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Little leaves Pedro in too long

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Bronx, NY (Sports Network) - The Boston bullpen came into Game 7 of the American League Championship Series having allowed just two runs over a span of 27 2/3 innings. relievers owned a 0.81 ERA, allowing only nine hits. So it was a wonder why manager Grady Little decided to leave ace starter hanging around in the eighth inning when the scored three times to forge a 5-5 tie. New York would win the contest 6-5 in the 11th inning on 's leadoff homer off knuckleballer .

Martinez, who hadn't pitched since Saturday's fracas-filled Game 3 at Fenway Park, threw 123 pitches before being lifted. That was likely too many pitches, since Little had the option of going to his bullpen at that time for and . Those two would get into the game later on, but not until the score was tied.

After doubled with one out in the eighth, followed with an RBI single to center. Little decided to keep Martinez in the game, even though he could have gone with southpaw Embree to face lefthanded hitting . Martinez got Matsui in an 0-2 hole before the Japanese leftfielder lined a ground-rule double down the right field line.

Martinez was at 118 pitches when , a switch-hitter, came to bat. Instead of using Embree to force Posada to turn around and hit righthanded, Martinez was left in and Posada blooped a 2-2 pitch to center field that turned into a two-run double. Then Little came out of the dugout to replace Martinez with Embree, but the damage had been done.

"Pedro Martinez has been our man all year long and in situations like that, he's the one we want on the mound over anybody we can bring in out of that bullpen," Little said after the game. "He had enough left in his tank to finish off Posada. He made some good pitches to him, squeezed his ball out over the infield and there's nothing we can do about it now."

What was Little saving his bullpen for? His team needed just five more outs to clinch a spot in the World Series for the first time since 1986. The Boston bullpen struggled during the regular season, but came together in a huge way in the division series against Oakland and was dominant in the ALCS.

Not to bring in Wakefield, Timlin, Embree or even at that point was a poor decision. Yet, Little continued to defend his decision after the game.

"Pedro wanted to stay in there," said Little. "He wanted to get the job done just as he has many times for us all season long and he's the man we all wanted on the mound."

Martinez said he couldn't put the blame on Little.

"I wouldn't put Grady on the spot, whatsoever," Martinez said. "I am the ace of the team. You have to trust me. I wasn't really thinking about the pitch count. This is no time to say I'm tired. This is the time...to stay out there.

"There is no reason to blame Grady. Grady doesn't play. I do. If anybody wants to 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...I'm responsible for the pitches I make."

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