Derek Lowe began the playoffs in the Red Sox bullpen, demoted from the rotation and none too happy about it, but the right-hander will enter the World Series a playoff hero, having pitched well in an emergency Game 4 start and dominating the Yankees on two days' rest in Game 7 Wednesday night.
Lowe, fighting occasional back pain and fatigue, limited the Yankees to one run and one hit in six innings, striking out three and walking one, needing only 69 pitches to get the Red Sox to the seventh inning of a 10-3, pennant-clinching victory.
"I'm so proud of Derek," fellow pitcher Curt Schilling said. "What he's gone through emotionally the last 10 to 12 days has been tough, but we wouldn't be going to the World Series without him.
"He had some issues with his back tonight, and it was a little bit of a struggle, but you can't scout what's inside a player. We have a team of 25 guys with big hearts."
The Red Sox staked Lowe to leads of 2-0 in the first inning and 6-0 in the second, and that enabled Lowe to relax, to focus on throwing strikes and getting ahead of hitters.
"We're all competitors, and when someone tells you that you really can't do something that you think you can, given an opportunity, you want to go out there and prove to yourself that you can do it," said Lowe, who will be a free agent this winter.
"There was a lot in this series for me personally, because the decision to put me in the bullpen was correct -- I pitched poorly down the stretch. I was able to pitch three games against Anaheim and New York and win two of them."
Red Sox leadoff batter Johnny Damon drove in six runs Wednesday night with a two-run homer and grand slam, but that didn't trump the weeklong performance of designated hitter David Ortiz, who hit .387 (12 for 31) in the series with three home runs and 11 runs batted in to earn series most-valuable-player award.
Ortiz wasn't tendered a contract by Minnesota two years ago, "and we can't thank the Twins enough," Red Sox first baseman Kevin Millar said. "He's really made a name for himself here."
Ortiz gave the Red Sox an early lead Wednesday night when he lashed a Kevin Brown fastball into the right-field seats for a two-run homer in the first inning. That jump-started an offense that rapped out 15 hits, including four home runs, to complete Boston's return from a 3-0 deficit in the series.
"I tell you, one day I was driving from my house to the stadium on a workout day and I saw a big sign on the street that said 'Keep the faith,' " Ortiz said. "And I saw it was a photo of Manny [Ramirez] with a big smile.
"I just parked in front of the photo, and I just sat down for a minute and just thought about it, you know, what we've been through the whole year."