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Game balls: Rating Game 4
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10/10/2004 5:08 PM ET
Game balls: Rating Game 4
Rookie LaRoche reenergizes victorious Braves
tickets for any Major League Baseball game is awarding "game balls" -- or, in this case, cowboy boots -- as the boys from Houston so often wear -- and peaches -- in honor of Georgia's favorite fruit -- for performances in this year's National League Division Series. Here's a look at the Braves' 6-5 win in Game 4.

Five peaches: Warm slice of delicious pie, a la mode
Four peaches: A tasty cobbler
Three peaches: Juicy and refreshing
Two peaches: Mom packed this instead of a candy bar?
One peach: The last piece of fruit from the bottom of the bin


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Adam LaRoche: With Roger Clemens out of the game, the rookie clubbed Chad Qualls for a three-run homer, giving the Braves' dugout life that would carry over and ultimately force a deciding game. In a huge spot, the kid delivered like a veteran.

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Rafael Furcal: Finding a way to get on base in the ninth via a hit-by-pitch, Furcal quickly stole second and scored on a go-ahead single by J.D. Drew.

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John Smoltz: Shaking off a ninth-inning threat, the dominant closer induced a game-ending double play grounder, completing his second inning of relief.

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Mike Hampton: An injury forced him to leave Game 2, but the veteran southpaw returned for a scoreless inning of relief in Game 4. Subtle contributions can go a long way for a suspect Atlanta bullpen.

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Russ Ortiz: The inconsistent righty didn't have it in a key game. He unraveled in the second, starting with surrendering singles to start the inning. A sacrifice fly by Clemens plated the first run, and the big blow came on a three-run homer by Craig Biggio.


Five cowboy boots: Freshly shined and a perfect fit, ready for some serious two-stepping
Four cowboy boots: The first choice for a night on the town
Three cowboy boots: A few scuff marks, but no one will notice
Two cowboy boots: Showing serious signs of wear
One cowboy boot: Somebody stepped in something

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Roger Clemens: Pitching on three days' rest, Clemens began the game with a strike on his way to a 10-pitch first inning, then gutted it out for five innings, including a 29-pitch fourth. He also made a contribution at the plate with a bases-loaded sacrifice fly, accounting for Houston's first run.

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Craig Biggio: A first-inning double provided the appetizer, and a two-out, three-run homer served as the main course during a five-run second. They were the first RBIs for Biggio in four postseason series against the Braves.

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Carlos Beltran: First he made a dazzling running catch up the hill to rob Drew in the first inning, then he helped pour on the offense when he doubled and scored in the second.

astros gameball
Russ Springer: A goat in Game 3, the veteran reliever struck out the first two batters in the inning, then hit Furcal with a pitch. The speedy leadoff hitter stole second and scored on a bloop single by Drew, sending the series back to Atlanta.

Ken Mandel is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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