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A couple of powerball players

Nixon's was a shot in the dark

Normally he'd be watching video before the game, trying to find any advantage he could against Yankees starter Mike Mussina. He'd watch for a glitch in Mussina's delivery, or the way he throws his knuckle-curve. He'd look for a pattern of how he was pitched.

Last night, Trot Nixon decided he wasn't going to go through that exercise. He decided he'd watched enough video on Mussina.

"All I'd be watching is a bunch of outs, anyway," Nixon said following Boston's 3-2 win over the Yankees that evened the ALCS at 2-2. "I'm tired of watching video on him. You don't pick up a pattern. He does something different all the time. He's just one of those polished pitchers who can do whatever he wants to up on that mound."

Nixon, who was 8 for 53 against Mussina entering the game, elected to watch the Bill Cosby Show with teammates instead. Sox chairman Tom Werner, who with his TV partners produced "Cosby," one of the most successful situation comedies of all time, had Cosby in the clubhouse before the game, entertaining the players.

"No doubt Mr. Cosby loosened us up," said Nixon, who homered, doubled, and singled on a 3-for-3 night. "I think it took the edge off of some of that pregame tension."

Watching some of Cosby's skits and then listening to Kevin Millar imitate some of Cosby's characters seemed to lighten the clubhouse mood.

Watching Cosby was a lot funnier than watching Mussina on tape, anyway. The Red Sox needed something to make them forget the ugly scenes of Game 3 Saturday. It was obvious Nixon didn't like what he saw when he reflected on that dark day.

He thought Sunday's rainout was a gift from God to show the team that it must approach the game differently to get back into the series.

"I think it was kind of good to have emotions settle down a little bit," Nixon said. "Both teams were ready to go play. I think we realized what we did wasn't a smart thing. I think we all disrespected the game the other night.

"I don't like doing that; you know I'm one of those purists. I think everyone in the other dugout wanted to get back to baseball. I know we did over here. Let's play hard-nosed baseball and see what happens."

What happened was Nixon hitting a first-pitch fastball from Mussina to center for a fifth-inning home run, giving the Sox a 2-1 lead. It was a pitch that must have looked as big as legendary Cosby character Fat Albert sauntering down the street. You couldn't miss it.

"Having faced Mussina a lot, I just had a gut feeling he'd try to sneak a fastball inside," said Nixon, who was 1 for 2 with a walk against Mussina in Game 1. "I was happy to be able to keep my front shoulder in there."

No doubt Nixon gained some confidence after singling in his first at-bat leading off the third. In the seventh, he doubled off the Wall, advancing Kevin Millar to third and helping the Sox get a much-needed third run on Jason Varitek's fielder's choice.

"It's the best I've ever seen the ball against him," Nixon said. "The pitch on the home run just looked good coming out of his hand. There was one other game in 2001 where I got a couple of hits. Plenty of times I've gotten good swings at him but no hits."

The win erased all of the Saturday demons Nixon spoke about. He said all season it hasn't mattered if the Sox lose two or three straight. They'd always come back.

"It's back to even, Square One right now," Nixon said. "We'd love to be up, but really we're right where we need to be. This team has persevered from top to bottom from our pitchers to our hitters. We just feel you play as hard as you can."

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