Fast start finished things off
The concern was that the sense of relief would linger, that the Great Escape pulled off against Cleveland would still be on everybody's minds when the World Series started.
"You can have a letdown," third baseman Mike Lowell was saying after the Red Sox turned the Rockies into molehills, 13-1, in last night's opener. "After we came back from 3-1 down, there was like a 'whew' feeling. And that would be a major mistake."
Which is why last night's first inning was so crucial. Once Josh Beckett struck out the side, once Dustin Pedroia led off with a homer off the top of the Wall and Kevin Youkilis doubled and came around on Manny Ramírez's single, two points were made. Colorado wasn't operating in the ozone any longer. And Boston was still on a mighty ramble.
"Josh set the tone," said Lowell. "And Dustin's homer was huge. Guys in the dugout were saying, 'We've got to keep grinding things out because we're back to 0-0.' "
Still, there was no doubt that the energy and urgency that brought the Sox up off the floor and into the Series continued. "We definitely had a lot of momentum going," said Youkilis, who was 2 for 5 with two doubles and three runs scored. "I think those last three games against the Indians, we were rolling on all cylinders."
Of course, so were the Tigers last year after they'd knocked out the Yankees and the Athletics. Then came the Series and a collapse. "Nobody gave the Cardinals a chance last year and they won," mused Lowell. "If it were up to the experts, they'd have given a ring to the Yankees every year for the last eight years. That's why they play the game."
Nobody gave the Rockies a chance to live past September, which is why the Sox took them completely seriously. "What we've done and this and that throughout the year doesn't matter," said Youkilis. "The big thing is, you're playing for the day and you've got to throw out everything you had in the past because it can change in a heartbeat."
Any change last night would have been for the worse, so Boston wanted to jump-start the Series as soon as the umpire said, "Play."
"You're just trying to get outs in the first inning, trying to get your guys back in there," said Beckett. "They're anxious and ready to go, ready to swing the bats."
So they did, starting with Little Big Man. With Beckett rocking and firing, three runs were all they needed. Thirteen were a delight, but it won't help them in Game 2 tonight. "It'll be 0-0 in the first inning," said Lowell. "If there was a carryover effect, that'd be different. We still have work to do."
John Powers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.