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Pedroia, Youkilis enjoy fruitful Game 7

Pedroia, Youkilis enjoy fruitful Game 7

BOSTON -- From a certain distance, he still looks like a bat boy who has lost his way. But there was nothing boyish about the swing that Dustin Pedroia leveled against a Rafael Betancourt fastball on Sunday night.

With one out in the seventh inning and Jacoby Ellsbury standing on third, Betancourt rocked and delivered. Pedroia sank and centered on the ball, dipping below his 5-foot-9 eye level, then swinging with a vicious uppercut.

"He got a hold of it," Ellsbury said.

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Pedroia's shot ricocheted into the first row of the Green Monster Seats, and it immediately had fans bouncing to the pulse-pounding rhythm of the Fenway Park public address system. Suddenly, the Red Sox were dancing with a 5-2 lead, on their way to an 11-2 Game 7 victory over the Indians in the American League Championship Series.

"Once it went out, man," Pedroia said, "I was so excited and had so much adrenaline going on. I don't even remember running around the bases, to tell you the truth. I just got around there.

"It was the biggest at-bat of my life, and I'll never forget it."

Kevin Youkilis was the first player to greet Pedroia after his dizzying trip around the bases. And he was the last to strike a devastating blow to the Indians' World Series chances.

Youkilis capped his hot series by turning a 1-1 Jensen Lewis breaking ball into a three-second advertisement for Coca-Cola. His fourth home run of the ALCS bounced squarely off the center of the giant Coke bottle above the Green Monster, adding two runs to the Sox's lead and effectively putting the AL championship on ice.

Two players, two Monster shots and two record-breakers. Youkilis hit an even (14-for-28) during the series, besting Bob Boone's seven-game ALCS record of .455 in 1986. He scored 10 runs, breaking a three-year-old ALCS record held by the Yankees' Hideki Matsui.

With 14 hits, including at least one in each game, Youkilis tied the LCS record jointly held by Matsui and Albert Pujols since '04. And each seemed bigger than the last.

"His bat has really come alive," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said of Youkilis. "He just doesn't always hit singles. If you make a mistake, he can drive the ball out of the ballpark. ... You put that bat in front of David [Ortiz] and Manny [Ramirez], it gets interesting."

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Pedroia's first career postseason home run, meanwhile, made him the first rookie to go deep in an ALCS Game 7. He joined National Leaguers Andruw Jones (1996) and Miguel Cabrera ('03) as the third rookie to hit an LCS Game 7 homer.

But Pedroia didn't stop there. He laced the next Betancourt fastball he saw for a bases-clearing double in the eighth, thus becoming the first rookie to amass five RBIs in an LCS game. He scored three runs, finishing the series with eight runs scored, a new ALCS rookie record.

This, after managing just three singles in his first 16 ALCS at-bats, a stretch that had some in the local media speculating about whether Pedroia was overwhelmed as a rookie in the playoffs.

"I think we all thought he would be just fine," Francona said of Pedroia. "Again, sometimes when you don't get hits, don't think you run away from the guys that got you here. ... Either you're good enough or you're not."

Was it youth or inexperience? With three full Major League seasons between them, Pedroia and Youkilis struck two mighty blows against conventional wisdom on Sunday night.

"It shouldn't surprise you," said catcher Doug Mirabelli, "when good players who have been good all year succeed in these kinds of situations."

Alex McPhillips is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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