Their magic touch suddenly went poof
Those of you with the Rockies in four are out of the pool.
It was a nice thought, I suppose. With 21 of 22 and seven straight in the postseason, why not run the table? But there had to be some sort of shelf life on karma, right? Four or five days, max, I'd say.
What we saw last night was a team left to play the game on its own merits. Shorn of Whatever It Was that enabled them to transcend all reason as they stampeded into the playoffs and then over, under, around, and through the Phillies and Diamondbacks, the Colorado Rockies looked very much like a team that had not seen a living, breathing major league opponent in nine days, and sending them out against the hottest postseason pitcher in the galaxy bordered on cruel and unusual punishment.
Not that it was any crueler or punishing than allowing their own stale hurlers to face the American League champion Boston Red Sox, who are redefining the concept of the "good at-bat," and were fairly amazin' last night in two-out situations.
"You can ask me all series long about the layoff and I won't have an answer for you," said Rockies manager Clint Hurdle. "We're a no-excuse ball club."
This one needed a mercy rule. It was 13-1 (with 10 left on base) after five, and so it remained. At this point, the Red Sox had tied a record with eight doubles and the Rockies may have set a postseason record by allowing nine runs after two outs in those five innings.
"It's one game, it's one game, it's one game," is about all the Rockies can say about this one. The problem is that this one game was started by their ace, Jeff Francis, and he was, as Bill Walton would say, "horrrrrrrrible."
But he was better than the guy who replaced him to start the fifth. That would be Franklin Morales, who had no runs in, two outs, and a man on second and then allowed the next seven men to reach base in the horrific (from a Colorado point of view) or euphoric (from a Boston point of view) seven-run inning.
And he was better than the man who replaced him. Well, that might depend on your conception of pitching. Morales was reached for six hits, seven earned runs, a walk, and a balk in the two-thirds of an inning he worked. But Ryan Speier did something no one has done in the 103-year history of the World Series. He faced three men and walked them all, each forcing home a run.
The Red Sox were already in possession of the all-time postseason record with four bases-loaded walks. This new total of seven has a chance of remaining in the books until the 31st century, or the Cubs win the World Series, whichever comes first.
At this point, the Red Sox had scored a just plain sick 36 runs in their last 21 turns at bat. And they don't even have Brady and Moss.
The two-out thing was truly amazing. It began in the first, when it was already 2-0, thanks to Dustin Pedroia's leadoff homer over the Covidien sign in left-center, plus a Manny Ramírez single that brought home Kevin Youkilis, who had doubled to the Sox bullpen. After Mike Lowell flied to center, Jason Varitek singled, placing men on first and second, and J.D. Drew delivered a two-out double to right.
There were two away and none on in the second when Youkilis worked a seven-pitch walk after being down, 0 and 2, and Big Papi doubled to left-center, with Youk making it all the way home from first.
The Red Sox reached Francis for two more two-out runs in the fourth. Papi started things with a sharp single to left. Manny battled a fading Francis into the eighth pitch before smashing a double to center. Lowell was walked intentionally so Francis could get to Varitek, and the Captain ripped one that hit the left-field foul line and bounced into the stands for a ground-rule double.
Francis fanned Drew to end the inning, but that was all for him. He had been touched for 10 hits and six earned runs. He had thrown a ghastly 103 pitches, and a staggering 51 of them had come after two were out. He appears to need a little work finishing off hitters. Just a thought.
"Some of that was us," pointed out Sox manager Terry Francona. "Two outs, two strikes, we took our walks, got some good swings."
With all this offense breaking out, Josh Beckett could have gotten along nicely with his D game. But he was his usual efficient self, announcing his intention to dominate by striking out the side in the first. He cruised into the seventh on just 78 pitches, a pretty snappy total considering that he had struck out eight. He left after seven, having thrown 93 pitches.
Beckett is 4-0 in these playoffs and 6-2 lifetime. He has won five straight postseason starts, giving up four earned runs in 39 innings for an ERA of 0.93. He has given up four earned runs in 30 innings of 2007 postseason work. It is not hard to envision him getting a World Series MVP Award to go with his American League Championship Series prize.
The Rockies seemed to have adopted a swing-hard-in-case-I-hit-it approach because they did hit some hard balls off Beckett. They had four doubles, which contributed to a Series record of 12 two-baggers. But they couldn't bunch their hits enough to do any damage beyond doubles by Garrett Atkins and Troy Tulowitzki that produced their only run in the second.
The simple truth was that this was all too easy. The Rockies are not that bad. Nobody is that bad. What we had here was a classic convergence of forces. If you must have an enforced layoff, you don't want to be facing a team that is currently swinging the bats as if there were some kind of "Damn Yankees" thing going on.
Wait a minute. Wasn't that what we all suspected was going on with the Rockies? Have the Sawx made Satan a better offer?
Bob Ryan is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.