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RED SOX 9, YANKEES 6

Seven wonders

Resurgent Sox defy the odds, force showdown

NEW YORK -- Wake up the Bambino. Heck, wake up all of Western civilization.

This is it, destiny's gift. The Red Sox and Yankees in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series, Pedro Martinez against Roger Clemens. The biggest game in the history of one of sport's greatest rivalries, with the last team standing advancing to Game 1 of the World Series on Saturday.

"We've been on a collision course for a hundred years," Sox general manager Theo Epstein said after his Comeback Cowboys roped and tied the Yankees, 9-6, before 56,277 in the House That Ruth Built to force the mother of all showdowns tonight in the Bronx.

"It definitely seems appropriate, definitely meant to be, and certainly poetic. It's special for both teams and both franchises, regardless of the result."

The Sox heard snickers after they lost Game 5 Tuesday and vowed to venture into the Empire and prevail there by winning two in a row. They sensed the skepticism of an anxious fandom burdened by the ghosts of lost causes.

"A lot of people laughed at me," catcher Jason Varitek said. But now Varitek, whose third-inning homer off Yankee starter Andy Pettitte helped unleash Boston's long-dormant offense, and the Sox are poised to have the last laugh.

"We're going to have a couple of cocktails, get some rest and be ready to take on the Babe and the rest of the Yankees," Johnny Damon said.

Epstein's forebears, who wrote the screenplay for "Casablanca," could hardly have scripted a more sensational twist in an extraordinary season. After redefining resiliency on the diamond in the regular season, the Sox rebounded from a 0-2 deficit to stun the A's in the best-of-five Division Series. Now this, digging out of a 3-2 hole to force Game 7 against the Bronx Bombers.

"This is such a magical season with so many unbelievable moments that I'm going to have to sit back and watch these games on tape this winter to catch up," Epstein said. "But everyone who experienced today's game will remember it for a long time, especially if tomorrow lives up to our expectations."

Last night certainly did, largely because the resurgent Sox offense exploited Pettitte and a squadron of Yankee relievers. Some of the guys who have struggled the most made the biggest difference, including Nomar Garciaparra (4 for 5 with two runs), David Ortiz (2 for 5 with three RBIs), and Kevin Millar (2 for 5 with an RBI).

"I guess it was supposed to come down to seven games, as much as you hate to think about it," Yankee manager Joe Torre said. "But they battled like we've battled each other all year. And tomorrow, at least we know tomorrow will be the last day."   Continued...

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