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Game balls: Rating Game 7
10/20/2004 11:00 PM 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 victory in Game 7. A day after becoming the first team in history to come back from 0-3 and force a seventh game, the Red Sox completed the job.

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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Johnny Damon: With two swings of his mighty club, the caveman made everyone forget his relative invisibility to that point. When Javier Vazquez inherited a bases-loaded, one-out situation from Kevin Brown in the second inning, Damon drooled over a first-pitch inside fastball he had to be expecting. He got it. GRAND SLAM. That trip around the bases must have been euphoric, as he gave his team a 6-0 lead. Then, just in case the Yankees thought their single run in the third was the start of a comeback, Damon pounded a two-run, upper-deck shot in the fourth that gave him six RBIs in the game. The only thing he didn't do Wednesday was get a shave and a haircut, and don't expect that anytime soon.

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Derek Lowe: Lowe made no secret of his disappointment with being in the bullpen for the ALCS and got a huge chance to prove his worth in Game 7. Recording 11 ground-balls outs, the extreme ground-ball pitcher was brilliant for six innings, allowing just one hit. Manager Terry Francona chose Lowe over Tim Wakefield because he felt Lowe had more gas in the tank. Lowe got excellent mileage out of that arm and likely earned himself a World Series start.

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David Ortiz: Shall we review? A walk-off homer sent the Angels packing in the Division Series. Against New York, his walk-off homer in the 12th inning forced Game 5, and a 14th-inning single the next day forced Game 6. Now here he is in the first inning of the final game of the season for someone. He's batting with two out and a man on base because Damon had been gunned down at the plate on the previous play, and perhaps Brown was already mentally in the dugout. Ortiz curled the first offering a few rows deep in the right-field seats. That belt gave the Red Sox a lead they wouldn't relinquish. Uh, yeah, the ALCS MVP is having a nice postseason.

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Terry Francona: He raised eyebrows by bringing in Pedro Martinez, especially since Lowe had thrown just 69 pitches in six devastating innings. Martinez surrendered two runs and brought the crowd to life with chants of "Who's your daddy?" Granted, this was probably Martinez's day to throw on the side, and pitching in the game was probably his idea, but Francona could have said no. Martinez will likely be the Game 1 starter in the World Series.

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Mike Timlin: The veteran reliever helped finish out the series for Boston with 1 2/3 scoreless innings, after Martinez coughed up two runs in the seventh. You can never let the Yankees -- a team with four come-from-behind wins this postseason -- climb back into a game, and Timlin didn't. Give Alan Embree one of those Wallys for recording the final out.

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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Hideki Matsui and Bernie Williams: They gave Yankees fans something to cheer about, stroking back-to-back doubles to lead off the seventh against Martinez. It turned out to be for naught, but it provided a short, sustained burst of hope for the sellout crowd, most of whom would drive home disappointed.

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Kevin Brown: Though Vazquez gave up the slam to Damon, Brown handed him the one-out, bases-loaded situation. Simply, Brown was awful for the second time this series, and especially bad when his team needed him most. Brown was responsible for five earned runs on four hits and two walks in 1 1/3 innings -- it doesn't get much worse than that. Brown had has a long and distinguished career that includes a World Series ring earned with the 1997 Marlins (though he went 0-2 with a 8.18 ERA in that series), but he'll stew over this outing for the offseason.

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Javier Vazquez: His first meatball to Damon ended up a grand slam, and things didn't get any better for the right-hander. He surrendered a second homer to Damon in the fourth and three runs total in his two innings.

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Bucky Dent: Trying everything in their power to psych out the Red Sox, the Yankees brought in Boston's nemesis to throw out the first pitch. No one will forget Dent's homer off Mike Torres in that 1978 one-game playoff that completed a historic comeback. Dent went on to earn World Series MVP honors. Unfortunately for New York, the ploy didn't work.

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Mariano Rivera: His appearance in Game 7 had zero relevence, but his inability to close out Games 4 and 5 deserves another mention and may have tarnished his brilliant career postseason record.

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


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