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Game balls: Rating Game 6
10/20/2004 12:31 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 Red Sox's impressive 4-2 win in Game 6. Boston became the first team in history to come back from 0-3 and force a seventh game.

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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Curt Schilling: The dislocated tendon in his right ankle is held in place by saliva and stitches, and he started a third straight win-or-go-home game for the Sox. But no pressure, or at least it didn't show on his face. One of this generation's greatest big-game pitchers, Schilling didn't have his usual 97-mph velocity, but was effective, got outs and maintained the lead when it was handed to him. Schilling's signature moment came in the bottom of the fourth after he received a 4-0 lead. New York started that frame with singles, but Schilling didn't flinch, retiring Hideki Matsui (pop out), Bernie Williams (ground out) and Jorge Posada (ground out). That's the mark of a great one.

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Mark Bellhorn: Redemption is a beautiful thing, and Bellhorn found it in a big way. Maligned for his horrid .129 postseason average (.150 in the ALCS), his defensive inadequacies and booed in Boston, Bellhorn capped a two-out, four-run uprising with a three-run homer off Jon Lieber. New York pitchers had been busting him inside all series, but Lieber left a pitch outside and Bellhorn stuck his bat out and smacked it just over the left-field wall. If the Red Sox finish off the Yankees on Wednesday, this will be one of the many important moments that made up such an historic comeback.

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Kevin Millar, Jason Varitek and Orlando Cabrera: Before Bellhorn could take his heroic swing, this trio started and continued the two-out rally. Millar doubled and scored on Varitek's single, then Cabrera singled in front of left fielder Hideki Matsui. The Red Sox didn't score again in the game, but Schilling and the bullpen made it a non-issue.

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Terry Francona: A year ago, former Boston manager Grady Little was catapulted out of town for sticking with Pedro Martinez too long in Game Seven of the ALCS. Tuesday, Francona opened himself up to criticism by lifting Schilling after seven brilliant innings. Obviously predicated on the right-hander's ailing ankle, the move was likely second-guessed in watering holes all along the Northeast. But Bronson Arroyo and an exhausted Keith Foulke made Francona look like a genius.

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Bronson Arroyo: Arroyo got rocked for six runs in the 19-8 drubbing in Game 3, then comes back to pitch a scoreless relief inning in Game 5. His scoreless inning in Game 6 was the biggest, as it came after Schilling had tossed seven brilliant innings.

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Johnny Damon: Though he fell behind 0-2 and eventually struck out to start the game, Damon engaged Lieber in a 10-pitch duel, fouling off four pitches and working the count full. It was the ultimate at-bat for a leadoff hitter, giving the Red Sox bench a look at Lieber's arsenal, and making him work right from the start.

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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Bernie Williams: The all-time leader in postseason home runs with 22, Williams connected for the only run given up by Schilling. If nothing else, it showed that the man was mortal, and brought the Yankees one run closer to a possible comeback. The veteran is batting .281 in 438 career postseason at-bats.

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Michael, the fan: Better known as the navy blue sweatshirt-wearing fan in the front row of the left-field seats, Michael, like Jeffrey Maier before him, seized an opportunity to help his team. When Bellhorn's shot was hit his way with two outs in the fourth, Michael allowed the ball to bounce off him and onto the field, rather than catching it. His plan worked initially, but umpires conferred and eventually got the call right. As Michael's 12-year-old daughter Mia later told FOX's Kenny Albert, the ball was a home run. Ironically, Maier was 12 when he helped Derek Jeter go deep in the 1996 ALCS against Baltimore.

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Jon Lieber: Brilliant in Game 2, the Yankees needed a repeat performance. Other than the four-spot in the fourth, Lieber was solid and pitched into the eighth inning. His effort gave an exhausted bullpen the day of rest it desperately needed. Since the series is headed to seven games, his outing deserves praise.

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Alex Rodriguez: Nice try, Alex. The All-Star did everything possible to keep a rally going in the bottom of the eighth. With Jeter on first, Rodriguez grounded toward first. Arroyo raced over, fielded it and tagged Rodriguez, except A-Rod swiped at Arroyo's glove and knocked the ball loose. A second umpire conference ensued, and "the blue" made the right call. As for Rodriguez, it was worth a shot. If not, he's out, and if he gets away with it, more power to him.yankees gameball
Derek Jeter: Where is the team captain? He did single in Miguel Cairo (who, by the way gets three honorable subway cars because of his double) to pull the Yankees within two runs in the eighth, but the shortstop has been largely invisible. He's hitting .192 for the series.

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Yankees fans: When the umpires got the call right on the play by Rodriguez in the eighth, then called Cabrera safe on a close double-play grounder at first, fans littered the field with balls and other debris. Warnings had to be issued, and the game was held up each time.

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


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