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This frame was picture-perfect

Sox bats regained stroke with seventh-inning rally

NEW YORK -- In life, there are 15 minutes of fame. In baseball, there's one defining inning.

When you score three runs on two wild pitches, two balls hit into a jet stream in the outfield, a bases-loaded walk, a throwing error, and a hit off the first base bag, that could be called defining.

What it did for the Sox was take them from a 6-4 deficit to a 7-6 lead in a 9-6 win over the Yankees last night, saving their season for tonight's Game 7 with ace Pedro Martinez on the mound against Roger Clemens.

"The biggest thing about that inning is it was so cold," said second baseman Todd Walker. "I don't know if it was cold for them, but it was a lot more comfortable in the first and second inning than it was in the sixth, seventh, and eighth innings."

Through six innings it looked bleak. Chilling, in fact.

The Red Sox were trailing, and Jose Contreras, who had pitched so well in this series, was in the game an inning earlier than usual.

But Contreras couldn't execute the game plan.

He struck out the side in the sixth, but in the seventh, perhaps the Red Sox found something in his delivery that was very pleasing.

We begin with Nomar Garciaparra. The Sox shortstop, who went 4 for 5, booted a routine grounder in the fourth by No. 9 hitter Karim Garcia, which would have resulted in the third out. The error allowed Alfonso Soriano a chance, and he doubled to left center, knocking in a pair of runs. The Yankees had a 5-4 lead and knocked John Burkett out of the game. Garciaparra needed a chance at redemption.

And he got it. Garciaparra hit a rope to the deepest part of left-center field for a triple, but when Hideki Matsui finally retrieved the ball, he overthrew third and the ball hopped into the stands, scoring Garciaparra with the fifth run.

Manny Ramirez wasted little time in mashing a double to center field and after advancing to third on a wild pitch, David Ortiz smacked a shot off the first base bag into short right field, scoring Ramirez with the tying run. After Kevin Millar flied out, Bill Mueller, mired in his own horrific slump, broke out with a single to center.

Finally, Torre went to the mound to get Contreras. He opted for lefthanded reliever Felix Heredia, who promptly tossed a wild pitch before striking out Trot Nixon.

Just when things were looking up for the Yankees, Heredia couldn't find the plate.

The first walk was self-inflicted, an intentional walk to No. 9 hitter Jason Varitek, loading the bases for Johnny Damon. Torre had the matchup he wanted, but not the result.

"It's not an easy decision [to walk Varitek]," said Torre. "But it's not an easy decision, obviously, because Heredia shouldn't be on the mound for me if I don't have confidence in him to do something like that."

Heredia walked Damon on four pitches, forcing in the go-ahead run. Heredia struck out Todd Walker for the final out, but momentum had turned in Boston's favor. Asked if there was a sense of urgency to solve Contreras with closer Mariano Rivera looming, Garciaparra said, "I don't know if it was a sense of urgency, just a feeling that this team has had all year long, where it's like, all right, every inning, you know, let's go do it, let's try to get some runs. That's what the team has played like throughout the year."

Red Sox manager Grady Little thought it was back-to-back extra-base hits by Garciaparra and Ramirez that got the Sox going. "It's something we haven't had all the postseason," said Little. "I think that was a big plus." With three runs in, the Sox left the bases loaded, but in this case the damage had been done and the Sox had their one defining inning.

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