Colorado forced to bleed the fifth
The Rockies were already in a fine pickle well before the Red Sox came to the plate in the fifth inning of last night's World Series opener.
But they quickly went from pickled to jarred.
The Red Sox, their lead up to 6-1 after Jason Varitek's two-run double in the fourth, poured it on in the fifth with seven runs, three of those courtesy of consecutive walks issued by Colorado reliever Ryan Speier. The free passes, issued to Julio Lugo, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Dustin Pedroia, painfully and inexorably boosted the Boston lead to 13-1.
"It gives us a lot of confidence," said Lugo, knowing the psychological benefit inherent in a 17-hit barrage. "We know we can beat anybody. We just have a lot of good players and good hitters. When you have them contributing like this, I'm never surprised."
"We can score in bunches," added Pedroia, who opened the night's offense with a leadoff homer. "It doesn't matter who's up [at the plate]."
Speier, who entered the fifth with two outs and the bases loaded, left after Pedroia's free ticket brought in J.D. Drew for the unlucky, if not cruel, No. 13. Matt Herges entered as the frame's third hurler.
When the fifth was complete, mercifully brought to an end by Kevin Youkilis's routine fly to right, all that remained for the Fenway Faithful was to sit patiently and see the night through to its inevitable conclusion.
Lugo, long before he accepted the first of Speier's free passes, began the inning with a single up the middle off lefthanded reliever Franklin Morales. Jeff Francis started for the Rockies, but the pride of Vancouver, British Columbia, exited after four innings, hammered for a half-dozen runs on 10 hits.
Morales appeared to be in half-decent shape after the single, getting Ellsbury to force Lugo at second and then retiring Pedroia on a pop to shortstop.
But soon after he was charged with a balk - caught cheating his motion toward home before firing to first in an attempt to pick off Ellsbury - the roof came crashing down on Morales.
"It doesn't get called too often," said the fleet Ellsbury, reflecting on the balk. "I thought he did [commit the balk], but . . . I wasn't going to argue it. When it was called, I was obviously pleased."
Youkilis capitalized with a sharp double to left that plated Ellsbury (7-1). Next, David Ortiz hammered a double to center, bringing the hard-charging Youkilis all the way around from first (8-1). Manny Ramírez followed with a sharp single to left, driving in Ortiz (9-1) for his second RBI of the night.
Had a late arrival just wandered through Fenway's gates, it might have looked as if the Sox were taking an extended batting practice session. Morales kept bringing it, and the Sox kept slapping him around.
Mike Lowell, No. 5 in the order, followed and drilled a double to left, putting runners at second and third.
Varitek then drew a walk, juicing the bases for the revived Drew, who promptly delivered a single to center that allowed Ramírez to trot in from third (10-1).
Drew's hit was the end of the night for Morales. The big lefty went from early promise (two outs, man on first) to a final line that read right out of a hardball horror flick: 2/3 IP, 6 H, 7 ER, 1 BB, and 1 balk.
Enter Speier. More horror.
Lugo, who led off the inning, drew the first bases-loaded walk, bringing in Lowell (11-1). Next came Ellsbury for walk No. 2, forcing home Varitek (12-1). And then came Pedroia. The pint-sized second baseman accepted walk No. 3 and the lead was up to a dozen.
It all looked almost too easy.
"No, definitely not," said Pedroia. "This game today, a lot of our guys got good at-bats . . . with a lot of hits and a lot of walks. And with that combination, you're going to score some runs."
Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.