Rocky horror show

Pitchers couldn't find the plate, just the exits

By Jim McCabe
Globe Staff / October 25, 2007

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Bob Apodaca last pitched in the major leagues 30 years ago, but it was on his third or fourth trip to the mound last night - or was it his sixth? It was so hard to tell - that there existed the possibility he'd simply take the ball and just do things himself.

Certainly, Jeff Francis, Franklin Morales, and especially Ryan Speier wouldn't have objected.

On a cold, raw, damp night that wasn't comfortable for man or beast, it was particularly dangerous for the Colorado pitching staff. The only positive thing you can say about their performances over the first five innings is that they ducked when necessary and handed off the baseballs to Apodaca flawlessly.

Actually, there was one other sliver of positive news, this associated with Francis, the 26-year-old lefthander who had been assigned the task of putting a halt to the vaunted Boston attack. He showed remarkable consistency because he threw 103 pitches, 62 for strikes. When he was here in June, he also delivered 103 pitches, 60 for strikes.

Ah, but that is just about where the similarities ended and the heartache began for manager Clint Hurdle's club, because whereas Francis scattered seven hits in his five innings of shutout ball in June, last night the kid from Vancouver served up batting practice in the 13-1 drubbing by the Red Sox in the World Series opener. The Sox teed off on him for 10 hits and six runs in four rough innings, which would have been bad enough if only it didn't get worse.

The entrance of Morales in the fifth tossed more gas on the fire. He faced each batter in the Boston lineup once, and seven of them scored.

The entrance of Speier, also in that fifth, only hastened the opportunity for the Fenway Faithful to head home early, because with the bases loaded, he walked all three batters he faced.

When the disjointed, ugly half-inning had mercifully ended, seven more runs had scored and a 13-1 lead was on the scoreboard.

In the Colorado dugout then, and hours later, there was utter shock, but not panic.

"We're a no-excuse ball club, always have been," said Hurdle. "We got outplayed tonight."

Certainly, a case could be made that the Colorado offense was stymied by Josh Beckett, but truthfully, this was a night when the visiting pitchers started wearing black and purple and ended up simply black and blue.

"We got very predictable with our pitches," sighed Apodaca. "We just needed to execute - and we couldn't do it."

Apodaca, like Hurdle before him, stressed how frustrating it was to see his pitchers get two outs but fail to nail down the all-important third one. A mind-boggling 11 Red Sox runs came home when two were out, but in some ways, what set the tone for all of this was what happened with no outs in the first. In fact, there had been just one pitch thrown - a ball - when Francis got careless.

"When you fall behind, you want to throw strikes," said the lefthander, whose 1-0 pitch was indeed up in the zone - and then it was up and over the wall in left, Dustin Pedroia hitting the 28th home run of the year off Francis. What followed in that inning were two doubles, two singles, and two more runs.

Welcome to the World Series, boys.

"It's not the way we drew it up," said Hurdle, who watched helplessly when Francis made a crucial mistake in the second. From 0-and-2 in the count against Kevin Youkilis, he delivered four balls and an infuriating walk. The next batter, David Ortiz, jumped all over a pitch up over the plate and delivered a run-scoring double to left-center.

"I felt pretty smooth with my delivery, but I just got balls up," said Francis.

Apodaca didn't say that walk to Youkilis was the turning point. Neither did he say it helped.

"We're down, 3-1, and still in it," said the veteran pitching coach. "We just needed to execute and we couldn't do it."

Nor could Morales execute. Ditto Speier, who hadn't pitched since Oct. 12, but Hurdle is tired of hearing about how his team hasn't played for eight days.

"You can ask me all series long, I'm not going to be able to give you an answer," said Hurdle, when asked for the 1,347th time about the layoff.

Perhaps that's because he knows his club had a four-day layoff after sweeping the Phillies in the National League Division Series, then marched through the Diamondbacks in four straight to win the NL Championship Series. So from where he sat last night, it had nothing to do with a layoff. "I saw our inability to shut down innings," he said.

For the first time in a long, long time, the Colorado clubhouse was quiet. There was no talk of historic streaks. Rather, there was reflection over what had gone so terribly wrong.

"Jeff was fine," said Apodaca of his young starter, who had been 4-1 during the team's torrid streak, including 2-0 in the postseason. "He just wasn't able to execute what we wanted. I don't want to take anything away from that team over there. They're a good team, but we just didn't do what we wanted to do."

At least they didn't do it early, which allowed for a quick exit on a cold, rainy night.

Jim McCabe can be reached at

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