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Archive for October, 2007

Torre, Dodgers Agree to 3 Year Deal; More A-Rod; Schilling, Lowell Go Free Agency

Wednesday, October 31st, 2007

                             Alex Rodriguez

The media is reporting that Grady Little has resigned as manager of the L.A. Dodgers and that Joe Torre and the blue pinstripers have “agreed in principle to a three-year deal worth $14.5 million.”  According to the NY Post report, Torre “could be introduced tomorrow, the same day the Yankees are holding a press conference to welcome Joe Girardi, Torre’s successor, at Yankee Stadium.”

But something smells in L.A. over Littles’ resignation and it’s called two-faced duplicity.

L.A. Times reporter T.J. Simers looks deeper;

Grady Little says he has his own personal reasons for resigning as Dodgers manager, and here’s hoping none of them involve his health or the health of anyone in his family.

GM Ned Colletti says he spent a good deal of time encouraging Little to remain on the job — Colletti apparently really good at multitasking — talking at the same time to Joe Girardi and Joe Torre about taking Little’s job.

“I wanted Grady Little back,” Colletti says on a conference call, no one asking if Colletti is going to be Pinocchio this Halloween.

Colletti says that had Little told him Tuesday he was going to remain on the job, the job would still be Little’s.

There’s also a published report out there that says Colletti had a deal in place to hire Girardi last Friday, the Yankees matching it and taking Girardi away from the Dodgers — saving Colletti the problem of making Little and Girardi baseball’s first co-managers.

Take Colletti at his word, all right, four weeks after he and Frank McCourt tell everyone Little will be back on the job…

Little says, “There’s a lot of belief I’ve been dealt an injustice here. That couldn’t be further from the truth,” but then he calls his resignation “a mutual resignation . . . just something that mutually happened, just something better for the organization.”

Listen to Colletti and Little speak, and maybe there are personal reasons beyond baseball that have Little stepping down — rendering Colletti’s encouragement useless.

But then maybe Little heard rumblings within baseball that Colletti was interested in hiring Girardi, as manager or manager-in-waiting.

Or maybe there was something in the fact the Dodgers had not given new contracts to Little’s coaches, leaving the door ajar for a new manager to bring in his own staff.

“It’s just something myself and family had talked about,” says Little, while declining to say whether the Dodgers have bought his silence with a contract buyout. “It’s not an easy decision, but it’s final. My plans are to play with my grandkids.”

No question that’s going to be more fun than spending time with the babies that occupy the Dodgers clubhouse, but all those years trying to make it to the big leagues, then the big chance in Boston, and heartbreak and another shot at redemption — only to just walk away?

“I have my personal reasons,” Little says.

Colletti and Little deny a published report they had a blowup at season’s end, the same report also having them not talking to each other for weeks.

Also according to the NY Post report, it appears that Torre may be bringing third base coach Larry Bowa and Don Mattingly with him to the Dodgers and, according to the NY Post article,  Alex Rodriguez may just turn up in L.A. on the NL side as well.

One of the reasons Rodriguez opted out of the last three years on his Yankees contract was he wasn’t sure what Yankee life would be like without Torre’s calming presence in the clubhouse and dugout. In the Dodgers, Rodriguez will find a club in dire need of a jolt at the plate and in the stands.

And Yahoo sports’ Jeff Passan cites the Dodgers as the 2nd most likely place that A-Rod will end up for much the same reason.

Meanwhile, up in Beantown, as much as I’d like to see Mike Lowell in a Phillies uniform, his world series MVP award endears him to Red Sox management and fans alike, although Yahoo sports’ Steve Henson quotes Lowell as magnanimously saying;

“For us to come through and do what we thought we were capable of doing is unbelievable…. “We’ve got a lot of people to give credit to.”

It’s getting more and more unlikely that Boston would part with this cog.

But Curt Schilling’s situation may be a different story.  He’s kept busy since winning the world series writing  good-bye letters to a number of his teammates and indicating that there’s a ‘very realistic chance’ he’s done in Boston.

There are persistent rumors that the Phillies are interested in 1-year deal with a 1 year deal with the 40 year old Schilling.  And according to Jason Stark, Phils’ GM Pat Gillick likes short contracts, the Phillies badly need pitching and “Schilling loves a good script.”  Curt Schilling finishing out his career in Philly — a distinct possibility.

Off-Season Begins: Girardi to Yankees, Torre Apparently to Dodgers, A-Rod Opts Out, Renteria to Tigers

Tuesday, October 30th, 2007

        Joe Torre      Grady Little     Joe Girardi

The Red Sox have scarcely dried out from their 2007 World Series winning champagne showers as the off-season began with a bang on Tuesday with some of the big-boys already jockeying for position for 2008.

The Yankees, who sent manager Joe Torre packing after being swept in the division series by the AL Central winning Cleveland Indians, have hired  Joe Girardi to replace Torre.  Girardi penned a 3 year deal, reportedly “worth an average salary of at least $2 million annually.”

And Torre, it appears, is poised to take over the helm for the L.A. Dodgers who apparently are axing their 1st season manager Grady Little.  Dodger owner Frank McCourt, however, is feeling much media heat for the way the firing of Little is going down.

L.A. Times Sports reporter Bill Plaschke poses the following observations and questions;

If the Dodgers have an opportunity to hire future Hall of Fame manager Joe Torre, as several sources indicated Monday, they must do it.

But why couldn’t they have done it 13 days ago when Torre initially walked away from the New York Yankees?

Why did they allow nearly two weeks of silence to twist a knife so deep into the credibility of Grady Little that there is probably no way he can ever manage this team again anyway?

For two weeks, General Manager Ned Colletti has been telephoned with questions about the Dodgers’ managerial situation. For two weeks, he has refused to even return the calls, effectively ending Little’s career here while once again exposing his club’s philosophies as so much hot air.

One recalled a recent interview with McCourt in which he talked about the Dodgers foundation.

“It’s built on hard work, trust, integrity, respect, and it’s built on unselfishness, teamwork and so forth,” he said.

By my calculations, in their treatment of Little, their values batting average is .167.

They have whiffed on trust, integrity, respect, unselfishness and teamwork.

They have connected on hard work, but only because it surely must be hard work, secretly expressing interest in other managers while you still have one under contract.

McCourt and Colletti have handled this like such rookies, you sometimes wonder why a veteran like Joe Torre would agree to work for them in the first place.

Little is a good man who deserves better. He quietly took plenty of bullets this season for a team that, let’s face it, Colletti pieced together as if blindfolded.

It’s understandable that the Dodgers would endorse Little, then, two weeks later, change their tune when Torre is available.

But it’s unconscionable to then allow the process to drag out so long that if Little does return to the Dodgers’ clubhouse next spring, his authority there will be as stained and eroded as Eric Gagne’s old cap.

It is also reported that if Torre accepts the managership of the Dodgers, “his bench coach, Don Mattingly, may be joining him in the same role that he manned for one season with the Yankees after spending three seasons as their hitting coach.”

Meanwhile, a little discussion about the intrigue between Torre and the Yankees.  I had recently, although I can’t remember where, that Yanks owner  George Steinbrenner had turned the reins of the team over to his sons and that the Yanks were to be guided less impulsively.  You might say
that this was to be a
“kinder, gentler” Steinbrenner era.   But judging from the way the Steinbrenners handled Torre according to AP’s report for MSNBC, the treatment seemed neither kinder nor gentler. 

Torre walked away Thursday, turning down a $5 million, one-year contract — $2.5 million less than he made this season, when the Yankees failed to make it past the first round of the playoffs for the third straight year.

New York’s offer included $3 million in bonuses if the Yankees reached next year’s World Series and an $8 million option for 2009 that would have become guaranteed if New York won the AL pennant.

Torre just completed a $19.2 million, three-year contract. The  Chicago Cubs’ Lou Piniella was the second-highest paid manager at $3.5 million.

“Under this offer, he would continue to be the highest-paid manager in major league baseball,” team president Randy Levine said. “We thought that we need to go to a performance-based model, having nothing to do with Joe Torre’s character, integrity or ability. We just think it’s important to motivate people.”

It appeared to be an offer designed to be rejected. Scott Boras, the agent for Yankees star Alex Rodriguez, said players would have interpreted an acceptance by Torre as weakness.

With the kind of “deal” that the Yanks offered Torre, it’s no wonder
that
Torre was insulted.  Another AP report for MSNBC describes Torre’s exit from the Bronx;

He didn’t say goodbye in Yankee Stadium. Instead, he spoke for 67 minutes — one minute for each year of his life — in a hotel ballroom near his home in suburban New York, close to the Connecticut border.

There was no Yankees logo, just a simple desk — appropriately draped in black — and a velvet background in the team’s navy blue.

“An insult,” he said, his voice choking up at times.

General manager Brian Cashman informed him of the proposal on Wednesday night, and Torre traveled from his home to the team’s Legends Field spring training complex in Tampa, Fla., the following morning to meet with 77-year-old owner George Steinbrenner, his two sons, team president Randy Levine, Cashman and others.

“Are you going down to make a deal or say goodbye?” Cashman said on the flight.

“I really don’t know,” Torre replied.

Turned out, the meeting lasted just 20 minutes.

Torre made a counteroffer.

“It was just mentioned and dismissed real quickly,” Torre said. “And at that point in time I realized that it was either the offer or nothing. So at that point is when I said goodbye.”

So long to the pinstripes. Farewell to the most exciting years of his baseball life.

Torre has spent his managerial career looking in players’ eyes and reading their minds. It wasn’t hard for him to figure out the Yankees’ offer was one they hoped he would refuse.

“The fact that somebody is reducing your salary is just telling me they’re not satisfied with what you’re doing,” Torre said. “Two years certainly, I think, would have opened the door to have further discussion but it never happened.

“There really was no negotiation involved. I was hoping there would be. But there wasn’t,” he added.

Meanwhile, agent Boras, announced during the World Series that his client  Alex Rodriguez was opting-out of the remainder of his contract, 3 years, with the Yankees.  It is not now known to what extent A-Rod’s move is fallout from the Yanks’ treatment of Torre or to what extent other factors played a role.  As a result, Rodriguez and Boras caught a lot of flak from the media, from MLB and from the Red Sox. I have often voiced recently how great that Phillies lineup would look with Red Sox 3rd baseman Mike Lowell in Phillies pinstrips.  Frankly, with A-Rod’s baggage and high-maintenance act, the Phillies don’t need the aggravation, nor do the Red Sox even if he’s the best hitter and one of the top fielders in baseball.    

AP baseball reporter Ronald Blum reports for Yahoo sports;

The timing left baseball officials livid, and Boras apologized Monday evening, just after Rodriguez filed with the players’ association and became a free agent for the first time since 2000.

Rodriguez signed his record $252 million, 10-year contract with Texas before the 2001 season. By cutting the deal short, he will have earned $180 million over seven seasons in signing bonus, salaries and his assignment bonus from when he was traded. In addition, he has earned $3.65 million in award bonuses and is in line to gain as much as $1.8 million more for postseason awards this year.

Terminating the contract saved the Texas Rangers $21.3 million they owed the Yankees over the next three years, payments agreed to at the time of the 2004 trade.

Hank Steinbrenner said the team left messages with Rodriguez, and “we really wanted to meet with him.”

“We wanted him to stay a Yankee. We wanted to let him know how much we wanted him,” he said. “The bottom line is … do we really want anybody that really doesn’t want to be a Yankee? How the heck can you do that? Compare him with (Derek) Jeter. Jeter, since he was a little kid, all he ever wanted to do was play shortstop for the Yankees. That’s what we want.”

New York was preparing to offer Rodriguez a four- or five-year extension worth between $25 million and $30 million annually and had hoped to meet with A-Rod to present the offer.

“We expressed our interest in keeping him in pinstripes, and requested the opportunity to convey those feelings to him directly with the Steinbrenner family in an open, face-to-face dialogue,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said in a statement.

Cashman sounded as if Rodriguez’s stay in the Bronx was over.

Another possible piece of fall-out from Torre’s departure could be vetern Yankee closer Mariano Rivera’s next move. 

The New York Daily News staff reports;

“I don’t feel good about it,” Rivera said Wednesday, two days after the Yankees were bounced from the playoffs by the Indians. “I don’t see why they’re even thinking (about letting Torre go). I wish he’s back, definitely. If you ask me what I would want, I want him back.”

The future Hall of Famer’s contract is expiring and he is eligible to become a free agent.

“I mean, I’ve been with Joe for so many years, and the kind of person he has been for me and for my teammates. It’s been great. The thing is that I don’t see why they have to put him in this position.”

Rivera, who recorded 30 saves after a slow start to the ‘07 campaign, says he hopes to speak with Torre soon.

The 1999 World Series Most Valuable Player is looking for a multiyear contract. He wanted to negotiate an extension during spring training, but the Yankees opted to delay talks until after the season.

“I’m going to be open to hear all offers,” said Rivera, who made $10.5 million this season. “The Yankees had the opportunity but didn’t do nothing with it.”

When asked if the Yankees are his first choice, he responded:

“Right now, I can’t tell you that.”

The future Hall of Famer’s contract is expiring and he is eligible to become a free agent.

A more recent report written by Daily News sports writer Mark Feinsand indicates that Torre’s departure does not necessarily mean Rivera’s. 

Feinsand quotes Rivera;

“I know the Yankees are going to do whatever they think is best for the team. I always respect them for that,” Rivera told Sirrius Satellite Radio when asked if he needs to know who the new manager will be before he starts to negotiate a new contract. “The Yankees always have given the opportunity to give us the best everything: the best players, the best coaching staff. They always tried to do that. I don’t think it (Torre leaving) has (anything to do) with me, in terms of signing with the Yankees.”

Those must be welcome words for the Yankees, especially after Rivera spoke out in favor of Torre after the playoffs, saying that Torre’s situation would play a major role in his own pending free agency.

Finally, Associated Press reports for ESPN that the Atlanta Braves dealt shortstop Edgar Renteria to the Detroit Tigers for a young righthanded pitcher, a minor league prospect and cash.

AP reports on the deal;

Detroit filled its No. 1 void Monday, acquiring shortstop Edgar Renteria and cash from the Atlanta Braves for two prospects.

Shortly after reaching the World Series last season, the Tigers pulled off the first major move when they traded for Gary Sheffield.

Detroit hopes this year’s deal at the start of the offseason, necessitated by shifting Carlos Guillen to first base, helps the franchise get back to the postseason after falling short this year with 88 wins.

Renteria, a five-time All-Star, hit .332 with 12 homers and 57 RBIs in 124 games with Atlanta this season.

In exchange for the 32-year-old Renteria, Detroit gave up right-hander Jair Jurrjens and minor league outfielder Gorkys Hernandez.

I’m real happy to be a Detroit Tiger player,” Renteria said. “I know… Jim Leyland and I think I’m going to be comfortable in Detroit.”

Leyland said the Tigers are “thrilled to death” to add Renteria.

“He was a part of the biggest night of my life in 1997,” Leyland said. “To be reunited with Edgar is a thrill.”

Stay tuned to this blog during the off-season as a blogger’s work doesn’t stop with the conclusion of the World Series.

Boston Sweeps Colorado for World Series Championship

Monday, October 29th, 2007

              Red Sox        Mike Lowell

It’s all over but the screaming and the celebrating as the newly crowned Champion Boston Red Sox, winners of 2 World Series in the last 4 years arrive at Fenway in the afternoon.

As many expected, the Red Sox overwhelmed the Colorado Rockies in sweeping them 4 games to none in the 2007 World Series.

But in the clinching game 4 which Boston won by a 4-3 score, as with game 2, the Rockies made it a tight game. 

The Red Sox touched Rockies starter Aaron Cook for single runs in the 1st, 5th and 7th innings, chasing him in the 7th after series MVP 3rd baseman  Mike Lowell’s leftfield solo homer.  Cook tossed 70 pitches for the game while striking out 2 and issuing no walks.

Meanwhile, Boston starter Jon Lester carried a shutout thru 2 outs in the 6th inning before issuing a walk and being relieved by Manny Delcarmen who got the final out of the inning. 

Centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury led-off the game with a double, got to 3rd on a groundout and scored on 1st baseman David Ortiz’s single to rightfield.

Both teams registered zeros until the Red Sox scored in the 5th on catcher  Jason Varitek’s long single to rightfield.

In the 7th inning, both teams traded runs on solo homers, Boston’s by Lowell and Colorado’s by rightfielder Brad Hawpe to rightfield.

In the 8th inning, rarely used pinch hitter Bobby Kielty went ballpark to leftfield on reliever Brian Fuentes for what turned out to be the winning run as Boston led 4-1.

In the Colorado 8th, 3rd baseman Garrett Atkins blasted a 2 run homer to leftfield off of lefthanded Japanese reliever Hideki Okajima to draw to 4-3 and to make the 9th inning dramatic.

But with closer Jon Papelbon pitching, the last 1 2/3 innings were lights out for Colorado and wild victory parties and parades in Boston.

AP baseball writer Ben Walker makes some choice observations about this World series for Yahoo sports;

… No NL team could have blocked Boston this October.

At this rate, New England fans might get spoiled. Francona’s team has become a perfect counterpart to coach Bill Belichick’s bruisers on the Patriots.

As for his comment about NL teams, I have to grudgingly agree.  The  National League seems to be suffering a severe shortage in good, young consistent pitching at all levels; starting, middle relief, set-up as well as closers.  But, that’s comment for a blog entry in and of itself.  It’s off-season winter talk.

Mike Lowell’s MVP is well-deserved.  AP Baseball Writer Mike Fitzpatrick offers these thoughts and observations about Lowell;

Earlier in the Series, Lowell called himself “the throw-in” on the 2005 deal with Florida that brought ace Josh Beckett to Boston. Nobody looks at Lowell that way anymore.

“Pretty good throw-in, I guess,” Lowell said, drenched in champagne as he clutched his glistening trophy in the raucous Red Sox clubhouse. “Icing on the cake. This is just extra special.”

“I’m on Cloud 9. It’s unbelievable,” said Lowell, a survivor of testicular cancer. “We’ve got a lot of people to give credit to.”
 
A key cog in Boston’s powerful lineup, Lowell bats fifth behind David Ortiz and 
Manny Ramirez.

Few could have done it better this year.

Lowell homered, doubled and scored twice in the Game 4 clincher at Coors Field, dirtying his uniform with a headfirst slide at the plate that typified his whatever-it-takes attitude. He hit .400 (6-for-15) in the Series with four RBIs, three walks and a team-high six runs.

Lowell, who also won a World Series ring with the Marlins in 2003, hit .348 this postseason with two homers and 13 RBIs. He did it quietly, like almost everything. But that doesn’t mean it went unnoticed.

It may be a pipe-dream, but here’s hoping that Mike Lowell finds himself playing 3rd base for the Phillies.  But after the season he’s had and his World Series MVP, it’s too much of a long-shot to bet on.

On the Colorado Rockies behalf, their phenomenal late-season 21 out of 22 game run will be remembered for years to come, as will the Phillies’ September charge to catch and overtake the Mets to win the NL East. 

The Rockies have a lot of real good young players and are going to be a force in the NL Central for years to come.

Well, the 2007 season which has been memorable has drawn to a close.  This blog will be around throughout the off-season commenting on the various award recipients, the annual winter exhibition series in Japan, the winter meetings, the trades, free agency, arbitration, etc. as well as bringing many more all-time baseball highlights, through to spring training for 2008.

Many thanks for your readership throughout these past two seasons. Stay tuned and stay surfing to Blogging Baseball.

Red Sox Nearly Caught; Pull Away for Win, 3-0 Lead in Games

Sunday, October 28th, 2007

                   Dice-K        Dice-K with Schilling

The Boston Red Sox pounded Rockies’ starter Josh Fogg for six runs in the 3rd inning, but saw their lead nearly evaporate as Colorado scored two runs in the 6th inning and 3 more in the 7th on leftfielder Matt Holliday’s homer off of reliever Hideki Okajima.  

But the Rockies shot at game 3 was short-lived as the Red Sox pulled away with three runs in the 8th, another run in the 9th and closer Jonathan Papelbon barred the door on the Rockies to insure a Boston 10-5 victory on 15 hits and a 3-0 lead in games in the world series.

Red Sox starter Japanese rookie Daisuke Matsuzaka went into the 6th inning with a six run lead and even helped out his own cause with a two run double in the 3rd amidst the six run outburst where 1st baseman David Ortiz, 3rd baseman Mike Lowell and centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury all drove in runs. 

But Dice-K, who gave up three hits, issued one walk and hit a batter through 5 innings, was touched in the 6th inning for two runs having walked two and given up two hits; copnsecutive RBI singles to rightfileder Brad Hawpe and catcher Yorvit Torrealba.  Matsuzaka was chased having thrown 101 pitches for the game stiking out 5 and walking 3.

Then in the 7th inning, Boston reliever Mike Timlin gave up two hits, was replaced by Okajima who was greeted by Holliday’s 3 run shot to temporarily make it a ballgame.  However, the Sox, led by lead-off hitter and centerfielder Ellsbury’s 4 hits, 2 RBIs game and 2nd baseman Dustin Pedroia’s 3 hits and 2 RBIs, Boston pulled away with four late inning runs to insure the win.

For Colorado, 2nd baseman Kazuo Matsui went 3 for 5 with a run scored as the game was easily the Rockies most productive of the series offensively in getting 11 hits.

For the boxscores and recap on Saturday’s game, click here.

It is evident that the Red Sox smell World Series victory as both teams prepare for Sunday’s game 4. For the Rockies, their 21 wins in 22 games to get the series now just a memory, it is do or die time over the next 3 games — one more loss ends the series.

Baseball Writer Ronald Blum reports Rockies manager Clint Hurrdle’s assessment of the situation for Yahoo sports;

The 22 previous teams that took a 3-0 World Series lead all went on to win, 19 with sweeps.

“It looks like we’re in groundbreaking territory,” Colorado manager Clint Hurdle said.

If the Rockies are the National League’s best, the senior circuit has a lot of catching up to do. Maybe it is the rust of a record eight-day layoff for the Rockies, or maybe the Red Sox really are a league above.

Colorado has been outscored 25-7 and is batting just .222. Boston’s batters have been bruisers, hitting .352 in the Series with 16 doubles. The Rockies were the talk of baseball with 21 wins in 22 games coming into the Series, but they’ve gone into reverse, looking more like the fourth-place team they were in mid-September.

“After 21 of 22, four games doesn’t seem like a whole lot,” Fuentes said.

Boston has won six straight since falling behind Cleveland 3-1 in the AL championship series. While the Yankees owned the 20th century, the Red Sox are one win from becoming the first team to win two titles in the 21st. 

In Sunday’s 4th game, Boston’s lefthander Jon Lester (4-0) opposes Aaron Cook (8-7) for Colorado.  Both pitchers have recovered from serious health issues; Lester from a lymphoma and Cook from a blood clot.

If a game 5 is necessary, it will be payed in Colorado, followed by a return to Boston for games 6 and 7 if needed.

For the boxscores and recap on Sunday’s game, click here.

Holliday’s 4 Hits Not Enough as Schilling, Red Sox Nip Rockies

Friday, October 26th, 2007

                           Curt Schilling         Mike Lowell

Rockies leftfielder Matt Holliday was a perfect 4 for 4 at the plate, but the Rockies only managed 5 hits off of Red Sox pitching as future Hall of Famer  Curt Schilling and relievers rookie lefthander Hideki Okajima and closer  Jonathan Papelbon shut down the Rockies’ hitters for a tight 2-1 win in game 2 of the world series in Boston. 

Schilling, whose 87 mph fastball was a shell of its former self, got through on savvy, finesse, guile and a nasty spitter in mixing up his pitches over 5 1/3 innings.  Number 38 held Colorado to 4 hits, 3 by Holliday and their only run which scored in the 1st inning on a hit batsman, Holliday’s single and a ground out.  For Schilling who walked 2 and struck out 4, it was his 11th career post-season victory against 2 losses.

Rockies rookie starter Ubaldo Jimenez went toe-to-toe with Schilling over 4 2/3 innings, despite walking 5, before Boston took the lead on 3rd baseman Mike Lowell’s RBI double which scored dh David Ortiz, who had walked and moved leftfielder Manny Ramirez, who had singled, to 3rd base.

AP Baseball Writer Mike Fitzpatrick recaps the game for Yahoo sports;

“Tonight we played better, we pitched better. We just didn’t get the big hit,” Colorado’s Garrett Atkins said.

The Rockies flashed their speed in the first, one key element that sent them on that incredible surge into the Series.

Schilling hit Willy Taveras on the left hand with a 1-2 pitch and he raced to third when Holliday’s single deflected off the glove of a diving [Mike] Lowell at third.

[Todd] Helton’s RBI groundout put Colorado ahead.

Jimenez seemed to have the Red Sox spooked early on.

The 23-year-old rookie held Boston hitless for three innings with an array of 96 mph fastballs and sharp sliders. He stayed poised, too, calmly taking time to gather himself behind the mound as Boston’s big boppers stepped in.

Jimenez walked two in the third and Ortiz took a shot at Pesky’s Pole, barely missing a three-run homer on a drive that curled just foul. Tied up on a tough slider, Ortiz later fanned for the third out.

But the patient Red Sox started to wear down Jimenez, laying off balls and driving his pitch count up. Soon, they broke through.

Lowell walked with one out in the fourth and J.D. Drew singled to right for Boston’s first hit. Lowell aggressively turned for third and, with a headfirst slide, beat a long throw from strong-armed [Brad] Hawpe that was just off line.

[Jason] Varitek’s sacrifice fly tied it at 1.  Jacoby Ellsbury drew a walk and stole second, but Jimenez retired Julio Lugo with runners at second and third to end the inning.

Schilling settled in after allowing a run in the first. Twenty days shy of his 41st birthday, he got an inning-ending double play in the second and struck out two in the third. He put the leadoff batter on in the next two innings, but pitched out of trouble.

With two outs in the fifth, Ortiz walked and Manny Ramirez singled before Lowell pulled a 2-1 pitch from losing pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez down the left-field line for a 2-1 Red Sox lead.

Then, the bullpens took over as Colorado held the Red Sox to 3 hits while walking 2 over the final 3 1/3 innings while the Red Sox tandem of Okajima and closer Papelbon gave up one hit in 3 2/3 innings while striking out 6 to preserve the win.

AP’s Fitzpatrick quotes Schilling;

“This was the Pap-ajima show tonight,” Schilling said. “That was just phenomenal to watch.”

The only Rockies hit in the late-going was an 8th inning single by Matt Holliday off of Papelbon, his 4th hit of the game.

AP’s Fitzpatrick describes the hit;

Matt Holliday spun Papelbon off his feet with a shot up the middle for his fourth hit. But the closer got even when he left the NLCS MVP sprawled in the dirt at first base with his first career pickoff.

Yahoo sports’ Tim Brown gives background on the pick-off of Holliday;

Four outs left in a one-run game, the cleanup hitter standing in the batter’s box.

Holliday intended to steal that base in the eighth inning, first pitch, go like hell. The Colorado Rockies had only that left, send Holliday to second base, have Todd Helton find an opening somewhere and somehow, and maybe keep playing for another inning or two.

So Holliday, a 240-pound man who’d accessorized his 36 home runs, 137 RBI and .340 batting average in the regular season with 11 steals, went to sneak a few more inches toward second base.

“I was trying to be aggressive, trying to find a way to get into scoring position,” Holliday said. “I was hoping if I got to second, Todd could find a way to get a single.”

Jonathan Papelbon was unaware.

He was there to get Helton. He looked in at his catcher, Jason Varitek, sure he’d find a fastball. Instead, Varitek was ordering him to throw to first base.

Out there somewhere, a Red Sox scout had seen enough of the Rockies and of Holliday to include this moment in his report. The Rockies will send him. Holliday will go.

A report arrived in Terry Francona’s office. It was passed to bench coach Brad Mills. And with the Red Sox leading 2-1, Holliday singled off second baseman Dustin Pedroia’s glove.

Mills held a sign for Varitek. Varitek made the relay to Papelbon. Papelbon nodded. And Holliday took two steps off first base, shuffled once, and then again.

“In a billion-dollar organization, it does come down to the little things, and … all those guys putting those advance reports together are as much a part of this as the players in some cases.”

Rather than stand, get to his set position and throw immediately to first, Papelbon stalled with the glove and ball at his waist. Holliday leaned out on his right leg. The crowd grew loud, anticipating fastball, knowing Helton as a pretty fair fastball hitter.

“He did a good job of holding the ball against a guy who they might not have had a reason to think was going,” Holliday said. “Obviously, he doesn’t throw over a lot.”

Papelbon jerked his right foot from the rubber, and Holliday knew, and it must have been awful.

“Yeah, I wanted to cry,” he said with mock despair. “No.”

“It’s part of the game,” he said. “He did a good job of holding and going over.”

Holliday lunged toward the bag, his knees churning through the dirt. First baseman Kevin Youkilis tagged Holliday’s hand, arm and shoulder, a foot or more from the base. The Red Sox dashed from the field, and Fenway Park shook, and Holliday brushed the dirt from his uniform and walked slowly into left field. Helton put away his bat and helmet.

While Holliday was the last to know the Red Sox were onto him, Papelbon was only a few seconds ahead.

“I was kind of picking over there just to keep him at first base and not let him get a walking lead,” he said, “and it actually kind of did surprise me, to be honest with you.”

For the boxscores and recap on Thursday’s game, click here.

The series venue switches to Colorado’s Coors Field for Game 3 on Saturday night as well as for games 4 and 5, if necessary, on Sunday and Monday. 

I’m far from sure at this point that one can count out the Rockies at this point.  The came to play in game 2, their pitching held up well against Boston’s sluggers, but they just couldn’t generate offense.  Spacious Coors Field will present a challenge for Big Papi and company.

Boston’s $103 million rookie Daisuke Matsuzaka (15-12) opposes Rockies’ starter Josh Fogg (10-9).

For the boxscores and recap on Sunday’s game, click here.

Red Sox Roll in Opener, Rockies Flat After 8 Day Layoff

Thursday, October 25th, 2007

                 Josh Beckett         Dustin Pedroia

Red Sox leadoff man 2nd baseman Dustin Pedroia, who hit 8 homeruns the entire season, became only the 2nd leadoff hitter ever to lead off a World Series with a homerun.  Starter Josh Beckett was beyond awesome on the mound and the Colorado Rockies, off of an 8 day layoff awaiting the AL pennant winner, went totally flat and were unable to cope with Beckett.  These factors plus a 17 hit Red Sox offensive explosion added up to a 13-1 Boston rout in game one of the world series.  Boston’s win also ended Colorado’s 10 game winning streak and 21 wins in 22 games run.

AP sportswriter Ronald Blum reports on how the game started for Yahoo sports;

Beckett got off to the most overpowering start since Sandy Koufax…

Beckett began by fanning Willy Taveras, Kaz Matsui, Matt Holliday and [Todd] Helton, becoming the first pitcher to strike out the first four batters in a Series game since Koufax got five  Yankees to start the 1963 Series, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. And what a five those were: Tony Kubek, Bobby Richardson, Tom Tresh, Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris.

Then, in the bottom of the 1st inning, Pedroia pounded lefthander Jeff Francis’ second pitch over what they call the “Green Monster” in leftfield and Boston scored two more 1st inning runs as the Rockies pulled their infield in with a runner on third. Leftfielder Manny Ramirez, who went 3 for 4 for the game with 3 runs scored and 2 RBIs, singled over Troy Tulowitzki — who might have caught the ball had he been in his normal position, but he was playing in on the shift.  Rightfielder J.D. Drew doubled to made it 3-0.

AP sportswriter Blum notes;

The only other player to homer starting a Series was Baltimore’s Don Buford against Tom Seaver and the 1969 Miracle Mets.

In the 2nd, while the game remained competitive, shortstop Tulowitzki drove in the Rockies’ only run with a double to centerfield to narrow the score to 3-1.

From there, the Sox plundered Francis for another run in the 2nd inning, 2 more runs in the 4th as the lefthander got through his final inning.   The Sox scored 7 more runs with two out in the 5th inning, all charged to rookie lefthander starter and reliever Franklin Morales, although reliever Ryan Speier contributed to the mess walking the 3 hitters he faced.  Mercifully, Matt Herges came on to get 1st baseman Kevin Youkilis to fly out to rightfield end the onslaught.  

Rockies’ relievers Herges, Jeremy Affeldt and LaTroy Hawkins held the Red Sox scoreless over the final 2 1/3 innings, but  by then, the game was way out of control.

Beckett was masterful through 7 innings allowing only the one run on sic hits while walking one, striking out nine and keeping the Rockies off-balance throughout.  Relievers Mike Timlin and Eric Gagne were perfect over the final 2 innings to seal the rout.

For the boxscores and recap on Wednesday’s game, click here.

The Rockies, who lost for only the 2nd time in their last 23 games, need to shake the rust off in order that they not, as the lead on the Yahoo sports’  Steve Henson column turns the phrase, “flatline fast,” and that the series not get out of control.  Thursday’s game two at Fenway Park features rookie Ubaldo Jimenez (4-4) facing veteran and future Hall of Famer Curt Schilling (9-8) with his 10-2 career post-season record.

For the boxscores and recap on Thursday’s game, click here.