Lacking flash, Red Sox dash to 2-0 lead

Boston bullpen effort helps drop Rockies into a deeper hole

Game 2 Thursday night

October 27, 2007|By Dan Connolly | Dan Connolly,Sun Reporter

BOSTON -- There was no offensive explosion, no pitching performance for the ages and not even one thread of a bloody sock to send to Cooperstown.

Thursday night's Game 2 might have lacked the flash of recent Boston postseason victories, but the 2-1 yeoman-like win over the Colorado Rockies put the Red Sox halfway to their goal of a second World Series championship in four seasons.

The biggest moments were of the blink-and-you-missed-them variety: an extra base taken, a sacrifice fly, a couple of important strike threes and an eighth-inning pickoff.

Ultimately, what mattered was the result: The Red Sox have won five consecutive 2007 postseason games and six straight overall in the World Series as they head to Denver with a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven World Series.

Previously, 50 teams have jumped out to a 2-0 World Series lead, and 39 have won, including 12 of the past 13.

"I think what we've said all along ... and we are really good at it, is playing the game ahead of us," Boston manager Terry Francona said. "The next game ahead of us is the most important thing on our radar, and that'll never change."

On a night of understatement, Boston's heroes fittingly came out of the bullpen. Relievers Hideki Okajima and Jonathan Papelbon retired 10 of the 11 batters they faced.

"This was the Pap-Okajima show tonight. That was just phenomenal to watch," Boston starter and winner Curt Schilling said. "A 2-to-1 game in the fifth that ends up 2-to-1 with both of these offenses, that is a testament to how incredibly efficient and dominating these bullpens were."

The only base runner to reach against Boston's bullpen -- Colorado outfielder Matt Holliday, who had four of the Rockies' five hits -- was promptly and easily picked off first base by Papelbon in the top of the eighth.

"It will probably go down as one of the biggest outs in my career so far," Papelbon said.

Unlike Wednesday's 13-1 rout of the Rockies, the Red Sox didn't slip ahead Thursday night until halfway through the game.

Tied 1-1 in the fifth, David Ortiz walked, moved to second on Manny Ramirez's single and scored when Mike Lowell doubled to left field. It was the 12th time in the first two games of the Series that the Red Sox scored with two outs.

The lead was nearly short-lived. In the top of the sixth, the Rockies strung together two consecutive base runners for the first time against Schilling, eventually chasing the big-game veteran with one out and two on.

Schilling, who is a free agent this offseason, tipped his cap to his left and right while walking to the dugout as an announced sellout crowd of 36,730 rose to its feet.

If it were Schilling's last outing at Fenway Park, it will go down as efficient but ordinary. He gave up four hits, two walks and a run in 5 1/3 innings -- lowering his postseason ERA to 2.23 in 19 starts.

"It's a good feeling when he pitches," Francona said of Schilling. "Whatever the situation, you know he is going to be prepared for it."

Okajima, the sensational Japanese rookie, rescued Schilling and the Red Sox. He induced a grounder for the second out and then struck out Brad Hawpe on a pinpoint, 84 mph slider.

As Okajima jogged off the mound, Schilling was on the top step of the dugout, the first to shake Okajima's hand. Okajima retired all seven batters he faced, striking out four.

"Okajima was perfect, just absolutely perfect. Every single pitch," Schilling said.

The same can't be said of Schilling or Colorado rookie Ubaldo Jimenez, but a lack of clutch hitting on both sides kept the game close.

The Rockies scored first -- when speedy leadoff hitter Willy Taveras was hit by Schilling's pitch, moved to third on an infield hit that got past Lowell and scored on a groundout in the first inning.

When the Red Sox scratched back to tie the game at 1 in the fourth, they also did it with speed -- from a most unlikely source: Lowell.

The plodding third baseman went from first to third on a single, sliding just ahead of a perfect throw from Hawpe, the Rockies' rocket-armed right fielder.

It was a risky base-running move -- and it worked. One batter later, Jason Varitek's sacrifice fly tied the game.

Facing an American League team for the first time in his career, Jimenez didn't allow a hit through his first three innings. But he struggled to find the plate, walking five in 4 2/3 innings. The Rockies walked seven Thursday night and 15 in two games.

dan.connolly@baltsun.com

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.