King Kaufman's Sports Daily

World Series: Beckett 1, Momentum 0. Red Sox ace mesmerizes the formerly hot Rockies in a blowout. Plus: "The epitome of our culture."


King Kaufman
October 25, 2007 3:00PM (UTC)

A 13-1 win doesn't count for any more than a 2-1 win does, and that's about all the Colorado Rockies can take from their waxing by the Boston Red Sox Wednesday night in Game 1 of the World Series. That, and they probably weren't going to beat Josh Beckett anyway.

Beckett was his habitual dazzling October self for seven innings, a few of which took place after the Sox had salted the game away with two runs in the fourth and seven more in a fifth inning that lasted longer than some of George Steinbrenner's managers did. If you had Little League flashbacks watching Rockies reliever Ryan Speier walk in three straight runs, you weren't alone.

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This wasn't what you might call your ebb-and-flow kind of game. Beckett struck out the side in the top of the first and Dustin Pedroia hit a home run off Rockies starter Jeff Francis to lead off the bottom half. That's about as good a start as it's possible to have in baseball, or as bad a start, from the Rockies' point of view. And it sort of went downhill for them after that.

Francis and reliever Franklin Morales had nothing. They served up a hearty mix of meatballs and more meatballs that the Red Sox turned into eight doubles to go with Pedroia's homer. The head groundskeeper had a double. Carl Yastrzemski had one.

The Rockies came into this game having won 21 of their last 22 games and they looked like a Double-A team, a junior varsity. Was that National League MVP candidate Matt Holliday gingerly stepping over David Ortiz's -- what else? -- double on the warning track? So much for momentum.

It could have been the record eight-day layoff that did the Rockies in Wednesday. It could have been Game 1 jitters, though it's hard to picture a team that has essentially been playing playoff games for a month suddenly getting all squirrelly in the klieg lights.

It may have just been one of those nights. Those nights can happen to hot teams, cold teams and teams in the temperate middle. On May 19 the Red Sox beat the Atlanta Braves 13-3 in the first game of a double-header for their third straight win, their sixth in seven games and their 13th in their last 16. They were smoking. They lost the nightcap 14-0. Happens.

If there were Game 1 heebie-jeebies, they may have been coming from the dugout. I don't know that big-league ballplayers get the yips for a big game, but I'm sure that some managers do, and I think Clint Hurdle of the Rockies did Wednesday.

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Hurdle likes to play strategic hunches -- which is baseball speak for "He really doesn't know what the optimal strategy is, so he guesses" -- but his pulling the infield in in the first inning with Manny Ramirez at the plate reeked of panic.

Pedroia had hit his home run for the 1-0 lead, and the Sox had Kevin Youkilis at third base with one out when Hurdle had the infield play in for Ramirez. He promptly hit a line drive just over the glove of shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, who'd have caught it had he been at his normal position, and it was 2-0. Ramirez eventually scored on Drew's -- what else? -- double.

Now, we can't just judge Hurdle's move as a failure because it didn't work out. Had that line drive been a few inches lower, the move would have worked out. Bad moves, like good ones, can go either way.

But I don't think Hurdle was going against "the book" so much as he was grasping at straws. In a game between two of the highest-scoring teams in the majors, with his starting pitcher struggling to get anyone out, Hurdle decided to turn Manny Ramirez from a .300 hitter into something like a .400 hitter, on the off chance that he'd hit a grounder right at a Rockies infielder. Didn't happen.

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The episode illustrates how in-game strategy decisions are a much less important part of a manager's job than most fans think. Hurdle guided his team to a magnificent late-season comeback and one of the hottest streaks in baseball history, all of it in huge-consequence games. How is that not a great managing job? Yet he's capable of making strategic decisions that are downright dumb.

But then again, a smart decision in that spot wouldn't have mattered. The Rockies were going to get killed either way.

Hurdle could make nothing but brilliant moves for the rest of the Series, and if the Rockies pitch like they did Wednesday, they'll get swept. Fortunately for them, they won't have to face Beckett again for the next three games, so the pitching needn't be brilliant to win. They'll get Curt Schilling in Game 2, with Ubaldo Jimenez, a 23-year-old rookie with live stuff, going for the Rockies.

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The singularity of the two ballparks makes this Series look like it could shape up as one of those where the home team wins every game, but with Beckett scheduled for Game 5 in Denver, it would be incumbent on the Rockies to win Game 2 and give themselves some breathing room.

More good news for Colorado: As of the last out Wednesday, the score went from 13-1 in Game 1 to 0-0 in Game 2.

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Also nice: Freedom of speech [PERMALINK]

I've been wondering all month what the deal is with that schlocky movie music Fox has been using on its postseason broadcasts, though my interest hasn't risen beyond the level of thinking to myself, "What's the deal with all this schlocky movie music Fox has been using on its postseason broadcasts?"

So I was thinking to myself, "What's the deal with all this schlocky movie music Fox has been using on its postseason broadcasts?" Wednesday when the Fenway Park public address announcer introduced John Williams, the guy who writes all that schlocky movie music. He was there to conduct a subset of the Boston Pops for the national anthem.

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The announcer called Williams "the epitome of our culture."

And that's when I decided to go live among the howler monkeys.

Previous column: Rockies in 7

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  • King Kaufman

    King Kaufman is a senior writer for Salon. You can e-mail him at king at salon dot com. Facebook / Twitter / Tumblr

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