BOSTON – Instead of savoring a playoff victory Sunday, the Athletics were preparing to fly back to Oakland for a Monday night finale against Red Sox ace Pedro Martinez.

Martinez, a three-time Cy Young Award winner, will be opposed by last year’s recipient, Oakland left-hander Barry Zito, in a heavyweight showdown to determine who plays the New York Yankees when the ALCS opens Wednesday in New York.

“We have the best left-hander in baseball going against probably the best right-hander,” Hudson said. “I’d take Barry Zito over Pedro Martinez any day.”

“We’re going with the best pitcher in the world,” Boston first baseman Kevin Millar said. “We’ll take our chances with that.”

After opening with two losses, the Red Sox feel fortunate to have reached Monday’s decisive fifth game of the American League Division Series. And despite having to face Zito in Oakland, they are confident of becoming just the seventh of 41 teams to survive such a predicament.

“They came here up 2-0 and probably a little confident,” said second baseman Todd Walker, whose sixth-inning home run Sunday started Boston’s comeback from a 4-2 deficit. “But the momentum has certainly shifted now. It’s a great feeling.”

“It’s unbelievable,” Red Sox pitcher John Burkett said. “You’re thinking you’re out of this thing, or might be out of it, but this team always fights. And to have it pay off is special.”

Resilience has been a trademark of these Red Sox.

Boston won 23 games this year in its last at-bat and has taken the last two playoff games in late innings, winning Game 3 on Trot Nixon’s 11th-inning home run and Game 4 on David Ortiz’s two-run double. Now they have a fully rested Pedro Martinez ready to start the series finale against Zito.

“Zito would be our choice tomorrow, and I’m sure Pedro would be their choice,” Oakland general manager Billy Beane said. “And it would be our choice to play in Oakland, and that’s where we’re going.”

Umpires detail Game 3 rulings

Tim Welke, the third-base umpire who called obstruction twice in a five-inning span during Game 3, confirmed that he would have ensured a go-ahead run for Oakland if shortstop Miguel Tejada kept running to the plate instead of stopping to complain in the sixth inning Saturday.

Tejada collided with Boston infielder Bill Mueller while rounding third base. Welke signaled obstruction, but let the play continue because Boston left fielder Manny Ramirez had not yet fielded the ball. That meant no play on Tejada had begun, and according to Major League Rule 7.06(b), Tejada advanced at his own peril. But Tejada stopped two-thirds of the way to the plate to complain and was tagged out by catcher Jason Varitek.

“He’s responsible for running the bases,” Welke said of Tejada. “My job is to let the play go as far as it will go. Had he continued on and been thrown out at the plate by a step or two, I would have protected him and scored the run, because I had (called) obstruction as he rounded third. The fact that he stopped prevented the play from continuing.”

Welke awarded the Red Sox a run in the second inning when Varitek was a victim of obstruction during a rundown between third and home. In that instance, because a play on the runner already was being attempted, Welke properly stopped play and allowed Varitek to advance.

The Athletics lost another potential run earlier in the sixth when Eric Byrnes failed to touch home plate before or after colliding with Varitek. As Byrnes hopped around on a sore knee, Varitek retrieved the ball and tagged him out.

“I hope some of the guys learned a little bit of a lesson,” Oakland manager Ken Macha said. “It’s unfortunate it happens in a game like this.”



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AP-NY-10-05-03 2047EDT



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