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Sox still riding the express

Schilling shines as lead grows

By Dan Shaughnessy
Globe Staff / October 26, 2007

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There was brief confusion at Fenway Park last night. Under clearing October skies, a streaking Comet Holmes, and a Jackie Gleason moon, the Red Sox actually trailed the Colorado Rockies, 1-0, for three innings, and some bandwagon newcomers did not know what to think.

The natural order of the universe was restored when the Sox pulled ahead in the fifth, and all planets were aligned at the finish as the Sox walked off the Fenway lawn - perhaps for the final time this year - with a 2-1 victory in the second game of the World Series. Positively cosmic.

These Sox are unlike any Boston baseball team since the earliest years of Fenway Park. They have won five consecutive postseason games, six straight World Series games, and they're taking a 2-0 Series lead to Coors Field for the resumption of the 103d Fall Classic tomorrow night.

Leading the army of steamrollers is 40-year-old general Curt Schilling, forever established as one of the best big-game pitchers in baseball history. Hurling what might have been his final game as a member of the Red Sox, old Blood-and-Guts stopped the stunned Rockies for 5 1/3 innings, allowing only a run, to improve his career postseason record to 11-2.

"It's a good feeling when he pitches," said Sox manager Terry Francona. "Whatever the situa tion, you know he's going to be prepared for it."

Schilling was bailed out by the redoubtable Hideki Okajima, who retired seven consecutive Rockies, four on strikouts. Initially considered little more than a friendly stablemate for $103 million man Daisuke Matsuzaka, Okajima made the All-Star team and earned a spot in World Series lore with his first appearance in the showcase event. Jonathan "Riverdance" Papelbon came on for the save, which included the first pickoff of his big league career. The game ended when Papelbon fanned Brad Hawpe with a 99-mile-per-hour fastball at 12:09 this morning.

"This was the Papajima Show tonight," said Schilling. "That was phenomenal. That was the story tonight. Tonight we had to have it and they both answered the bell."

"We scored two runs in 18 innings in this ballpark," said Rockies manager Clint Hurdle. "That makes it tough to win . . . I anticipate us playing better baseball when we get home."

The early-evening ballpark buzz was that Neil Diamond was going to be on hand to sing "Sweet Caroline" in person, but the frog prince never appeared. Instead, Fenway fans were happy to get James Taylor. Strumming his six-string, J.T. performed the national anthem solo, before young heart transplant recipient Andrew Madden of Odessa, Texas, threw out the ceremonial first pitch. It was 48 degrees and felt like the Turnpike could have been covered with snow from Stockbridge to Boston.

Newbie fans (and there are a lot of them at the World Series) were stunned when the Rockies (who had only five hits, four by Matt Holliday) scored in the first inning. The Sox won their previous four playoff games by an aggregate score of 43-6 and never trailed.

Colorado's starting battery featured Ubaldo Jimenez throwing to Yorvit Torrealba (a long way from Whitey Ford to Yogi Berra, no?) The 23-year-old Jimenez, who came into the game with 212 fewer regular-season wins (four) than Schilling, no-hit the Red Sox over the first three innings.

The Sox tied it with a run in the fourth on a sacrifice fly by Jason Varitek. Jimenez was experiencing control problems (five walks, one hit batsmen) and it looked like a matter of time.

The kings of New England vaulted ahead for good in the fifth, taking the lead on a two-out double (always two outs with these guys) to left by Mike Lowell. Jimenez, loser of his duel with master Schilling, was yanked in favor of Jeremy Affeldt, the first of four Rockies relievers.

Okajima relieved Schilling in the sixth and dazzled the National League champions with 2 1/3 innings of no-hit relief. The Japanese southpaw has an unusual delivery that makes it difficult to pick up the ball, and it was clear the Rockies suffered from never having faced the Sox specialist.

"He was so good," said Francona. "His command was spectacular and that set up the whole game."

Papelbon followed Ojajima, picked off Holliday to end the eighth, then got the side in order in the ninth. Fans stayed around to hear "Dirty Water," "Tessie," "Joy to the World," and other traditional Fenway post-win hits. They knew it might be the last time. Unless the Sox lose two or three at Coors Field, Fenway will be closed for the winter and the Nation won't have a chance to cheer again until the Duck Boat parade.

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