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Wakefield ready for a replay

He'll face Mussina to try to get even

The rain did nothing to change their rhythms or their routines. Boston's Tim Wakefield and New York's Mike Mussina were scheduled to pitch tonight no matter what happened yesterday. They're still scheduled to pitch. The only difference is that it won't be an elimination game, which it would have been had the Yankees beaten the Red Sox last night in Game 4.

As it is, the town team would be pleased to have a duplicate of last Wednesday's opener in the Bronx, when Wakefield dazzled New York with his dancing knuckler and Mussina was battered for three homers in Boston's startling 5-2 victory.

What are the chances of a replay? "You'd have to ask the Yankee hitters that," shrugged Wakefield, who was 2-2 with a 3.96 ERA in four starts against New York during the season and is 7-8, 4.97 lifetime. "I can't answer that question honestly. I've had back-to-back starts against the same club and done well. Other times, I've done poorly in my second start. Or pitched poorly against them in my first start and then pitched great against them in my second start."

Wakefield, whose Game 1 decision was his first postseason triumph in 11 years (the longest gap since Roger Clemens's 13 years from 1986 to 1999), has no better idea about how his dipsy-doodle offerings will behave than you do. "I've come out of the bullpen thinking I've got great stuff and I get into a game and I can't get it over the plate or it's not moving well," he said. "I've left the pen thinking, `Oh, my gosh, I'm not even going to last one inning,' and I'm going six or seven strong innings. There's really not an indicator to tell me if I feel like I have it." Sox manager Grady Little confirmed Wakefield would start tonight, bumping Burkett, but stopped short of naming Derek Lowe his starter for tomorrow afternoon's Game 5, although Lowe indicated he'd be ready to go. Lowe was originally slated to pitch Game 6 Wednesday in New York."He was preparing to pitch that day," Little said of Lowe. "We need to check his workout schedule and make sure he's fully armed for [tomorrow] before we name him our starter. Believe it or not, these guys have a schedule, and certain work they do, day in and day out. We've got to make sure he's going to be ready."

Mussina, who's been winless in five postseason starts (0-3, 5.20) since beating Seattle in Game 2 of the 2001 American League Championship Series, decidedly didn't have it against the Sox last time, when he gave up four runs and eight hits and was lifted in the sixth inning. Yet while he conceded that he didn't have his best command after seven days' rest, Mussina considers that outing an aberration. "You make pitches and a guy hits one off the foul pole," he said. "An opposite field, one that goes 2 feet over the fence, ball off the end of my glove for an infield hit. It's really close to being one or two runs instead of four. So, no, I wouldn't change anything."

Mussina, who was 17-8 during the season (with three no-decisions against the Sox), also lost the Division Series opener to Minnesota. No matter what, he won't pitch again until the World Series. And all he can do tonight is push Boston to the brink.

"You don't win the whole series all at one time," said the Yankee righthander. "You only win it one game at a time. And until four games are won, the series is never over."

For the Red Sox, who lived and died with each of the final three games of their Division Series with Oakland, a loss tonight would mean another one, two, three days on the high wire. "Even though we are only down, 2-1, tonight is just as important as tomorrow night," said Wakefield. "And just as important as Wednesday and Thursday night back in New York."

Jackie MacMullan of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

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