the tying run in scoring position. Then Johnny Damon's tapper to first was botched by Tony Clark, and the Sox had runners at the corners with one one out.

With victory 90 feet away, Rivera blew away Orlando Cabrera, who flailed at a couple of pitches out of the strike zone, and after a walk to Manny Ramirez, got David Ortiz to pop to second.

Among other things, the Sox prevented the Yankees from hoisting champagne bottles on the sacred lawn of Fenway Park. The also attached some honor and dignity to the final days of their quest for the American League pennant. Losing the first three games of the series, particularly Saturday night's 19-8 massacre, was almost too much for the fandom to bear.

How bad was it around Fenway Saturday night? At least three Red Sox fans went into The Souvenir Store on Yawkey Way after the game and traded in their Sox caps for Yankee lids.

Things were quite a bit different around the Fens after Ortiz's walkoff winner in the wee hours.

Sox first baseman Kevin Millar had this warning for the Yankees before Game 4:

"Don't let us win tonight. This is a big game. They've got to win because if we win we've got Pedro coming back tomorrow and then Schilling will pitch Game 6 and then you can take that fraud stuff and put it to bed. Don't let the Sox win this game."

The Yankees went ahead, 2-0, in the third, the Red Sox came back with three in the fifth, but then New York rallied for a pair in the sixth after Sox manager Terry Francona made the curious move of pulling starter Derek Lowe after his 87th pitch.

No team in baseball history has come back to win a seven-game series after trailing, 3-0. Ditto for the NBA. To find inspiration, the Red Sox and their fans had to go back to the 1975 New York Islanders (who came back against Pittsburgh) and the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs (vs. Detroit). Of the first 25 baseball series which started, 3-0, 20 ended in sweeps.

Consistent with the "Mighty Wind" retro theme, the Kingston Trio performed the national anthem, then launched into their signature tune, "M.T.A." In light of the events of Saturday night, a better Trio standard might have been, (hang down your head) "Tom Dooley."

Sox CEO Larry Lucchino said, "In the front office we have the same sense of discouragement everyone feels. We're supposed to bounce back. It's one thing to take your medicine like a man yesterday, but quite another to bounce back like a professional today."

The word, "professional" was bounced around quite a bit before Game 4. Sox bashers have cited the Yankees' conservative style and comportment throughout the series, while the Boston ball club has been ridiculed for its obvious lack of decorum and discipline. When Sox general manager Theo Epstein was asked about the relative professionalism of the two units, he said, "That's a ridiculous question. The personality of this team is a little different from the Yankees. The character of this team is such that they are loose and fun-loving. They compete and they have a good time doing it. The fact that you played a terrible game doesn't change the nature of your ball club, your personality."

For the fourth consecutive game, the Yankees jumped to an early lead, this time on a monstrous two-run homer by Alex Rodriguez. Lowe, probably making his final appearance in a Sox uniform, managed to blank New York for the first two innings (which hadn't happened in the first three games), but after Bill Mueller couldn't handle an explosive, two-out, one-hopper by Derek Jeter, A-Rod crushed a fastball and sent it over the Volvo sign onto Lansdowne Street to give the Yankees a 2-0 lead.

Meanwhile, the Sox were having trouble solving Cuban righty Orlando Hernandez. One of the great postseason pitchers of his generation, El Duque smothered the Sox on one hit over the first four innings. The Sox helped him out, swinging early in the count and getting themselves out. Hernandez needed only eight pitches to retire the middle of the Sox lineup in order in the fourth. Boston was running out of innings.

The Sox rallied for three runs off El Duque in the fifth, taking a 3-2 lead on a two-run single by David Ortiz. Millar started the rally with a walk. After another walk and with two outs, Orlando Cabrera delivered an RBI single to right. After Manny Ramirez walked, Ortiz cracked a single to center to give the Sox only their second lead of the series.

Just as they did Saturday, the Sox coughed up the lead immediately. The amazing Hideki Matsui got things going with a one-out triple to center in the sixth. It was his eighth extra-base hit of the series and it brought Francona out of the dugout to pull Lowe from the game. The decision was somewhat shocking giving Lowe's effectiveness.

Mike Timlin came in and the Yankees tied the game on a groundball single by Bernie Williams. After a wild pitch and another single, Clark reached when Bellhorn made a nice diving play, but could not pick up Clark's hard grounder. The Yankees had two runs and a 4-3 lead despite hitting only one ball out of the infield.

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