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Game balls: Rating Game 3
10/17/2004 12:39 AM ET

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MLB.com is awarding "game balls" -- or, in this case, Wally the Green Monster to represent the Red Sox, and subway cars, in honor of New York City's mass transit system -- for performances in this year's American League Championship Series.

Let's see who took the express train and who hit the wall in the Yankees' dominating Game 3 victory against the Red Sox that put them a win away from a sweep.

Yankees

Five subway cars: Empty car, all the seats to yourself
Four subway cars: Smooth ride, even got a nap
Three subway cars: Had to stand, but life is good
Two subway cars: Got my jacket caught in the door
One subway car: Overslept; hot, crowded car; splitting headache

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Gary Sheffield: With the score tied at 6 in the fourth, after Boston had tied it up again, Sheffield unleashed a mighty three-run blast to put New York up for good. Sheffield drove in four of New York's LCS-record 19 runs and had four hits.

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Hideki Matsui: Try as they might, the Red Sox couldn't retire Godzilla, who was just as deadly as A-Rod. Matsui's two-run homer -- his first of two homers -- capped a three-run first, and his four other hits bumped his postseason average to .500. Not a bad time to be hot.

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Alex Rodriguez: As if Red Sox fans needed more reasons to loathe A-Rod, the superstar delivered a clutch performance, going 3-for-4 with three RBIs and five runs scored. His first-inning double plated Derek Jeter and got the Yankees started, 1-0. Then, after Boston roared to a 4-3 lead after two innings, his crushing solo homer off Bronson Arroyo in the third halted that momentum and re-tied the score. By the end of that inning, New York led, 6-4. Call it delayed payback for the incident of July 24, when Arroyo plunked Rodriguez, sparking a bench-clearing brawl.

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Javier Vazquez: His line will show that he allowed nine baserunners and four runs in 4 1/3 innings, but Vazquez's contribution went well beyond that. After Kevin Brown lasted two innings, Vazquez built the bridge and brought his club into the seventh.

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Derek Jeter: The Yankees' captain helped deliver an immediate message to the Red Sox, working a seven-pitch walk to start the game, then scoring on Rodriguez's double. Already up 2-0 in the series, Jeter gave the visitors' dugout a quick jolt of excitement.

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Kevin Brown: He probably wanted to punch a wall after his Game 3 meltdown, in which he lasted two innings and turned a 3-0 lead into a 4-3 deficit. Though the offensive explosion made it irrelevant, he owes each of the hitters a steak dinner.

Red Sox

Five Wallys: Wave the Red Sox flag high and mighty
Four Wallys: Makes Red Sox Nation feel good
Three Wallys: The fur could use a little fluffing
Two Wallys: Might be time to dry-clean the outfit
One Wally: You're stuck rallying the faithful in northern Maine

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Trot Nixon: Every rally has to start somewhere, and Trot Nixon pulled Boston within a run with his two-run homer in the second. Clearly, it wasn't enough, but it provided a spark on a chilly night.

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Stephen King: The writer of macabre fiction couldn't have penned such a horror, but the native New Englander and lifelong Red Sox fan hung in for the whole game. That's worth something.

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Bronson Arroyo: A solid citizen for the Red Sox during the regular season and Division Series, Arroyo folded at the worst time. Knowing the importance of this game, the righty spotted the Yankees three runs in the first. He committed a worse infraction in the third, when he gave up another three-spot after Boston had taken a 4-3 lead.

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Johnny Damon: The leadoff hitter got his first hit and RBI of the series, but it wasn't enough to jump-start the high-speed scoring machine. His silence will be talked about a lot this offseason.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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