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Game balls: Rating Game 5
10/18/2004 6:11 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 nail-biting Game 5 victory against the Yankees at Fenway Park on Monday night.

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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David Ortiz: Three walk-off hits in his last four games at Fenway Park? What more can the big lefty do? He was the hero very early Monday morning in Game 4. Then Ortiz got things started 16 hours later by driving in the Red Sox's first run and scoring their second run, in the first inning. He woke his teammates up again in the eighth inning with a solo blast over the Green Monster, reminiscent of his winning homer in Game 3 of the ALDS against the Angels. And he sent the series back to New York nearly six hours later with his two-out single in the 14th. Incredible.

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Boston bullpen: Let's see, Mike Timlin gave up a couple of hits but no runs. Keith Foulke pitched a scoreless 1 1/3 innings. Bronson Arroyo struck out Alex Rodriguez and Gary Sheffield in his perfect inning. Mike Myers and Alan Embree struck out the side in their combined inning. And Tim Wakefield allowed just one hit and one walk in his three scoreless innings. The Red Sox needed a superhuman effort from their weary relievers and got it.

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Trot Nixon: The gritty right fielder left five men on base through the first six innings, but he left his mark in the field. Nixon made a couple of very nice grabs but the most memorable was his diving, sliding catch down the right-field line with one out in the third, robbing a stunned Alex Rodriguez. Then, with none out in the eighth inning, Nixon stroked his first hit of the night, a single to center that sent the tying run to third base.

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Jason Varitek: Somehow, the Red Sox's defensive stalwart always seems to play a part when big runs are needed. He walked in a run in the first inning to plate the second run and he lifted a sacrifice fly in the eighth to send home the tying run. Ortiz and Manny Ramirez may be Boston's MVPs but "Tek" is right there with them.

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Pedro Martinez: He got just about all the big outs he needed, mostly by strikeouts, until he reached that telling 100-pitch mark. What a shame if this was Martinez's last start for the Red Sox and he is remembered not for all the great games he has pitched but for not being able to finish off the Yankees in a trio of playoff games.

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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Mike Mussina: The veteran right-hander wasn't perfect for six innings, as he was in Game 1, but he threw well enough to hand a fairly comfortable lead over the normally reliable bullpen. He threw 73 strikes in 105 pitches and struck out seven in six innings. It was just what the Yankees were hoping for.

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Bernie Williams: OK, so the all-time postseason home run champion has had more chances at bat than anyone else, including Reggie Jackson and Mickey Mantle. But the bottom line is Williams has come through many, many times when it counts most. He's not ready to hang 'em up yet.

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Derek Jeter: He got saddled with a hard-luck error in the second inning, but it ended up not mattering. What did matter, however, was his three-run double in the sixth that gave the Yankees a two-run lead at the time.

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Mariano Rivera: By the time he got in, there was very little chance he could stop the tying run from scoring. He was credited with two scoreless innings but you have to wonder how effective he will be in Game 6, and possibly Game 7, after working four innings within a span of about 20 hours.

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Tom Gordon: He was tired, yes, and the home run he allowed to Ortiz was almost understandable. But Gordon allowed pinch-runner Dave Roberts to distract him too much while he was pitching to Nixon in the eighth. Nixon took advantage and smacked a 3-1 pitch into center field, sending the eventual tying run to third with none out.

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


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