NEW YORK - Held down by a slump that gripped him for two months, Boston Red Sox shortstop Nomar Garciaparra finally was able to get loose yesterday in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series.
As he moved, so did an entire team - away from the edge of elimination.
Garciaparra went 4-for-5 with a triple and two runs scored in the Red Sox's 9-6 victory over the New York Yankees. He had two hits in the series before doubling that amount.
"All I've done is go up there the same as I have been," he said.
Garciaparra was 0-for-11 before poking a single into right field in the first inning. He also singled in the fifth, tripled to left-center field in the seventh - scoring on a wild throw from Hideki Matsui - and reached on an infield hit in the eighth.
"It was good for him and it was good for us," Red Sox manager Grady Little said.
"This guy is certainly capable of doing this any day he steps on the field. You know it's going to happen sooner or later, and tonight it happened."
Garciaparra was batting .323 in August, but he hit .170 in September. His struggles continued in the AL Division Series, leaving his playoff average at .205 before last night.
"I get a lot of confidence and a lot of support from my teammates," he said. "They're just like, `Hey, go out there, keep doing what you're doing, keep going.' There's a lot of prayer going out there and a lot of support."
Starters roughed up
Game 6 won't be remembered for the quality of its starting pitching.
Boston's John Burkett couldn't get through the fourth inning, and New York left-hander Andy Pettitte was done after the fifth. When the Red Sox rallied to take the lead in the seventh, they kept Pettitte from notching his 13th postseason victory and tying John Smoltz for first place on baseball's all-time list.
A free agent after the season, Pettitte had won six consecutive ALCS starts since his only loss in October 1998 against the Cleveland Indians.
Pettitte won Game 2 despite allowing six hits and a walk in the first two innings. And he left with the lead yesterday after falling behind 4-1, but Jose Contreras couldn't hold it.
"Andy battled. That's what he's made of," said Yankees manager Joe Torre, who removed Pettitte after 92 pitches. "I just felt it was time to make a change and go with Jose."
Giambi still struggling
Jason Giambi hit his first postseason homer in the first inning, but it wasn't a true indicator that his slump had lifted.
Giambi went 1-for-5 with three consecutive strikeouts, lowering his playoff average to .216. He's 4-for-21 with one RBI in this series.
He struck out to end a four-run fourth inning, stranding two runners. He also struck out in the sixth with runners on second and third with one out. The Yankees didn't score, and soon their 6-4 lead was gone.
"The way we got started with the home run the first time up, I know that had to relax him somewhat," Torre said. "But he came up with a couple opportunities and battled, battled, battled. He's struggling right now.
"He's a pro, but it doesn't keep you from trying a little bit too hard."
Game 3 revisited
Neither team seems worried about a recurrence tonight of the Game 3 tantrums that began with Pedro Martinez hitting Karim Garcia in the back and continued when Roger Clemens threw high to Manny Ramirez.
"I think everybody got through the emotions of that last appearance on both sides," Boston catcher Jason Varitek said. "We have done a good job of returning to baseball. Both pitchers settled down after that. I don't expect anything else. I expect Pedro to compete like he always does. I expect Roger to do the same."