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Ramirez picked his spot

OAKLAND, Calif. -- The early signs were not encouraging. A strikeout looking. A strikeout swinging. Maybe another silent night from Manny Ramirez.

In last night's fifth and deciding game of the Red Sox' American League Division Series against the Oakland A's, it was indeed crunch time for Ramirez.

It was the top of the sixth with the game tied, 1-1. Two outs, two strikes. And then it happened. A Manny moment, the kind the Red Sox had seen all season in various places and various situations.

With one swing, everything changed for Manny's postseason blahs. Ramirez's three-run homer off A's starter Barry Zito gave the Red Sox a 4-1 lead in a pulsating 4-3 victory at Network Associates Coliseum.

Ramirez dropped his bat as soon as he made contact, then looked into the Red Sox dugout as he slowly made his way to first. He pointed at confidant Ino Guerrero, who has served as a spiritual adviser. Guerrero was applauding in the dugout.

"I told Ino [Zito] was going to make a mistake, and I was going to be waiting," said Ramirez, who conducted a rare interview session after the game.

Zito's redeposited fastball turned around a feeble offensive series for Ramirez. When his line-drive shot to left cleared the Verizon ad on the wall, it meant there would be embraces all around for Boston.

That included CEO Larry Lucchino, who saw Ramirez in the hallway as he approached the Sox clubhouse and bear-hugged him.

"Just in time," said Lucchino to the slugger. "Just in time."

"Yeah, you got it," Ramirez responded with a laugh.

Ramirez then walked into a clubhouse raining champagne. When his teammates spotted Ramirez, they surrounded him and poured bottle after bottle of bubbly on his head. Ramirez said he knew it was a matter of time before he would do his job, which is to hit homers, drive in runs, and win ballgames.

"I know I had not been swinging the bat pretty good," he said. "I have a lot of confidence in myself. All the time at bat I was looking in, and [Zito] gave me the fastball, and I drove it to left field."

Ramirez said that despite hitting only .200 (4 for 20) for the series, he was not getting overly frustrated. "What I'm trying to think is just relax and stay calm and let it happen," he said. "I'm not trying to put any pressure on myself in that situation."

Ramirez's teammates understood he was struggling.

"It wasn't the Manny that we've seen," said catcher Jason Varitek. "But it was Manny [last night], and he did it."

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