ST. PETERSBURG -- Matt Garza saw something he didn't like, and the Rays right-hander took matters into his own hands in the first inning of Game 7 of the American League Championship Series on Sunday night.

Dustin Pedroia had already touched Garza for a solo home run in the first inning, and the right-hander followed by walking David Ortiz. So Garza wasn't in a good mood when he saw Kevin Youkilis hanging over the plate, and he cut loose with a tight one that moved the right-handed-hitting Youkilis off the plate.

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"What they were doing was trying to take the inside of the plate away from me, because they know I love pitching inside, because that's what I did in [Game 3]," Garza said. "And the way I pitch, I live on the inside of the plate. So if you're going to take that away, you're going to take away one of my strong points. So that was just a statement, saying, 'If you're going to dive, you're going to wear it.'"

Pedroia did "wear it" in the third, when Garza hit him in the back.

"I got Pedroia leaning over, and I went back up and in, like I usually do with 0-2 counts, and he leaned into it and he got hit in the back," Garza said. "I told [catcher Dioner Navarro] at the end of that inning, '[If] they want to keep leaning, they're going to keep wearing this. I'll load the bases up with hit batters. I'm not the one feeling 96 [mph].' It's no hair off my back."

Garza believes statements on the mound are sometimes necessary.

"If you let those hitters get comfortable, like they did in those [three] innings of Game 5, it's a whole different ballgame," Garza said. "You can't let them get comfortable."

Rays manager Joe Maddon said he "liked the idea [Garza] was establishing the inside part of the strike zone."

"Listen, when you've got that kind of stuff, to not want to do that, you're crazy," Maddon said. "He can be very intimidating, because he's got very good command, too. If he wants to throw inside, he's not going to hit you, he's going to throw it inside with a purpose, and that's to open up the other side. He's a strike thrower. People don't talk about that enough with this guy. He throws strikes. And good strikes."

Garza allowed just one run and two hits over seven-plus dazzling innings of work in Game 7 and came away with the ALCS MVP Award. The offseason acquisition from the Twins posted a 1.38 ERA in two starts. In Game 3 at Fenway Park on Oct. 13, he allowed only one run over six-plus innings of the Rays' 9-1 victory.

Maddon went out to get Garza earlier in the game, but Garza told him he wanted to finish what he started, which Maddon loved. But after Alex Cora reached on an error start the eighth, Maddon went ahead and took the right-hander out.

"He had great stuff [in Game 7], he really did," Maddon said. "And he's a horse."