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WS: It's still a Series
Was Game 1 proof that Boston will roll to a World Series crown? Are the Red Sox really that much better than the Rockies? Is the National League that much inferior to the American League?
No way, absolutely not and, well, maybe.
The NL certainly doesn't have the depth of teams and players as the AL currently enjoys -- and last night's series opener was played in Boston because the AL won the All-Star Game -- but the Rockies are as much a threat to win this series as they were yesterday.
Sure, the margin of Boston's victory was unexpectedly emphatic, but in no way does this change the complexion of the series. Anyone who might have picked Colorado in six or seven games would probably have sat down before the series, looked at a Game 1 in Fenway with Josh Beckett on the mound and tallied the opener into the column for expected Red Sox wins.
It may be troubling to see Rockies' ace Jeff Francis struggle mightily, and for Beckett to have maintained his postseason aura of invincibility (which will likely return in Game 5 and in relief in Game 7) and, most of all, to see the entirety of Boston's lineup contribute. David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez have been superhuman all postseason, but suddenly everyone else in the Sox' order is contributing, too.
Every starter, save Jacoby Ellsbury, contributed a hit, including multi-hit games from Manny, Papi, Kevin Youkilis, J.D. Drew, Jason Varitek and Julio Lugo. Those last three players batted .270, .255 and .237, respectively, during the regular season. Dustin Pedroia led off the game with a solo homer, very reminiscent of 2004, when the Sox scored in the first inning of all four World Series games. The Sox have now scored 43 runs in their last four games.
Colorado sends Ubaldo Jimenez to the mound tonight, he of the 89.2 career innings, but he's allowed just two earned runs in his two postseason starts, spanning 11.1 innings. He's a true power pitcher, hitting 100 mph often, which isn't something Boston has this season (C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona throw hard, but not that hard). That could be a challenge for the Sox to speed up their bats, but patience will be the key -- Jimenez has walked eight already in the playoffs.
And patience will be key for everyone else, too. This World Series is far from over.
Labels: Rockies-Red Sox
WS: This is a hot ticket
One team has history -- and a $143 million payroll.
The other has a $54 million payroll -- and a Rockpile.
Both teams have momentum.
Neither has an effective ticketing system.
While the Red Sox, who play in historic but cramped Fenway, sold their sparse single-game World Series tickets through an online lottery, the Rockies chose to sell theirs through Rockies.com.
Colorado's site was bombarded by some 8.5 million hits over 90 minutes on Monday morning, all seeking to gobble up the 60,000 available tickets for Games 3, 4 and 5. In what should have been the Rockies' finest hour -- a celebration of their first-ever trip to the World Series -- they instead had to shut down the ticketing system with fewer than 500 tickets sold, wasting time for so many fans who took time off work to try their hand at getting tickets.
The Rockies attributed the meltdown to the result of an "external, malicious attack" by ticket brokers and scalpers, and they rebooted the system for noon (mountain time) yesterday. This time, the system worked -- with plenty of fans angered. The reality is that not everyone was going to get tickets, but having to try twice in vain certainly didn't help customer relations.
I logged on for an hour yesterday, five browser windows open, watching each window's timer count down from 120 to 1. Half the time, the program would restart counting at 120; the other half, it'd freeze at one. There's a disclaimer not to refresh because you'll lose your place in line, but a frozen screen didn't seem to be in the online ticketing queue either. So I strategized: leave two windows at 1, with hopes they are still in line and would get in, and refresh the other three, so that I'd at least feel better about watching the ticker move.
Neither plan worked.
The Sox face a no-win situation with so many season tickets and so few available seats, but the e-mail lottery hardly seems to work. I know plenty of Red Sox fans who try with a dozen e-mail addresses a piece, and no one has ever gotten tickets in any of their postseason lotteries.
So I guess Major League Baseball is looking really smart with its StubHub partnership right now. And don't worry, I had an e-mail from MLB.com sitting in my inbox this morning reminding me that I can still buy tickets through StubHub. Convenient, eh?
The whole matter of whether Tim Wakefield's knuckleball would work in thin air is moot: he was left off the World Series roster with his ailing shoulder. Kyle Snyder takes his place on the roster, though I'm sure most Boston fans hope he never sees the pitcher's mound -- except as a last resort over Eric Gagne.
This sets up a bizarre Game 4 pitching matchup of Jon Lester vs. Aaron Cook. Lester, who I had the pleasure of talking to this season for a magazine profile, is a great kid who overcame anaplastic large-cell lymphoma last season to return to the majors. He hasn't started a game since Sept. 26, but threw four simulated innings at Fenway yesterday, which seems to suggest he's on track for Game 4.
Lester at least has pitched in relief since then -- Colorado's Cook, the Opening Day starter, hasn't pitched at all since Aug. 10 with a strained rib cage but will get the ball.
The big question for tonight is, if the Rockies were to lose, is their magical streak over and can they rally? My money's on yes, but I still think it's Boston in seven.
Features on tonight's starters:
Labels: Rockies-Red Sox
World Series predictions
Tom VerducciRed Sox over Rockies in 7
This is a series in which home field matters. The Red Sox are dynamite at Fenway Park, going 10-2 there in the postseason since Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS. They have averaged 8.2 runs per game at home this postseason. But the games in Colorado are troublesome for Boston. It's the only time this postseason teams play three consecutive days, which taxes a thin Boston bullpen. Moreover, under NL rules, Boston manager Terry Francona will have to hit for his pitcher and respond to pinch-hitter matchups, forcing him to make moves otherwise not in play. His defense at first base (David Ortiz) and left field (Manny Ramirez, with more ground to cover) is exposed more at Coors, too. Look for a long series that gets back to Boston.
The key for me is how much the Boston hitters wear down Colorado pitching. Strike zones get smaller in the postseason. As one Red Sox player told me, "The umpires aren't in a hurry to go anywhere, and they know everybody is watching them." Boston seems to know that better than anybody else. Their at-bats in the ALCS were superlative. They took more close pitches with two strikes than I've ever seen, especially Ramirez. They frustrated good strike-throwers such as C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona. They could cause big-time trouble for Ubaldo Jimenez, Josh Fogg, Brian Fuentes and Jeremy Affeldt, in particular.
Boston also killed Cleveland with tack-on runs, but that's something the air-tight Colorado defense won't allow. That should make for good games. If indeed home field really does matter in this series, I like the Red Sox coming home for Games 6 and 7. Remember, visiting teams are 0-8 in World Series Game 7s since 1979. And I like Josh Beckett coming out of the bullpen in Game 7.
Jon HeymanRockies over Red Sox in 7
What, I'm going to pick against the team that's won 21 out of 22 games? No chance of that! They're better than you think. Their lineup is deeper than Boston's, and their defense is better. Plus, I'm not going to bet against that kind of karma.
John DonovanRed Sox over Rockies in 5
The Red Sox aren't perfect. Not even close. But they have the unbeatable Josh Beckett, a rested and tested Curt Schilling, the mystery of Daisuke Matsuzaka (still a mystery to the NL) and a slam-the-door closer, Jonathan Papelbon. Plus plenty of firepower. The Rockies have a good lineup and a great defense, but they're just not deep enough in the rotation to outlast Boston. (Click here to read John Donovan's complete series breakdown.)
Jacob LuftRockies over Red Sox in five
I've picked against Boston at every turn and been burned, so why not go back for a third time? On paper the Red Sox are better in almost every category, save perhaps for the bullpens and the defense. Boston's lineup is impossible to pitch to right now, especially if Coco Crisp isn't around to serve as an automatic out. Beckett has walked one batter all month. But anything can happen in a short series, and if the Rockies do win, they will have to do it in five games because they aren't clinching it at Fenway Park in a Game 6 or 7.
Gennaro FiliceRockies over Red Sox in 7
If I'm picking with the brain, it's Sawx in six. They've been the best all-around team in baseball all season long. But this Rockies squad -- winner of 10 straight games and 21 of 22 -- has me picking with a different organ: the heart. Not to mention Boston must sit either Ortiz or Kevin Youkilis when the series shifts to Denver, and Colorado lit up Beckett during interleague play. Heart, don't fail me now ...
Albert ChenRed Sox over Rockies in 5
Even Dane Cook could tell you that no one's hotter than the Rockies, but now Colorado faces the best team in the American League in a year in which the gap between the AL and NL is as large as ever. Get ready for some stellar defense, a barrage of long balls and a short series. Will Francona start Beckett in Game 4? I'm betting that the Red Sox will be up early in the series, and Beckett wins the clincher in Game 5.
Alex BelthRed Sox over Rockies in 5
In order for the Rockies to have a fighting chance, they must shake off the rust and steal one of the first two games in Boston. Even then, it will be a tall order to beat the streaking Red Sox. Boston's offense beat up on Cleveland's good pitching, finally getting contributions from players other than Youkilis-Oritz-Ramirez. It's tough to imagine Colorado's pitching stopping them. Yes, the Red Sox are at a disadvantage in Colorado with Ortiz having to play the field, and yes, the Rockies can swing the bats pretty well themselves. Still, the ride is over for Colorado.
Jon WeismanRockies over Red Sox in 6
Look, the Red Sox have Beckett, Jonathan Papelbon and a fearsome lineup, but they also are running into pitching depth problems that all but got them eliminated in the ALCS. The Rockies, meanwhile, are suddenly gaining pitching with the return of Aaron Cook to back Jeff Francis (who proved against Arizona's Brandon Webb in the NLCS that he's up for any challenge). And Colorado's lineup continues to be solidly competitive. The Red Sox will benefit from a big advantage at designated hitter (Ortiz) in their home games, but suffer from the loss of a bat (most likely ALCS hero Youkilis) at the non-DH games in Colorado. If this series were played five months ago, the Rockies wouldn't be worth a second look. Now in October (and perhaps November), plenty of signs still point to Boston, but I'm going with the team that is as fresh as mountain spring water. Cinderella is wearing snowshoes, folks, and I think she might just decide to keep them.
Joe LemireRed Sox over Rockies in 7
Though I was tempted to pick Colorado over Boston in 4 -– when you've won 21 of 22, you've practically earned that much -– the Rockies' luck may have frozen up with the cold temperatures (joke) and long layoff (serious) while the Red Sox scorched the Indians 30-5 in the last three games of the ALCS. Boston has had notorious difficulty with pitchers it hasn't faced before, which bodes well for Colorado's Jimenez and Morales, but Beckett is good for two wins and the heart of the Sox order is simply locked in. Boston's postseason experience helps too.
Ben ReiterRed Sox over Rockies in 5
Were I a betting man, I would lay a fistful of sawbucks on the Rockies to take this thing. Of course, were I a betting man, I would likely have already resorted to a life of petty crime to keep the lights on (the Artless Codger, my young comrades in Fagin's gang would call me) -- my postseason predictions to this point have been that off. But it seems to me as if the current line -– Vegas has the Rockies at +185 (meaning you'd win that much on a $100 bet) and the Red Sox at -225 (so you'd have to wager that much to win $100) -– is out of whack, and perhaps reflects nothing so much as the rabidity of Red Sox Nation. The run-up to the Series reminded me in some ways of 2003, when the Yankees and Aaron Boone clinched what was believed to be the de facto championship in seven tough ALCS games, only to be swiftly dispatched by the Marlins and Beckett. But Beckett's on the other side now, and I don't see Josh Fogg nor Cook getting the better of Big Papi and Manny, and the Sox just have that look. While my head's telling me to go with the winners of 21 of 22 -– and, in betting terms, the risk/reward factor certainly seems to point to them -– my gut's positive that the Sox are the pick. I hope Fagin's got an extra straw mat.
Cliff CorcoranRed Sox over Rockies in 6
The Rockies beat Jake Peavy to make the playoffs and beat Cole Hamels and Webb in Game 1 of the NLDS and NLCS, respectively, but right now nobody is going to beat Beckett. If the Rockies come off a momentum-killing eight-day layoff (twice as long as their break between the NLDS and NLCS) and run right into their first loss of the postseason against Beckett, everything changes. The Red Sox, who overcame a 3-1 ALCS deficit by outscoring Cleveland 30-5, become the hot team, and the World Series becomes Boston's to lose, which the curse-free Red Sox, who are the better team to begin with, won't. Glimmer of hope for Colorado: the Rockies gave Beckett his worst beating of the year back on June 14 to give Jeff Francis a 7-1 win.
Take solace, Cleveland: You're the American League favorites in 2008.
Those probably aren't comforting words now, but the Browns return from their bye week on Sunday and the season for LeBron and Co. is just around the corner. You'll have other sports to watch as you wait until spring training. Rest up and get ready to migrate South for your final spring training in Winter Haven, Fla., before the move out west to Goodyear, Ariz., in 2009.
Because when the Indians do report in February, you won't have many new names to learn -- I only hope I've mastered the spelling of Asdrubal by then -- as nearly everyone is returning. Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com breaks down Cleveland's roster situation, and the future is bright on Lake Erie's south shore.
Of the key position players, only Kenny Lofton and Trot Nixon are potential free agents. Though both, especially Lofton, contributed plenty down the stretch, Franklin Gutierrez is deserving to be an everyday starter at one of the corner outfield positions, and the Indians could do well in platooning the other spot, like they did at times this year with Ben Francisco, Jason Michaels, David Dellucci, et al.
Of the pitchers, the team holds club options on Paul Byrd, Joe Borowski and Aaron Fultz, but everyone else is under contract next year, and there could be a more prominent role for a top prospect Adam Miller. One of GM Mark Shapiro's priorities this offseason needs to be extending the contract of C.C. Sabathia, who only has one year left on his deal. Rafael Betancourt has two years left, but guys like Fausto Carmona, Rafael Perez and Jensen Lewis are all under control through at least 2012.
In short, the Indians, who tied Boston for the best record in the majors this year, should only improve this offseason. This could be another Indians' run like they had in the 1990s, only with a little less power (Travis Hafner and Victor Martinez don't quite have the depth that a lineup with Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome, David Justice and Albert Belle had) and a little better pitching (Sabathia and Carmona as a better 1-2 punch than Charles Nagy and Bartolo Colon).
Today rightfully is a day of mourning in Cleveland, and yes, no breaks went the Tribe's way last night, but 2008 will bring new promise.
Labels: Indians-Red Sox
ALCS: The Possible Dream
There may soon be a new generation of Red Sox fan. Children in New England under the age of six are growing up in a world where the Sox are thrill-seeking comeback kids, from whom no lead is safe.
And that’s just plain ridiculous.
In the post-October 2004 world, Boston is almost expected to rally. David Ortiz is baseball’s Mr. Clutch -– how did he end up on the Red Sox?
With Boston’s 12-2 blowout of Cleveland last night -– and Game 7 beginning at 8:23 p.m. tonight -– we’re looking at two franchises in the midst of reinventing their identities. With apologies to the Cubs, the Sox have gone from Choke Artists No. 1 to a baseball power that scoffs at 3-1 series leads. Crazy stuff for a team that went 86 years between World Series titles.
While the Yankees regularly trot out big-game heroes like Yogi Berra and Bucky Dent to throw out the ceremonial first pitch, it’s amusing to see the nouveau riche Sox try the same with active players and very recent retirees. Bill Mueller threw out last night’s pitch, and Kevin Millar is slated to do the same tonight. Will Dave Roberts be in the house?
The Indians, who haven’t won the Series since 1948, were a bumbling bunch in the ’80s, spawning the movie “Major League,” improved in the ‘90s to an elite team that just couldn’t quite win the big one and have the chance tonight to clear those hurdles and, with a young core of players, assert themselves as the Next Big Thing in the American League.
Who will rally tonight?
Suffice to say, J.D. Drew’s contract was money well spent. Well, that’s the revisionist history this morning in Boston after Drew connected on the second most-important grand slam in Sox postseason history last night, on the three-year anniversary of No. 1: Johnny Damon’s 2004 ALCS Game 7 blast off the Yankees’ Javier Vazquez. (Honorable mention goes to Troy O’Leary’s granny in 1999’s ALDS Game 5, also against these Indians.) He even proved he wasn’t robotic with a gentle fist pump near second base.
But Drew didn’t stop there, adding an RBI single and finishing the day 3 for 5 with 5 RBIs—and that $70 million tab slightly more justified.
As a columnist in the Maine Sunday Telegram writes, Drew is worth every penny.
Same goes for the $36 million handed to Julio Lugo, who chimed in with a two-RBI double in the third. Of Boston’s first eight runs, seven came on RBIs from the much-maligned Drew and Lugo.
Heck, even Eric Gagne pitched a 1-2-3 ninth.
The biggest question for tonight, of course, is, Will Daisuke Matsuzaka live up to his reputation as a big game pitcher? The expectations are high and the pressure great.
Is Fausto Carmona hexed at Fenway? In his one regular-season start against the Sox in July – at Jacobs Field – he threw eight scoreless innings and got the win. But he’s far rockier in Boston. Last year he he gave up consecutive walk-off hits at Fenway in one of the worst weeks in baseball history.
And now in two ALCS starts this year, he’s given up 11 earned runs in six innings over two starts for a 16.50 ERA. It can’t be just the postseason pressure that’s getting to him – he was unhittable against Yankees, though he’s looked eminently hittable against the Sox.
One of Cleveland’s other young studs, Rafael Perez, had roughly the same thing happen to him, allowing three runs (two earned) in a third of an inning.
The Indians now turn to Jake Westbrook, whose pitch-to-contact approach was an effective counterpunch to the patient Boston lineup in Game 3. While Carmona’s sinker kept dancing out of the strike zone (four walks in two innings last night), Westbrook kept the ball in play and on the ground in his last start – a 14:3 groundball-to-flyball ratio. And he says he’s ready for tonight.
Labels: Indians-Red Sox
AL East blog (Monday)
NL West blog (Monday)
AL Central blog (Tuesday)
NL Central blog (Wednesday)
AL West blog (Thursday)
NL East blog (Thursday)
Wild Card (Friday)