Game 6 wrapup:
Red Sox 9, Yankees 6
NEW YORK -- The Bambino decided to let the Red Sox live another day, as Boston staved off elimination Wednesday with a 9-6 win over the Yankees in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series.
The best-of-seven series is tied at three games apiece, as the decisive seventh game will be played in the Bronx on Thursday night. Roger Clemens gets the call for the Yankees, taking on Pedro Martinez in a rematch of last Saturday's Game 3.
"It doesn't get any bigger," said Derek Jeter. "It's going to be fun."
Felix Heredia's bases-loaded walk to Johnny Damon in the seventh accounted for the game-winner, as the Red Sox fought off elimination for the fourth time this postseason. Nomar Garciaparra, whose error helped the Yankees score four runs in the fourth inning, made up for it with four hits, while David Ortiz chipped in three RBIs.
"They battled like we've battled each other all year," said manager Joe Torre. "We battled back, they battled back, and it just was no quitting on either ballclub."
The Red Sox are 4-0 this postseason when facing elimination. The Yankees, who were 83-11 this season when leading after six innings, lost for the first time in six playoff games when taking a lead into the seventh.
Andy Pettitte battled through five tough innings, allowing four runs on eight hits, but the left-hander handed a lead to his bullpen. Jose Contreras, who had been virtually unhittable in his three previous postseason outings, fell apart in the seventh, allowing three runs that extended the series for one final game.
"I'm very disappointed," said Contreras through an interpreter. "Andy left the game with a two-run lead, and it was my job to hold it there. I wasn't able to do that job."
Jason Giambi put the Yankees on the board first, belting a two-out solo home run off Boston starter John Burkett in the first inning. The homer was Giambi's first of the postseason, the third of his playoff career. But Giambi struggled in his next four at-bats, striking out three times and stranding six runners on base.
Pettitte ran into some trouble in the third inning, starting with Jason Varitek's solo homer. Pettitte then walked Damon, gave up a single to Todd Walker and walked Manny Ramirez, loading the bases for Ortiz, who delivered a two-run single that just escaped a jumping Jeter. Kevin Millar added a bloop single to center, scoring Ramirez to give the Sox a 4-1 lead.
"The walk to Damon really hurt me," Pettitte said. "I gave up a few hits, but I don't think I made too many bad pitches that inning."
New York answered in the bottom of the fourth, knocking Burkett from the game with a big inning of its own. Jorge Posada and Hideki Matsui each singled with one out, and Nick Johnson lined a ground-rule double, scoring Posada to cut the lead to 4-2. Aaron Boone grounded out with runners at second and third, scoring Matsui to make it a one-run game.
Karim Garcia, the Yankees' Game 5 hero, hit a ground ball to shortstop that looked to be the third out, but Nomar Garciaparra bobbled it for an error, extending the inning. Alfonso Soriano made the Red Sox pay immediately, lining a two-run double to left-center, putting New York back on top, 5-4.
"When you're three runs down and you come back to take the lead, you get excited," Garcia said. "I know I did."
Burkett, who left the game after Soriano's double, was charged with five runs (three earned) on seven hits, striking out one in 3 2/3 innings.
Pettitte battled through the fifth inning after allowing a pair of singles, striking out Bill Mueller to end the inning. That turned out to be Pettitte's last batter, as Torre removed the left-hander after 92 pitches. The left-hander said after the game that he felt he could have gone deeper and seemed disappointed that he wasn't given that opportunity.
"I felt as good as I could possibly feel. I was very surprised," Pettitte said. "He's the manager, so he has to make those decisions. I'd have loved to have gone back out there. I wasn't able to stay in the game and give us the innings that we needed. That's my job, so it's disappointing."
"Andy battled. That's what he's made of," Torre said. "He threw a lot of pitches in five innings, but he had that one bad inning and had to pitch out of a jam and a couple of others, and I just felt it was time to make a change and go to Jose."
Contreras relieved Pettitte and breezed through the sixth inning, as Yankee Stadium began to buzz with anticipation of a 39th AL pennant celebration.
"We had three innings to go, but the way Jose came in and was throwing, I thought we were going to wrap it up and get it to Mo," Posada said. "I thought we had a pretty good chance once we scored six runs. It just didn't happen."
New York threatened in the bottom of the sixth, putting men on second and third with one out, but Alan Embree came in to strike out Giambi and get Bernie Williams to ground out, moving the game to the seventh.
"I was trying to put the ball in play," Giambi said of his at-bat. "I just couldn't do it. He made some good pitches and struck me out."
"Every time you have an opportunity to score some runs and you can't, it hurts," Garcia said. "You have to give some credit to their pitchers. They got the job done."
Garciaparra led off the seventh by drilling a ball off the center-field wall. As Garciaparra headed for third, Matsui picked up the ball and fired toward the base, but his throw went wild, bouncing into the stands. Third-base umpire Alfonso Marquez awarded Garciaparra home for the wild throw, cutting the New York lead to one.
Ramirez doubled to center, moving to third on a wild pitch by Contreras. Ortiz's ground ball hit the first-base bag, popping up into right field to score Ramirez. The game was tied, and Boston's hopes were still alive.
"I didn't have good control of my fastball," Contreras said. "It stayed up, which is why they were able to connect on it so well."
"That ball Nomar hit, it looked like it was a fly ball but the elements were playing tricks with the ball all night, all day," Torre said. "He threw one to Manny and I thought that was out of the park and the wind cut that one down. Then it just looked like he tried to overthrow the ball."
Felix Heredia replaced Contreras with men on first and second with one out. A wild pitch advanced the runners, but Heredia struck out Trot Nixon for the second out. Torre chose to intentionally walk Varitek with first base open, loading the bases. But Heredia walked Johnny Damon on four pitches, forcing in the go-ahead run that gave the Sox a 7-6 lead.
"It's not an easy decision to make," Torre said. "But the way Varitek has been swinging the bat, especially right-handed, it was one I felt I had to do and then just live with the results."
Mike Timlin tossed a scoreless eighth, while Nixon's two-run home run off Gabe White into the right-field upper deck gave the Red Sox a pair of ninth-inning insurance runs. Scott Williamson worked a scoreless bottom of the ninth to record his third save of the series.
Now, it all comes down to one game, as the best rivalry in baseball will feature stakes it has never seen in its storied history. Thursday's for-all-the-marbles matchup is the first Game 7 of an ALCS since the Red Sox defeated the California Angels, 8-1, in 1986.
"I don't know of any two clubs that are more evenly matched than we are," Torre said. "I guess it was supposed to come down to seven games."
Mark Feinsand is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.