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Haunting blow

Page 2 of 2 -- Bang. Hideki Matsui ripped a ground-rule double down the right-field line, clearing the way for Jorge Posada to dump a game-tying two-run blooper to shallow center.

Little visited Martinez after the single by Williams to gauge the ace's readiness for the rest of the struggle.

"He asked me if I had enough bullets in my tank to get them out and I said yes," Martinez said. "I would never say no. I tried hard and I did whatever possible to win a ballgame."

And so it stood, 5-5, until Boone's blast ended the classic.

"We're not stunned at all," Martinez insisted. "We knew we were competing against a very good team, a very professional team that we never underestimated. They did what they had to do to win a ballgame. I respect them for that. There's nothing I can say bad against those guys. I wish them luck against the Marlins. Let it be God's wishes in whatever they do."

Still, it ranked among the most crushing losses in Sox history.

"It's something I can't really describe," Martinez said of the sadness. "You've got to live with this team and go out there and survive with this team over the whole season to describe exactly how you feel, and how hurt you are after a loss like that."

So it was that tears flowed in the Hub, and the Sox, instead of ending a historic series frothing in champagne in the House That Ruth Built, turned homeward with a bad taste in their mouths, almost like sour grapes, though they expressed no bitterness.

"I'm proud to be a Boston Red Sox," Varitek said. "This group of guys exemplified team, all year and all night in this game."

The Sox fell short in part because they went scoreless in six of the last seven innings, including the final three during which they were overpowered by Yankee ubercloser Mariano Rivera. Their only hope came in the 10th inning when David Ortiz stroked a two-out double to left field, but pinch runner Gabe Kabler went no farther as Kevin Millar popped out to end the inning.

Rivera was named Most Valuable Player of the series, but was in position to win the honor in part because Martinez allowed two home runs -- both to Jason Giambi -- for only the second time this year (and for the first time since April 2 against the Angels).

Little brought Martinez out for the eighth inning after he had thrown 100 pitches through the first seven. Should Little have seen danger lurking? Should he have turned earlier to his bullpen?

Not in Martinez's eyes.

"I am the ace of the team," he said. "You have to trust me. I wasn't really thinking about pitch counts. This is no time to say I'm tired. There is no reason to blame Grady. He doesn't play the game. We did. I did. If anybody look at somebody and point a finger, they can point it at me because I was the one pitching. I was the one who gave up the lead. If you want to judge me for that or curse me or do whatever, I'll swallow that because I was out there, and I'm responsible for the decisions I make and the pitches I make in the middle of the game."

As much as it hurt, Wakefield found consolation, even as his eyes welled.

"I know it's a cliche but we have a lot to be proud of," he said. "We entertained a lot of people this year. We excited the whole city of Boston for a long, long time."

And no one wanted to keep going longer than the Sox did. 

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