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Fenway fiasco

Red Sox made Rockies' pitchers look historically bad

Posted: Thursday October 25, 2007 2:06AM; Updated: Friday October 26, 2007 9:50AM
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David Ortiz (left) and Manny Ramirez continued their hot postseason hitting, going a combined 6-for-9 with four RBIs and five runs scored in Game 1.
David Ortiz (left) and Manny Ramirez continued their hot postseason hitting, going a combined 6-for-9 with four RBIs and five runs scored in Game 1.
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Taking my cuts ...

1. Don't be so quick to blame Colorado's eight-day layoff for their pitchers getting waxed in Game 1 -- with 13 runs allowed, it was the worst opening game pitching performance in World Series history. Instead, credit the Boston lineup and Fenway Park for intimidating the Rockies pitchers into pitching far too tentatively, and it will be a short series if they don't change their ways.

The Red Sox held a four-hour scouting report meeting Monday night, attended by the entire coaching staff, three advance scouts who sat on the Rockies for the past four weeks, and the team's video coordinators. What they saw from Game 1 starter Jeff Francis was a guy who likes to throw soft stuff away but who kept hitters honest with just enough cutters in or fastballs up. But Francis never established an inside presence in his start.

"We never really saw it," Boston hitting coach Dave Magadan said. "I don't know whether it was the [leftfield] wall or what, but it seemed like he made one mistake to Jason [Varitek] in the first and really didn't go back in there again."

How bad was it? Francis gave up the most baserunners (13) by a Game 1 starter since 1982 (Bob Forsch). Franklin Morales gave up more runs (seven) without getting three outs than any relief pitcher in postseason history. And Ryan Speier became the first pitcher to walk in a run three times in the same World Series game.

Rockies pitching coach Bob Apodaca called the selection and location of pitches "too predictable."

"Look at the pitchers who had success against them in the last series: [Paul] Byrd and [Jake] Westbrook," Apodaca said. "They used both sides of the plate and had a 70 percent first-ball strike rate. They cut the ball in on lefthanders and moved the fastball around. We talked about it. For whatever reason, we didn't do it."

2. So what are the odds that Rockies Game 2 starter Ubaldo Jimenez can attack the strike zone early and command both sides of the plate? Not great. Yes, Jimenez has a live arm, but you're talking about a rookie who is one of the poorer strike throwers on the Colorado staff. And he's facing a red-hot lineup that has done something no other team has done in postseason history: thrown up three consecutive double-digit games.

The Red Sox lineup is wearing out postseason pitching with one quality at-bat after another, particularly at home. Boston is averaging 8.9 runs per game at Fenway this postseason while hitting .339.

And here's the telling story of how Boston is winning this postseason through a decided edge in the quality of their at-bats: the Red Sox have outwalked their opponents, 54-24. Thirty more free baserunners over 11 games? That's a huge advantage.

Jimenez's game plan should begin with aiming his hard stuff toward the middle of the plate.

3. Here's the most stunning stat from Game 1: Two outs into the fifth inning, Rockies pitchers faced 23 batters with a chance to end an inning and succeeded in retiring the batter only four of those times. Good luck trying to win a game while allowing a two-out OBP of .826. Those are kickball numbers, not World Series baseball.

4. The Rockies smartly did not overshift their defense on David Ortiz as much as American League teams do, with shortstop Troy Tulowitzki remaining on the leftfield side of second base and second baseman Kaz Matsui remaining on the infield dirt instead of short rightfield. What do they know that other teams don't? That Ortiz is using a different approach in the postseason, staying inside the ball more and selectively picking his spots for turning on pitches.

During the regular season, Ortiz accounted for 20 percent of his hits to leftfield (37 of 182). In the postseason he has racked up 47 percent of his hits the other way (7 of 15), including two more in Game 1.

5. Does Boston manager Terry Francona dare put Ortiz on the bench in a World Series game? It could happen without the DH in Colorado. The Red Sox are concerned about the condition of Ortiz' left knee, and the idea of playing three straight games in the field in Denver concerns them.

Playing Kevin Youkilis in the outfield is a risk. He does have 18 games of experience in leftfield from 2006, but he has not been taking balls in the outfield and the expansive outfield at Coors is no place for a neophyte. Can you imagine an outfield with Manny Ramirez and Youkilis in the corners?

Someone from among Ortiz, Youkilis and Mike Lowell will be on the bench every night in Colorado. One option for Francona is to rotate each of them out of the lineup, with a matchup against the lefthanded Francis in Game 5 looming as a potential pinch-hitting role for Ortiz. Me? Unless Ortiz can't walk, there's no way I'm playing a World Series game with David Ortiz on my bench. I've got to believe that Francona will see it the same way.