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Red Sox showing greatness

Lineup, led by Ellsbury, Pedroia, too much for Rockies

Posted: Sunday October 28, 2007 3:06AM; Updated: Sunday October 28, 2007 3:06AM
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Taking my cuts ...

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1. So now the World Series is essentially over, Colorado manager Clint Hurdle allowing ineffective starter Josh Fogg to let Game 3, and the last real chance for the Rockies, get out of hand in the third inning. Of the 22 previous teams to lose the first three games of the series, 19 rolled over in a sweep and the other three lived to see only one more game.

This will bring us to four straight seasons without seeing even a Game 6 in the World Series, matching the longest such streak in history, with the other one occurring between 1913 and 1916 -- way back before anybody worried about inventory of television commercials, Nielsen ratings or enough drama to get people talking baseball around the water cooler. We haven't seen a Game 7 in five years -- It's been 67 years since we've gone that long without one. Suddenly the World Series has become what we used to think of the Super Bowl, or Evan Almighty: a dud after all the hype.

Name me any great moment over the past five years that Dane Cook will be asking you to act out someday -- and I don't mean one involving your favorite team. I mean a real Joe Carter/Kirk Gibson/even Scott Spiezio moment.

Blame this one on the Red Sox. They're too good. They are just a far better club than Colorado, with the kind of relentless quality at-bats that has worn out Rockies pitching. The postseason has brought out the best in Boston. It owns a six-game winning streak in which it has outscored opponents, 55-12, and has trailed for only three of its past 53 innings. This shouldn't happen in Fort Myers, let alone October.

Opposing starters are nothing but sandbags against the flood: 2-9 in the postseason against Boston with a 7.78 ERA. Nine of them could not hold up for more than five innings, with Fogg's 2 2/3-inning outing lengthened only by the curious patience of his manager in a must-win game. Fogg faced 19 batters, 13 of them with runners in scoring position, including, incredibly, nine consecutive batters before Hurdle finally hooked him. The score was 6-0 at that point. Fogg became the second pitcher in World Series history to serve up 10 hits in fewer than three innings (Andy Ashby, 1998 Padres, was the other). How does that happen in a must-win game?

The series, however, has become so lopsided as to make a single managerial move rather moot. Greatness in October may be impressive, but it makes for lousy TV.

2. Boston's 1-2 hitters have reached base 16 times in three games, with Jacoby Ellsbury taking the place of Kevin Youkilis in Game 3 when it comes to riding shotgun to Dustin Pedroia. Ellsbury became the first rookie since Joe Garagiola in 1946 to swat four hits in a World Series game.

Fellow rookie Pedroia just might join fellow mighty mite David Eckstein as consecutive World Series MVPs, proving there is no height requirement on this October ride.

"It started with Game 1," Hurdle said of the quality at-bats of Boston's tablesetters. "They had more good at-bats in Game 2. Today it was off the charts."

3. The Red Sox have talent and they also have a predisposition to treat the big moments calmly, perhaps because in Boston they play the equivalent of 81 playoff games in Fenway Park before October comes around. After Game 1, Colorado GM Dan O'Dowd observed, "They played with a slow heartbeat. Our heartbeat was a little quicker."

But Boston has another advantage: one of the most comprehensive advance scouting programs in the game. The Game 2 pickoff of Matt Holliday, for instance, by Jonathan Papelbon, a guy who had not picked off a runner all year, was called from the bench based on information that Holliday would run early in the count against a closer who is slow to the plate. Morever, the information the Red Sox get on opposing pitchers is eerily prescient.

"(John) Lackey, (C.C.) Sabathia, (Fausto) Carmona ... I'm sitting there watching it happen exactly the way they said it was going to happen," infielder Alex Cora said. "It was amazing. It's like in the NFL, when you have a walk-through and go through the other team's plays in practice and that's exactly what you see in the game."

4. Colorado's season comes down to this: it is giving the ball to a guy throwing on 78 days of rest. Not good, folks.

Hurdle made the curious decision before the series to yank lefty Franklin Morales from the rotation and re-insert Aaron Cook, a guy who hasn't started a game since Aug. 10 because of a strained oblique muscle and hasn't won a game since July 31. While Morales, who tends to nibble when in trouble, was a risk against the patient Boston hitters, the Rockies like Cook's tenacity and compare his stuff to that of Jake Westbook, the Cleveland sinkerballer who pitched well in the ALCS.

Cook hardly is a formidable pitcher. He struck out only 21 batters in 78 innings at Coors Field while pitching to a 5.31 ERA at home. That's generally not the kind of premium stuff you need to throttle the Red Sox.

But here's the deal: it's hard to question Hurdle because he has no really good options. The back of the Colorado rotation just isn't equipped to match up against a deep American League lineup like this one.

5. Where have you gone Kurt Bevacqua? NL DHs have actually outhit AL DHs in World Series history, .251-.224, but most of that damage was done long ago. Colorado's curious use of Ryan Spilborghs as DH in Boston (0-for-5) continued the trend in recent years of NL teams getting next to nothing out of the extra hitter.

NL DHs since 1998 are hitting .149 (13-for-87) with one home run (Shawon Dunston of the 2002 Giants). Not entirely by coincidence, the NL is 4-20 in AL parks in these 10 years. What happened? Does the NL have worse bench players now to use as DHs?