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The dream stays alive

Sox avert sweep as Ortiz homer sinks N.Y. in 12th

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 2004 American League Championship Series. The left-for-dead Red Sox are still breathing.

Down three games to none, and 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 in the 12th inning at 1:22 this morning when Ortiz hit a Paul Quantrill 2-and-1 pitch into the Yankee bullpen to give the Red Sox a 6-4 Game 4 victory at Fenway Park. The game lasted 5 hours, 2 minutes, and many of those who stayed for the finish lingered even longer into the morning.

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

''Don't let us win tonight," Sox first baseman Kevin Millar had warned before Game 4. ''This is a big game. They've got to win because if we win we've got Pedro coming back [today] 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."

They did. This time it was the Yankees who coughed it up.

''Paul always makes good pitches on me," said Ortiz. ''The fastball comes right at me. He gave it to me a couple of times and I was kind of looking for it."

Among other things, the Sox prevented the Yankees from hoisting champagne bottles on the sacred lawn of Fenway Park. At least for another day. The also brought some honor and dignity to their quest for the American League pennant. Losing the first three games of the series, particularly Saturday night's 19-8 massacre at the hands 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 The Souvenir Store on Yawkey Way after the game and traded in their Sox caps for Yankee lids.

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

"It's 3-1," said Sox manager Terry Francona. "We set out today to win and somehow we did. We went through everybody in the bullpen. We had guys contribute that hadn't played much. The mood is a little better tonight than it was last night."

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.

"We're 3-1 right now, but you never know what can happen," said Ortiz. "We've got to keep playing the game. When you are at home, anything can happen. This is a team that never gives up. Great heart. Even when we lose a game, we still play the game right."

For the fourth consecutive game, the Yankees jumped to an early lead, this time on a monstrous, two-run homer by Alex Rodriguez. Derek 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 when third baseman 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 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 since Lowe had thrown only 87 pitches.

Mike Timlin came in and the Yankees tied the game on a groundball single by Bernie Williams. After a wild pitch and another single, Tony Clark reached when Mark 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.

The sand was running out on another Red Sox season when they staged a dramatic, game-tying rally against Rivera in the ninth. Millar led with a walk. Dave Roberts pinch ran and stole second on the first pitch to Mueller. Mueller then shot a single up the middle, scoring Roberts and tying the game, 4-4. The Sox put runners on first and third with one out, but could not push the winning run across.

Alan Embree, Keith Foulke, and Curtis Leskanic, who got the win, all pitched well for the Sox in relief.

"I'm a firm believer in momentum for a short series," said Yankees manager Joe Torre. "But it comes down to who pitches the best. Still, I've always felt that momentum is easily changed in a short series. We just have to make sure when we go out for the next game we can't carry this baggage."

"Our mood was really good going into the game," said Francona. "It always is. This is the time of year when we can rest later. They can rest later."

No rest for New England. Game 5 later today.

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