Red Sox just trying to buy more time

BOSTON -- It was nearly 1:45 Monday morning when a Red Sox public relations official somewhat gingerly approached David Ortiz in the Boston clubhouse at Fenway Park and asked the hulking designated hitter if he wouldn't mind making a trek to the interview room.

"Now?" asked an incredulous Ortiz as he glanced at his watch. "It's almost 2 o'clock in the morning. Can't we do it tomorrow?"

You know the old saying, David: Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today.

And what Ortiz did earlier today was buy the Red Sox some additional time. What they do with it is up to them.

Ortiz's two-run homer in the bottom of the 12th solved a five-hour marathon, giving the Red Sox a 6-4 victory over the New York Yankees and bringing them to a Game 5 on Monday afternoon.

It was only fitting that Ortiz delivered the game-winner. During the season, he led the mighty Red Sox lineup in RBI, and it was his bottom-of-the-ninth homer in Game 3 of the American League Division Series that completed a sweep of the Anaheim Angels.

To recap: The Red Sox have won two postseason home games this October, and both have ended with Ortiz hitting a walk-off homer, each time transforming Fenway into a madhouse.

Despite the late-night drama, the Red Sox were in no mood for overstatement.

"We're playing against a team that is strong all the way around," said Ortiz. "Whenever you get the chance to go for it, and get the opportunity to win a game against them, you've got to try hard because they don't give you a chance."

"We set out today to win," said manager Terry Francona. "That was our only objective and somehow, we did. Now, our objective is to win [Monday]. That's all we have in front of us."

That, and Pedro Martinez, starting what could be his final game in a Red Sox uniform.

Exactly who's available to provide relief is another matter since the Sox went through five pitchers out of the bullpen Sunday night. Closer Keith Foulke threw 2 2/3 innings. Through four games, the Red Sox have had a pitcher get through six innings just once, forcing a heavy workload for their pen.

Another problem: Until Ortiz's liner, which seemed to target the visitor's bullpen like some heat-seeking missile, the Red Sox had held a lead in the first four games for exactly 20 pitches.

Playing from behind has been a constant, and the Red Sox offense hasn't responded well. Manny Ramirez, who didn't swing at a pitch until his eighth-inning single, still doesn't have an RBI in the series. Leadoff man Johnny Damon, who was second in the league in runs scored during the season, can't seem to get on base, much less find his way home. In four games, he's just 1-for-18.

Then, there's the pitching. Should the Sox get past Game 5, they'll send Curt Schlling out for Game 6 in New York. And if they get to a Game 7? Their options would include Tim Wakefield (hit hard in a brave volunteer effort in Game 3), Bronson Arroyo (knocked out in the third inning of Game 3) and Derek Lowe on short rest.

But then, the Red Sox can't worry about Games 6 or 7 until they first win Game 5.

It's too early to say that the momentum has swung their way, though merely hanging on for an extra-inning win 24 hours after absorbing the worst postseason beating in franchise history says something about their resolve.

If nothing else, the Red Sox have stripped away Mariano Rivera's invincibility. Game 4 marked the third time in the last three months that they'd come back on him in the ninth inning. Twice, the provider of the big hit was third baseman Bill Mueller, whose ninth-inning single delivered Johnny Damon and sent the game to extra innings.

In the Red Sox clubhouse, Foulke, who seemed to pitch nearly as long last night as Lowe, was assessing his team's status.

"We don't want to go down in the books [as another team that failed to come back from a 3-0 hole]," he said. "We've got T-shirts that say, 'Why Not Us?' Well, why not us? Why not be the first?"

It was a question that no one was ready to ask a night earlier, when the Sox were too busy licking their wounds to contemplate an improbable series comeback.

Minutes before playfully advising reporters to "Go home," Ortiz added his take: "We were playing again tonight and if we don't win that game, we would be packing right now. We'd be facing another situation.

"Things can change. You never know what can happen from now on."

Sean McAdam of the Providence (R.I.) Journal covers baseball for ESPN.com.