Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Gorillaz

World Series – Game 1

Red Sox 13, Rockies 1
Red Sox lead, 1-0

The only real drama last night was whether Terry Francona would let Josh Beckett pitch the 7th inning with a 12-run lead. He did, and millions exhaled. And then inhaled again, almost as if it were an involuntary action unburdened by any external stressors. Really sort of an odd feeling this time of year.

The Rockies got caught in a bit of a perfect storm, swinging the bats in anger for the first time in 8 days against a historically dominant pitcher, and pitching against an offense that’s as hot as any post-season squad has ever been. Couple that with their October inexperience, from the manager down, their lack of familiarity with Fenway’s quirks, and the fact that they were due to have a few bounces go against them, and the result was fairly well predictable. Enjoyable and blessedly angst-free after the first inning, mind you, but certainly predictable.

Beckett threw nothing but fastballs in the top of the first, striking out the side in the process. He was Chuck Norris putting a battery on his shoulder, daring the Rockies to knock it off. He was Clint Eastwood, John Wayne, and Kurt Russell as Wyatt Earp. It was a man-sized performance: here it comes, see if you can hit it – because I don’t think you can.

After Beckett roiled Fenway into a suitable frenzy, Dustin Pedroia wasted no time dropping the other shoe, hammering Jeff Francis’ second pitch just over the Monster to give the Sox a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. Kevin Youkilis followed with a rocket double to right-center and scored on Manny Ramirez’ bullet single to right (against an infield that had been drawn in to prevent a run with 1 out in the bottom of the first inning – it says here that Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitski might have been able to catch Manny’s shot if he’d been at normal depth). The Sox plated one more on J.D. Drew’s double to right, and the game, for all intents and purposes, was over.

The Sox got 2 more in the third inning and then blew the doors wide open in the fifth, scoring 7 times on several rockets and a handful of walks issued by the Rockies. All told, the Sox clubbed 9 extra base hits in the game, tying a World Series record. The first 4 hitters in the Sox’ lineup started the game 9-14 with 5 2B, 2 BB, and a HR. Every starter except Mike Lowell had an RBI – before the fifth inning was over.

The 8-day gap between the Rockies’ NLCS victory over Arizona and Game 1 of the World Series was a major story line heading into last night’s game, and it seems obvious that it was a huge factor. Just last year, the Detroit Tigers saw all of their momentum blunted by a 6-day vacation in advance of the World Series. The precedent is there for all to see – it’s not rocket surgery. In baseball, the daily routine doesn’t allow hot teams any time to think – they’re just carried along on a self-perpetuating momentum as the bounces keep going their way. The game’s rhythms and instincts take primacy and the human instinct to look forward and fret about the unknown takes a backseat. Over the last 8 days, all the Rockies could do was think. Think about Josh Beckett, and the Fenway crowd, and Manny and Papi and Youks. And they got steamrollered. The Rockies never had a chance, and it showed on their stunned faces from the game’s earliest moments.

Despite Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal’s protestations to the contrary, I don’t expect the American League Champions to walk over the Rockies. They’ve taken that first punch and tasted the blood in their mouths. I’m pretty certain about the Sox’ makeup. Tonight’s game will tell a great deal about their Rockies’ guts.

I'm headed to rainy Norfolk, VA this evening to begin a sure-to-be futile, stupid, and entertaining weekend-long attempt to recapture my youth with Whitney and a merry band of immature layabouts. Blogging may be sporadic for the next several days, or at least characterized by hungover confusion.

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