The World Series is headed to Coors Field, and unless the quirkiest ballpark in the National League can do a number on the Boston Red Sox, we're in for the fourth straight lopsided Series.
Fenway Park is the quirkiest ballpark in the American League, and while it didn't do a number on the Colorado Rockies so much as Boston's pitching did, the Red Sox are up 2-0 either way. Curt Schilling, Hideki Okajima and Jonathan Papelbon combined to hold Colorado's potent offense to a single run for the second straight night Thursday as the Red Sox won Game 2, 2-1.
The oddness of the stadiums -- Fenway with its angles and corners and huge wall, Coors with its cavernous dimensions and thin air -- makes this Series a good candidate to be one of those where the home team wins every game. The Red Sox would like that, and while it wouldn't work out for the Rockies, they'd have to be OK with it through the early part of next week.
The assignment gets very tough for Colorado at Game 5: Josh Beckett pitching in Denver for the Red Sox, then two games in Fenway, where the Rockies looked lost for two nights. Their last hope at a rally in Game 2, slugger Matt Holliday greeting Papelbon with a two-out single in the eighth, was snuffed out when Holliday managed to get himself picked off by about two feet.
If the Rockies are going to make this a series, it would behoove them to win both games over the weekend. By late Saturday night we'll have an idea whether they're overmatched or whether Fenway or an eight-day layoff made them look bad for two games. I have a feeling it's more like the latter. But it might be wishful thinking. The losing teams have combined to win one game in the last three Series, and I'm ready for a little more competitiveness.
The positive note for the Rockies is that they shut down the Red Sox bats, which had exploded for 13 runs in Game 1. Okajima and Papelbon made headlines with their three and two-thirds innings of one-hit relief and six strikeouts, but the Rockies bullpen, shredded in Game 1, threw three and a third innings of shutout ball of their own.
The Sox pushed across both of their runs, singletons in the fourth and fifth innings, because Colorado starter Ubaldo Jimenez, who allowed only three hits in four and two-thirds innings, lost the strike zone. Both runners who scored were among Jimenez's five walks. The bats were mostly quiet.
So the Rockies will send Josh Fogg, known in Colorado baseball circles for winning games against big-name pitchers, in Game 3 against Daisuke Matsuzaka, who didn't have a year worthy of his big name but who's capable of big things.
The Rockies have made occasional headlines with their identity as a team built on Christianity ever since an article on the subject appeared in USA Today last year. One gathers that they'll be doing some pretty heavy praying on the off day.
Who knows. Might help. But, to paraphrase my favorite boxing joke yet again, it wouldn't hurt if they could hit a little too.
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Fox uses "Sounds of the Game" well [PERMALINK]
Superb work by Fox with its "Sounds of the Game" feature Thursday night. Fox has for years put microphones on players and coaches, then wasted the opportunity to enlighten fans about the great hidden aspect of professional sports -- what it sounds like on the field.
The network has provided a steady stream of pointless conversations like the one recorded Wednesday and shown Thursday in which Royce Clayton of the Sox chatted with teammate Jacoby Ellsbury about a fast-food promotion. Wonder how they chose that scintillating clip.
But Fox also actually used one of those mikes Thursday the way it should have been doing all along and only rarely bothered to. It offered bits and pieces of the running, mostly one-way conversation between Colorado pitching coach Bob Apodaca and 23-year-old starter Ubaldo Jimenez.
In the bottom of the fourth inning Jimenez was in a jam, with runners at the corners, two outs, a run over and the score tied. Apodaca visited the mound before Julio Lugo's at-bat, and analyst Tim McCarver speculated that Apodaca was talking to Jimenez, catcher Yorvit Torrealba and shortstop Troy Tulowitzki about how to defend a possible steal of second by the runner, Ellsbury.
Jimenez threw one pitch, a strike, and then Joe Buck said, "Here's what Bob Apodaca had to say on the mound."
Cut to a clip of Apodaca, not more than 30 seconds earlier, saying to a nodding Jimenez, "You know what we need to do here, OK? Now we gotta get away from just effort and trying to throw hard and get back to quality. You're not in trouble, they're in trouble, because you're one good pitch to getting outta here. OK?"
Fantastic, and not just because it proved McCarver wrong. This is exactly, precisely the kind of thing those microphones on players and coaches should be used for. Not to capture the witty banter on the dugout rail, but to offer a timely and informative glimpse of the game that wouldn't be possible any other way. As Jimenez pitched to Lugo for the rest of the at-bat, we knew what his pitching coach had just said to him.
We also heard Apodaca coaching the young pitcher between innings a couple of times, including after that inning: "OK, let's get back to attacking the strike zone," Apodaca told Jimenez as he sat on the bench, "not trying to miss contact. You know? They're not going to get the kind of contact they want because of your stuff, but we're going to attack the strike zone. Down in the strike -- just like you started the game."
Then an edit, and: "I don't care who's hitting. I don't care who's hitting. You're in the strike zone with your stuff, we're going to get people out."
Great stuff. More of that please, and less of reserves, nonroster players and last night's pitcher shooting the breeze.
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NFL Week 8 [PERMALINK]
With this column kind of wrapped up in the World Series, we offer this week's picks without comment except to say that, yes, I'm picking both of the winless teams to win this week. Why? Well, What the H --- . (). No, I just like 'em as hunchy picks. The What the Heck Pick of the week takes its annual bye.
Winners in caps, with the picks of my kids, the game-predictinest 4-year-old and coin-flippinest 2-year-old in the Pacific time zone. They take all six-point favorites.
Sunday early games
INDIANAPOLIS (6-0) at Carolina (4-2)
Kids: Indianapolis (6.5-point favorite)
Detroit (4-2) at CHICAGO (3-4)
PITTSBURGH (4-2) at Cincinnati (2-4)
N.Y. Giants (5-2) vs. MIAMI (0-7) in London
We've sent the Dolphins to England as one last payback for that whole impressment of sailors thing in 1812.
Kids: New York (9-point favorite)
Philadelphia (2-4) at MINNESOTA (2-4)
Cleveland (3-3) at ST. LOUIS (0-7)
Buster: St. Louis
Oakland (2-4) at TENNESSEE (4-2)
Kids: Tennessee (7.5-point favorite)
Sunday late games
JACKSONVILLE (4-2) at Tampa Bay (4-3)
Kids: Tampa Bay
HOUSTON (3-4) vs. San Diego (3-3), site TBD
Kids: San Diego
BUFFALO (2-4) at N.Y. Jets (1-6)
Buster: New York
NEW ORLEANS (2-4) at San Francisco (2-4)
Kids: San Francisco
Washington (4-2) at NEW ENGLAND (7-0)
Kids: New England (16-point favorite)
Monday night game
Green Bay (5-1) at DENVER (3-3)
Buster: Green Bay
Season record: 63-40
Last week: 8-6
What the Heck Picks: 0-7
Result Dolphins fans are rooting for: Visa problems
Previous column: World Series Game 1
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