Arm and hammer
Beckett dominant as Red Sox attack buries the Rockies
Never mind that cute business of putting baseballs in a humidor. If the Colorado Rockies hope to make the 103d World Series competitive, they may have to stuff the Red Sox in a meat locker and throw away the key.
The Rockies' baptism onto baseball's biggest stage instead resembled a ritual drowning on a misty night in Fenway Park, where only one winning streak of consequence remained after the Sox took apart the Rox, 13-1, before a damp but delighted crowd of 36,733. The 13 runs were the most in a Series opener, and the 12-run spread made it the most one-sided outcome in an opener.
Gone was Colorado's 10-game winning streak and whatever aura of invinci bility they created by winning 21 of their 22 previous games, including seven in a row through the National League playoffs. The Rockies can only hope it was the eight days off between games that accounted for their play, because at this rate they'll be taking a much longer vacation sooner than they'd planned.
Very much alive is a five-game winning streak in the World Series for the Sox, who swept the Cardinals in 2004 to break their 86-year Series drought, then cuffed around Colorado with the same impunity that they finished off the Indians in the American League Championship Series.
"It's tough, obviously, to have eight days off, especially coming in and facing the best pitcher in baseball," said Sox rookie second baseman Dustin Pedroia, who made his first Series at-bat one for the Facebook, hitting a leadoff home run off Jeff Francis. "That's definitely not easy."
The Sox outscored the Indians by a combined score of 30-5 to win the last three games of the ALCS. Last night, the Sox looked like they might match that output in one game, as they welcomed the Rockies to sea level with Pedroia's leadoff home run and never let up. Francis was gone after a yield of six runs in four innings, and a seven-run fifth inning against an embarrassingly inept Rockies bullpen had Fox executives second-guessing their decision to preempt tonight's episode of "Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader?".
"They're a hot-hitting team over there," said Francis, joining the list of pitchers with a pedigree shredded by the Sox this October, their victims including John Lackey of the Angels and C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona of the Indians. "You can't make any mistakes."
Josh Beckett, meanwhile, struck out the first four Rockies batters he faced, and five of the first six, as he ran his October record to 4-0 with another take-no-prisoners performance, one in which he pounded the Rockies with fastballs (30 of his first 32 pitches) before mixing it up.
"Watching him is different than watching everybody else right now," said Curt Schilling, who will face Ubaldo Jimenez in tonight's Game 2, even before Beckett dominated Colorado. "He's so locked in. The thought that his stuff is more dominant now than it has been at any point in the season is impressive because we're at the tail end of the season. He's 200-some innings into it, and he's throwing his fastball better command-wise, better velocity, throwing his curveball, better command-wise and velocity-wise, and a better changeup than he has all year long, and that's some incredible stuff to watch."
Beckett, who struck out nine and was scored upon only in the second inning, when Garrett Atkins doubled and scored on Troy Tulowitzki's two-out double, left to a huge ovation, lifting his cap as he disappeared into the dugout. He finished with nine strikeouts and one walk, while allowing just six hits. In 30 innings this October, Beckett has struck out 35 while walking just two in 30 innings, and his earned run average this October is 1.20 (four earned runs in 30 IP).
"I hope my teammates are happy," said Beckett, when asked what he thought in light of all the hoohah from outsiders comparing his October résumé to those of the all-time greats, not much of a reach considering he has a shot to become the first pitcher to win five times in a postseason. "If they're happy, I'm happy."
Mike Timlin (scoreless eighth) and Eric Gagné (a gimme ninth) finished off the Rockies, who were just four games over .500 and 6 1/2 games back in the NL West when their hot streak started Sept. 16, and last night looked more like the NL also-rans they were than the class of the league they'd become.
The Sox sent 13 men to the plate in the fifth inning, nine in a row reaching after two outs. Rockies rookie lefthander Franklin Morales gave up three doubles in the span of four batters - Kevin Youkilis, David Ortiz, and Mike Lowell hitting two-baggers while Manny Ramírez managed just a single - and after a walk and infield hit departed with what would become one of the ugliest lines in Series history: 2/3 IP, 7 ER, 6 H, 1 BB, 1 balk, 94.50 ERA.
His successor, Ryan Speier, only added to Morales's misery, walking all three batters he faced, forcing in a run with each base on balls.
When Youkilis, who by that point had doubled twice and walked, scoring three times, flied to right against the third pitcher of the inning, Matt Herges, to end the inning, he kicked the dirt as he rounded first, as if he thought the rally might go on forever.
The Rockies had done little to dissuade him of that notion. By the fifth inning, the Sox already had eight doubles, tying a Series record set 82 years earlier by the Pittsburgh Pirates. They inflicted much of their damage after two were out, scoring 11 runs. They were 11 for 15 after two outs through the first five innings, a .733 clip.
The Sox had 17 hits, a staggering 16 in the first five innings. Ramírez, Ortiz, and Julio Lugo had three hits apiece, while Youkilis had two doubles and scored three times.
"We're trying to wear guys down," Pedroia said. "If we can get into their bullpen early, like we did, it's a huge advantage for us. Josh went deep into the game, their starter didn't, a huge bonus for us going into [tonight's] game."
This was the 18th time a World Series game had featured a leadoff home run. Pedroia became just the second player in World Series history to hit a leadoff home run in Game 1, joining Don Buford of the Orioles, who did it in the 1969 World Series. Buford's heavily favored Orioles lost the next four games to the Amazin' Mets. It may take a similar miracle to save the Rockies.
Pedroia, who also homered in his last at-bat of Game 7 against the Indians, is inviting comparisons to Tulowitzki, both players favored to be named rookies of the year in their respective leagues. Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon doubted Pedroia was giving that any thought.
"He's in a world of his own right now," Papelbon said on Tuesday. "He's going out there playing with his heart on his sleeve, which is a good way to play in the playoffs. He's going to go out there and play normal Pedroia baseball."
Does that mean he'd go deep again?
"I think so," said Papelbon, who was probably more lucky than prescient.