NEW YORK -- When Nomar Garciaparra came back to the dugout after a costly fourth-inning error, he didn't need to be told how to make up for it.
"You could see it in his eyes that he wasn't going to let that
be the difference in the game," infielder Lou Merloni said. "We
had a lot of guys in there really just struggling. Great, great
hitters -- they were pressing. ... But great players respond."
Garciaparra picked the perfect moment to snap out of his slump,
atoning for his fielding error with four hits Wednesday as Boston
beat the New York Yankees 9-6 to avoid elimination and force the AL
Championship Series to a decisive seventh game.
"A superstar in a slump is still a superstar," Red Sox general
manager Theo Epstein said in the clubhouse after the game. "We
knew he would break out of it in a big way, and he did -- just in
Garciaparra was in the chase for a third AL batting title with a
.326 average on Aug. 30 before he went into a six-week slump. The
Red Sox managed to survive his .170 September average, and they
even held on while he went without an RBI in the first nine games
of the playoffs.
The theories about his struggles were nothing short of wacky:
Maybe he was worried about his upcoming wedding to soccer star Mia
Hamm; maybe it was because he hadn't joined in the team-bonding
spirit and shaved his head.
As the slump continued through the playoffs, manager Grady
Little remained confident that Garciaparra would come around. He
refused to drop him from the No. 3 spot in the batting order,
saying it was just a matter of time before he snapped out of it.
When Garciaparra flubbed Karim Garcia's grounder in the fourth
inning, though, it seemed that Boston had run out of time. Alfonso
Soriano followed with a two-run double that gave the Yankees a 5-4
lead, chased John Burkett and forced the Red Sox to turn the game
over to their shaky bullpen.
But Garciaparra singled in the fifth and added a "little-league
homer" in the seventh, tripling and scoring when left fielder
Hideki Matsui's throw sailed into the stands. The Red Sox scored
twice more in the inning to take a 7-6 lead they never
"This guy is capable of doing this any day he steps on the
field," said Little, who was a Boston bench coach in 1999 when
Garciaparra had four hits in the 1999 ALCS against the Yankees.
"You know it's going to happen sooner or later, and tonight it
Garciaparra, who was hitless in 11 at-bats coming into the game,
also singled to lead off the eighth for his fourth hit as Boston,
which had one of the most potent offenses in baseball history
during the season, broke out with playoff highs of 16 hits and nine
runs. Garciaparra, Kevin Millar and regular-season batting champ
Bill Mueller had just seven hits in the series coming into the
game, and nine more on Tuesday.
"We've been waiting ever since the playoffs started to get the
line moving, get some baserunners, get some base hits in an
inning," Little said. "They started coming right there."
Just one day earlier, Little was peppered with
questions about whether he would drop his slumping shortstop in the
batting order. Garciaparra had just two hits in the first five
games of the ALCS, and he was batting just .205 in the playoffs
He didn't record his first RBI of the 2003 postseason until
Tuesday, and it came on a groundout.
"He's one of the biggest reasons we're here," Boston pitcher
Derek Lowe said. "It would be foolish if we got down on him."