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Lugo involved at every turn

DENVER - Somehow there was this notion that when the Red Sox arrived in the Mile High City for Game 3 of the World Series against the Colorado Rockies, the American League champions would struggle with the cold, thin air, the wide-open spaces of Coors Field's outfield, and the National League rules that barred the use of a designated hitter.

None of that, however, seemed to bother Julio Caesar Lugo.

The 31-year-old Red Sox shortstop never once had to reach for an oxygen mask, nor did he lose his way at the plate, the basepaths, or in the field, and he more than helped make up for the lack of a DH by improving his Series batting average to .400 (4 for 10) by going 1 for 3 with a double and a pair of walks.

The walks produced two runs, the sixth and seventh in last night's 10-5 triumph that brought the Sox to the brink of their second sweep in the Fall Classic since 2004.

If the Sox clinch tonight, it will be the first World Series ring for Lugo.

"You can't begin to find the words to describe being in that situation," Lugo said. "But the Series still isn't over. We still have one more left and we have to finish it off."

Steady and solid in all 13 starts he's made this postseason, Lugo made his presence felt from his first at-bat in the second, when he ripped a two-out liner to right-center and tested the arm of right fielder Brad Hawpe as he slid safely in for a double.

Although he wound up getting stranded when Josh Fogg struck out Daisuke Matsuzaka, Lugo's patience at the plate paid off in the third when he drew a walk off Fogg and wound up scoring Boston's sixth run of a six-run, seven-hit outburst. Then, with one out in the eighth, Lugo drew a walk off Brian Fuentes and wound up scoring in a three-run, four-hit inning that helped the Sox expand their lead to 9-5 after the Rockies had pulled within 6-5.

"I was just trying to do anything I could to help the team, offensively and defensively," he said. "I was just doing everything I could."

But perhaps the biggest contribution of Lugo's night was the leaping grab he made in the sixth of a sharply hit ball by pinch hitter Jeff Baker. Lugo elevated, scaling the cold mountain air, to end the inning and prevent the Rockies, who had two runners on, from pushing across more than the two runs they got.

"As soon he hit it, I knew he hit it very well," Lugo said. "I didn't know if I was going to have a chance to get it, so I jumped as high as I could and I got it. It's just instinct. Either you catch it or not. If it was a little higher, I probably don't get it."

While he might not have the size, athleticism, or range of his youthful counterpart, 23-year-old Troy Tulowitzki, an NL Rookie of the Year candidate, no one would trade the steadiness and savvy Lugo has given the Sox this season and postseason.

He seemed to best exemplify Boston's relentlessness, even after it allowed the Rockies to pull within one run in the seventh.

"We know it's not going to be easy and they were not going to give it to us," Lugo said. "We knew they were going to somehow find a way to come back and score, but we were ready for that and we just found a way to score a couple of more runs."

Michael Vega can be reached at vega@globe.com.

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