Matsuzaka and Sox beat Rockies, 10-5
October 28, 2007
DENVER ” Mile high or sea level, these Boston Red Sox can’t be stopped.
The Red Sox made Coors Field their own pinball palace, spraying balls to every part of the park and moving within one win of another World Series sweep.
On a night when rookies ruled, Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia sparked the Red Sox from the top of the order, Daisuke Matsuzaka pitched shutout ball into the sixth inning and Boston beat Colorado 10-5 on Saturday for a 3-0 Series lead.
Still, the Red Sox weren’t quite ready to celebrate.
“We don’t want to eat the cake before your birthday,” Manny Ramirez said.
Ellsbury became the first rookie in 61 years with four hits in a Series game, getting three of Boston’s seven doubles. Pedroia had three hits, including a bunt single that helped spark a six-run third against Josh Fogg, who allowed 12 of 19 batters to reach.
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Colorado was down 6-0 in the third and seemingly out but came back with two runs in the sixth. The Rockies then closed to 6-5 when Matt Holliday hit a three-run homer in the seventh on Hideki Okajima’s first pitch.
“It looked like we were hanging on for dear life,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said.
But the Rockies’ chance to get back into the World Series vanished into Coors Field’s thin air.
Ellsbury lofted an RBI double down the right-field line off Brian Fuentes in the eighth that just eluded Brad Hawpe’s attempt at a sliding, backhand catch, and Pedroia followed with a two-run double to right that made it 9-5. Jason Varitek added a sacrifice fly in the ninth of a game that took 4 hours, 19 minutes ” the longest nine-inning game in Series history.
“We got a little comfortable,” Ellsbury said. “It was big to respond after their big inning.”
It was a night that resembled Coors’ pre-humidifier days, when it was baseball’s premier launching pad.
“With their offense, no lead is safe,” Pedroia said.
On Oct. 27 three years ago at old Busch Stadium, the Red Sox completed a sweep of St. Louis for their first World Series title in 86 years. Having won seven straight Series games for the first time in franchise history, Boston will try for its seventh championship Sunday. Jon Lester starts for the Red Sox against Aaron Cook in a matchup of pitchers who made it back to the majors after major medical problems.
The 22 previous teams that took a 3-0 World Series lead all went on to win, 19 with sweeps.
“It looks like we’re in groundbreaking territory,” Colorado manager Clint Hurdle said.
If the Rockies are the National League’s best, the senior circuit has a lot of catching up to do. Maybe it is the rust of a record eight-day layoff for the Rockies, or maybe the Red Sox really are a league above.
Colorado has been outscored 25-7 and is batting just .222. Boston’s batters have been bruisers, hitting .352 in the Series with 16 doubles. The Rockies were the talk of baseball with 21 wins in 22 games coming into the Series, but they’ve gone into reverse, looking more like the fourth-place team they were in mid-September.
“After 21 of 22, four games doesn’t seem like a whole lot,” Fuentes said.
Boston has won six straight since falling behind Cleveland 3-1 in the AL championship series. While the Yankees owned the 20th century, the Red Sox are one win from becoming the first team to win two titles in the 21st.
“We have to continue our focus the same way,” Varitek said.
Francona, the first manager to start 7-0 in Series history, made all the right moves. Ellsbury, who hit ninth in the opener and No. 8 in Game 2, moved to the top of the order and became only the third rookie with four hits in a Series game, following Freddie Lindstrom in 1924 and Joe Garagiola in 1946. David Ortiz, kept in the lineup despite the loss of the designated hitter in the NL city, doubled in the first run and flawlessly handled both his chances at first base before Kevin Youkilis replaced him in the bottom of the sixth.
Hurdle also made some moves. He benched center fielder Willy Taveras, started Cory Sullivan in center, moved Kaz Matsui ” Dice-K’s old Seibu teammate ” to leadoff and batted Troy Tulowitzki second.
Matsuzaka, the first Japanese pitcher to win a World Series game, was worth every penny of the $103 million the Red Sox spent to lure him last winter. He pitched shutout ball into the sixth and wound up allowing two runs and three hits in 5 1-3 innings. He also drove in two runs with his first big league hit.
Matsuzaka left after consecutive walks with one out in the sixth, and Javier Lopez allowed consecutive RBI singles to Hawpe and Yorvit Torrealba that made it 6-2. Mike Timlin escaped when pinch-hitter Ryan Spilborghs flied to the center-field warning track and Jeff Baker, another pinch hitter, lined to leaping shortstop Julio Lugo.
Holliday had Rockies fans thinking comeback with his home run into the Rockpile, which ended a streak of 17 1-3 scoreless innings in the postseason for Okajima and closer Jonathan Papelbon. Todd Helton followed with a single, but Okajima recovered to strike out Garrett Atkins and Hawpe, then retired Torrealba on a comebacker. Papelbon retired Holliday on a flyout to left with two outs in the eighth and finished for his second save of the Series.
Boston’s burst in the third had quieted the crowd of 49,983. Ortiz doubled to put Boston ahead, Mike Lowell’s single up the middle made it 3-0 and Varitek hit a one-out single to left, where Holliday made a strong throw home to just catch Ramirez ” who signaled himself safe as umpire Ted Barrett called him out. Matsuzaka’s single made it 5-0 lead and Ellsbury drove in another run with his second double of the inning.
Rockies relievers retired 14 of the next 15. But it turned out the six runs were enough.
After the close call, Boston isn’t thinking party, not just yet.
“These guys won 20 out of 21 and now have lost three in a row,” Youkilis said. “You can’t look at the past.”
Lester overcame lymphoma, while Cook came back from a blood clot. … Before Saturday, the highest altitude for a Series game was 1,117 feet in Phoenix. … Arizona’s Matt Williams doubled twice in an inning against the Yankees in Game 6 in 2001. … Matsuzaka became the first pitcher to drive in runs in the Series since Florida’s Brad Penny had two RBIs against the Yankees in Game 5 in 2003.
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