25 October 2007

Red Sox Roll, Rox Rocked, 13-1 in WS Game 1

Game 1 of the 2007 World Series reminded us why we so treasure the proverbial Cinderella Stories: They happen so rarely.

The 2007 Rockies, for all the hype of having won 21 of their last 22 games, couldn't do much against the better hitters and better pitchers from a better team in a better league. Not in Game 1, anyway.

Certainly the 2007 Colorados are a fun story, an inspiring one, and a refreshing change from the Rockies teams that had averaged 72 wins per year in this millenium before this season. But they did only win 90 games in the regular season, and it took them 163 games to get #90, against a league that was generally considered inferior ot the 2007 Junior Circuit. They had a winning record in every month except April (10-16), but in three of the other five months, they were only 1 or 2 games over the .500 mark. Only in July (15-9) and September/October (21-8) did they really play well.

The Rox can sock, with eight regulars or semi-regulars who hit at least .288, and five of those at .299 or better. They led the NL in team batting average and team OBP, and were second in runs scored to Philadelphia. But they scored almost 100 more runs at home than on the road, and hit over 60% of their home runs at Coors Field as well, so clearly, there's still a pretty noticeable park effect, in spite of the humidor they now use to keep that in check. The pitchers, for their part, had almost exactly the same ERA at Coors (a record low 4.34) as on the road (4.29), so it appears that the Rockies' pitchers have found a way to succeed both at home and on the road. Well, it appeared that way until they gave up 13 runs in Boston last night.

Yes, the Rockies had played extremely well through the last two weeks of the season and the first two rounds of the playoffs. But lest we forget, the Rockies were the best team in the NL, at least by Run Differential. Their runs scored and allowed suggested a 92-win team, rather than a 90-win team, slightly better than the Phillies they swept in the Wild Card Series (with a projected 88-win record) and much better than the D-Backs, whose record projected to only 79 wins. They were supposed to beat those two teams, if not necessarily to sweep them.

But the Red Sox? No way. Boston projected to a 103-win team, the best run differnetial in MLB. They've got a potent lineup, especially now that Manny Ramirez is healthy again, having scored almost exactly the same runs per game at home as the Rockies did, and without the thin air of Denver to help them. Last night's starter, Josh Beckett, will probably win the AL Cy Young Award, and had already proven himself in the playoffs multiple times, so it should be no surprise that he mastered the Rockies so easily.

Curt "I Love Myself the Spotlight" Schilling goes tonight for Boston against a 23-year old whose entire major league resume includes only about 100 innings of work, including his two postseason starts. I fully expect him to wilt under the pressure of having to prevent the Rockies' first losing streak in a month, but that kind of youth and cockiness could be just the thing they need to eek out a win before returning to Denver.

When they get there, it will be Dice-K vs Josh Fogg and then Jon Lester vs. Aaron Cook. Unfortunately, Cook and Fogg were not among the Rockies' pitchers who figured out how to win in Colorado, with a 5.31 and a 5.97 Coors ERA, respectively, so I imagine that the Red Sox can win those games if their own pitchers can just keep them in them. The Rockies might have been better off giving Jimenez a start in Colorado, where he had a 3.81 ERA this year, and letting Cook or Fogg pitch in Boston, but it's too late for that now. And don't think they have much hope in a Game 5, if there is one: Josh Beckett's career record at Coors Field is 3-0 with a 3.60 ERA.

Anything can happen in a short series, of course, but it won't. The Rockies will probably steal a win somewhere along the line, and with it, perhaps retain a bit of dignity, but in the end, they won't prove much of a challenge to the Red Sox, who should win it in five games.

It was almost over before it started.

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