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REPORT

Giambi Homers Twice From the No. 7 Slot

October 17, 2003|Bill Shaikin | Times Staff Writer

NEW YORK — George Steinbrenner doesn't pay Jason Giambi $120 million to hit seventh, but that's where he batted Thursday, in the game that decided whether the New York Yankees advanced to the World Series or adjourned for the winter.

Giambi struck out in his last three at-bats Wednesday and began Game 7 batting .190 in the American League championship series, with 11 strikeouts in 37 postseason at-bats.

"I just sense he's taken on more than any one person needs to," Yankee Manager Joe Torre said. "It just looks like he's squeezing the sawdust out of the bat."

So Torre dropped Giambi from third to seventh in the lineup. Giambi homered in the fifth inning and again in the seventh, accounting for New York's first two runs off Boston's Pedro Martinez, and the Yankees rallied for a 6-5 victory in 11 innings.

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The endless Fox hype for the All-Star Game -- "This Time It Counts" -- emphasized that the winning league would get home-field advantage in the World Series. The American League did, so the World Series opens Saturday in New York, but the Florida Marlins need not worry.

Of the four postseason series extended to the limit, the team with home-field advantage lost three times -- the Yankees won Thursday, but the Chicago Cubs lost Wednesday and the Atlanta Braves and Oakland Athletics lost in the first round. The Angels had home-field advantage in winning the World Series last year but did not in the two series they won to get there.

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Thursday's game was the first Game 7 in the American League championship series since 1986, when the Angels blew a 3-1 lead and lost to the Red Sox. The Angels lost Game 5 in Anaheim, deflated when Dave Henderson hit the two-out, two-strike, two-run home run in the ninth inning that prevented them from advancing to the World Series. The Angels lost the final two games in Boston, with founding owner Gene Autry reluctantly in attendance.

"There was a sense of defeat after Game 5," said Jackie Autry, Gene's widow. "I remember asking Gene, 'Do you want to go back to Boston?' He said, 'No, I don't.' I said, 'If you don't, think of how the fans must feel.' "

In her capacity as honorary league president, Jackie Autry presented the AL championship trophy to the Yankees on Thursday night.

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