Party's Just Beginning (cont.)
Posted: Tuesday October 30, 2007 8:49AM; Updated: Thursday November 1, 2007 10:15PM
Last January the Red Sox summoned Ellsbury to Boston to take part in the club's annual rookie-development program, in which top prospects expected to reach the majors that season are schooled in everything from strength and conditioning, to the etiquette of tipping clubhouse managers, to dealing with the Boston media. Catcher Jason Varitek, Schilling and Francona were guest instructors. "The bottom line is, because of the expectations and attention, the young player in Boston has to succeed as quickly as possible," Epstein says. "And this program helps them make that transition. When I look at how the young guys like Jacoby have handled themselves this year, when I listen to them give interviews like they've been here for years, it's really something to be proud of."
Ellsbury batted .438 in the World Series, and in Game 3 he joined Joe Garagiola (1946) and Fred Lindstrom (1924) as the only rookies to get four hits in a World Series game. He and Pedroia, a 2004 second-round draft pick, combined to reach base 16 times in the four games. They are emblematic not only of a generation of Red Sox players that knows nothing about an 86-year curse, but one that also treats hitting as a kind of a martial art, employing a wicked combination of Zen-like patience and blunt-force trauma. "We never go up there just looking for a walk," explains hitting coach Dave Magadan. "We look for a good pitch to hit. The key is, we have guys who are comfortable even if they have to wait until two strikes to get that pitch."
So armed, the Boston attack embarrassed Colorado in a 13-1 Game 1 win. Rockies ace lefthander Jeff Francis, pitching with 13 days of rest for a team that was idle for eight days, needed 103 pitches to get 12 outs. Lefty Franklin Morales was even worse, becoming the first relief pitcher in World Series history to give up seven runs without getting three outs.
In Game 2, Boston wore out Rockies rookie righthander Ubaldo Jimenez, turning two of his five walks into runs for a 2-1 win. The Game 3 defeat belonged to righthander Josh Fogg, who joined Andy Ashby of the 1998 Padres as the only pitchers to give up 10 hits in a World Series game without getting out of the third inning. In that inning alone during its 10-5 win, Boston batted nine consecutive times off Fogg with a runner in scoring position, scoring six runs, before Rockies manager Clint Hurdle mercifully pulled Fogg from the wreckage. The clincher was less bloody, with righthander Aaron Cook lasting until a leadoff homer by Lowell in the seventh gave Boston a 3-0 lead.
"Everyone in their lineup was hitting," says Colorado third baseman Garrett Atkins. "When you've got eight, nine guys swinging a hot bat, there's no such thing as an easy out. "
The Boston attack is aided by its thorough advance scouting system. The Red Sox changed their approach this season to include two advance scouts, Todd Claus and Dana Levangie, who were assigned alternating opponents. Instead of faxing or e-mailing reports as some teams do (some clubs have even done away with advance scouts altogether), the Red Sox had Claus or Levangie deliver the report in person while the other scout watched the next opponent. The Red Sox also assign scouts to watch their own club to look for tendencies other teams might use against them.
For the World Series, 11 scouts contributed to the report on the Rockies. One of the key points of that report, as recalled by a club source, went like this: Colorado's best hitters are young and aggressive, eager to be "The Man" in big situations, especially Tulowitzki and Holliday, so in their eagerness to swing they will chase pitches out of the zone. The two players are aggressive in different ways: Holliday is a great breaking-ball hitter; Tulowitzki is a great fastball hitter. Exploit their eagerness by endeavoring to make balls look like strikes.
A sequence in the third inning of Game 4 demonstrated the effectiveness of the report and how well Boston executed it. Nursing a 1-0 lead, Lester faced Tulowitzki and Holliday with the tying run at second. He struck out both hitters on pitches out of the zone -- Tulowitzki on a slider that broke down and in, and Holliday on a high fastball.
Expertly briefed, Boston's starting pitchers earned every win in the seven-game winning streak. Papelbon saved four of those games -- three of them in the World Series, and all of them requiring him to go more than one inning -- to complete a scoreless postseason.
Before he threw the last pitch, Papelbon walked off the mound, rubbed up the baseball and in his head heard the words Varitek had been telling him all October: Take it one pitch at a time.
"And that's how I wound up the whole postseason scoreless," Papelbon said. "I slowed everything down."
His last pitch was a high fastball. Seth Smith, the Rockies' pinch hitter, swung at it and missed. Papelbon exulted, his face a beacon lit by joy and relief before he fell into the arms of Varitek. Hardly 30 minutes later, standing alone in a clubhouse hallway, Papelbon was asked to put such euphoria into words. He bowed his head for a bit, and when he raised it, tears had welled in his eyes. He waited longer, then finally said, "Hell, I don't know if I can. All of us are a part of this. It's such a surreal feeling. I remember my brother, Josh, came up to me on the field and pinched me. So I guess, yeah, it's real."
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