Sox hit highs in Game 1
Before the first pitch was thrown, oddsmakers, hardball cognoscenti, and an entire Nation of Red Sox loyalists declared that the 2007 World Series would be won by Boston, with ease.
Game 1 did nothing to dispute this popular notion.
With Josh Beckett at his nasty, Bob Gibson-esque best, the rolling Red Sox opened the 103d Fall Classic with a 13-1 demolition of the stale (eight-day layoff) Colorado Rockies.
It was another one of those nights when the locals appeared to be engaged in performance art more than contest. When the Sox are operating on all cylinders, the outcome is not in doubt; it's more a matter of style points and audience appreciation.
The visitors, who had won 10 straight and 21 of 22, were embarrassed. The Sox pounded 16 hits in the first five innings. Rockies reliever Franklin Morales recorded two outs and gave up seven runs. He was followed by Ryan Speier, who walked three consecutive batters with the bases loaded. Eddie Cicotte of the 1919 White Sox didn't do that badly and he was trying to lose.
The Sox led, 13-1, after five innings, and the only remaining question was whether the hard rain was going to fall. It didn't. The Rockies fell. Hard. It was the most lopsided opener in World Series history.
"That's not the way we drew it up," acknowledged Colorado manager Clint Hurdle. "I feel real confident we'll get back after it and go get 'em [tonight] . . . We're a no-excuse ball club. We got outplayed."
Going back to 2004, the Sox have won five consecutive World Series games. Going back to Game 5 in Cleveland, the locals have won four straight playoff games in seven days by an aggregate score of 43-6. Curt Schilling, a big-game pitcher on a par with Gibson and Beckett, gets the ball tonight under a full moon. A Hunter's Moon.
"We're smart enough to know that [Game 2] is what's ahead of us and that's all that matters," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona.
There was fear the elements might play a role in the opener. Fenway's intrepid grounds crew stood at attention throughout Game 1. No one knew precisely when the skies were going to open (there was light rain early, but it was dry by the ninth), but Boston lawn chief Dave Mellor wanted his men ready.
There was virtually no reaction when any of the Rockies were introduced during pregame festivities. Most ticket-holders didn't know the names of the Rockies players and Sox fans have yet to identify opponents of scorn for this series. It's not like having Alex Rodriguez or Roger Clemens trotting out of the third base dugout. Game 1 did nothing to change Colorado's anonymity.
Dr. Charles Steinberg's pregame production went smoothly. Maestro John Williams led the Boston Pops through the national anthem (no lip-synching allowed) from center field. Then came the obligatory flyover, and a video montage of Sox 2007 playoff moments.
More than 20 members of the Red Sox' 1967 "Impossible Dream" team walked in from left field and surrounded MVP/Triple Crown winner Carl Yastrzemski, the greatest living Red Sox. Standing in front of the mound, Yaz threw the ceremonial first pitch, bouncing it to Doug Mirabelli on one hop. After the introduction of Sox icon Johnny Pesky, it was time for another Red Sox playoff rout.
It was 55 degrees and sprinkling lightly when Beckett (seven innings, nine strikeouts) took the mound. His fourth pitch of the night was a 96-mile-per-hour called third strike past Rockies leadoff hitter Willy Taveras. Beckett struck out the side on 15 pitches and the tone was set.
In the bottom of the first, Dustin Pedroia hit Jeff Francis's second pitch over the Green Monster and the Sox put three on the board before making two outs. The Sox had nine extra-base hits in the first five frames. David Ortiz and Manny Ramírez each had three hits before the top of the sixth.
"It's certainly nice to play with a lead," said Francona. "I thought offensively the whole night we did a good job . . . with two strikes, with two outs, when the ball was in the zone we took some pretty good swings."
Boston fans holding tickets to Games 6 and 7 are already starting to worry. They're thinking sweep and the Rockies did nothing in Game 1 to challenge the thought. Morales enters tonight's game with a World Series ERA of 94.50. Sounds like an FM radio station. Bad rap.
Like the Cardinals in 2004, the Rockies in Game 1 were reduced to mere props, faceless punching bags letting the Red Sox write the final chapter in their championship season.
Entitled Sox fans, however, would do well to remember the 1960 New York Yankees, who beat the Pittsburgh Pirates by scores of 16-3, 10-0, and 12-0, but still lost the World Series in seven games.