DENVER - This was where the turnaround was supposed to happen, where whose rules you went by was going to make a difference. After playing with a designated hitter in their Fenway playpen, the Red Sox were going to have to play baseball the way that Abner Doubleday imagined it.
Their pitchers were going to have to hit for three games and their DHs were going to have to sit and their manager was going to have to fool around with double switches.
All of this against a Rockies nine that does that every day in the National League and that had won 11 of its last 12 games at home, where they won the wild-card playoff and clinched the division and championship series.
For one night, at least, none of that meant a thing. Daisuke Matsuzaka, who'd been 0 for 4 at the plate this season, stroked a single to left to knock in two runs and keep Boston's monster third inning rolling. Jacoby Ellsbury, who'd been moved to leadoff from the bottom of the order, went 4 for 5 with a pair of doubles in the third.
And the Sox, after all the handwringing about having to play musical chairs with David Ortiz, Mike Lowell, and Kevin Youkilis, got all of them in the game.
Actually, the record shows that the Town Team has fared quite well when it has to play by NL rules in the World Series, winning five of seven games. In 1986, the Sox won the first two in Shea Stadium, shutting out the Mets, 1-0, then flogging them, 9-3, and were one strike away from winning Game 6 and the Series. In 2004, they beat the Cardinals, 4-1 and 3-0, sweeping them almost before the champagne had been chilled.
What made the difference yesterday, as it had in Boston, was big-bang Boston slugging, starting with Ellsbury. In the first two games, he'd batted ninth and eighth and hit .188. With no DH, Francona was able to move him to leadoff ahead of Pedroia.
"The feeling was just to break up him and Ortiz and not have back-to-back lefthanded hitters," reasoned Francona. "Since Youkilis isn't playing, we'd like Pedroia to hit second."
It was the first time in Series history that rookies had hit 1-2, but the stratagem worked beautifully. Ellsbury and Pedroia went a combined 7 for 10, scored three runs and knocked in four. "They were on base all night," said Francona. "They did exactly what you hoped your 1-2 hitters would do."
And when the Rockies drew to within 6-5, Francona deftly made a double switch that paid dividends, putting Coco Crisp in center and batting him ninth, shifting Ellsbury to right and removing J.D. Drew, and penciling reliever Hideki Okajima into Drew's sixth spot.
Crisp promptly singled with one out in the eighth (Boston's first hit since the fifth) and came around to score on Pedroia's double. Then Francona, who could do double-switching in his sleep after managing for four years in Philadelphia, did another in the bottom of the eighth.
This time, he replaced Pedroia at second with Alex Cora, who was penciled into the six-spot, while closer Jonathan Papelbon was moved into second. With Mike Lowell on first, Cora bunted him to second, and after Lowell stole third, Jason Varitek sacrificed him home.
That was how the American League champions played National League ball. When everybody in the order gets a hit, nobody needs to be designated. When the Sox skipper knows how to twist his lineup card into a Rubik's Cube and have everything fall into place, it doesn't matter where the game is being played.