Before the World Series started, those who wanted to believe that the Colorado Rockies had any shot of winning the World Series believed they had a couple of reasons for how such an improbable feat could be accomplished.
Of course, the No. 1 most important factor was for the Rockies to split the first two games, the most likely one being Game 2 against Curt Schilling.
And the opportunity was there for the Rockies to play their way back into the series, but Terry Francona made the right call on Schilling with one out in the sixth, noticing that the burly right-hander wasn’t loose and was getting the ball up in the zone again, like he had done in the first inning when Colorado managed to strike for its run.
So Francona brought in Hideki Okajima, who was the difference in the game, hurling 2 1-3 brilliant innings before handing it over to a rested and dominant Jonathan Papelbon.
Many who thought the Rockies had a shot figured they could do well in their three games at home. Now they have to hope they get three games at home.
Here are some of the factors in play that the Red Sox, as some perceive, must overcome:
1). A 1-1 split.
2). Who do you sit?
Without the designated hitter, Francona has to sit one of the following three players — David Ortiz, Kevin Youkilis or Mike Lowell.
Francona has already said that Ortiz, the Sox’ normal DH, will play first base in Game 3 against the Rockies’ right-hander Josh Fogg. That means the Sox will have a liability at first with the defensively-challenged and gimpy Ortiz, who has battled minor leg injuries this season. Youkilis is a better hitter than anybody gives him credit for, and he hasn’t had an error at first all season, but let’s face facts. Youkilis ain’t Ortiz.
You could play Youk at third and sit Lowell, but Lowell had the key double in Game 2. And Lowell is Scott Rolen-good at third. So what you give away on defense at one corner you keep at the other.
2). The big outfield
The outfield at Coors Field is huge, and some think that with Manny Ramirez and his defensive deficiencies in left, the Rockies could take of advantage of that.
There’s one big problem with that line of thinking — you have to hit it to him first. Just like first-base defense is overrated — really, all the Sox will want Ortiz to do is catch the ball on throws, and if a grounder gets by him, big deal, it’s a single — to hurt a team at its weakest points defensively means you have to come up with the big hits.
In scoring two runs in two games, it’s clear that the Rockies don’t pose a huge threat to the Sox right now.
It’ll be interesting to see how Matsuzaka handles the big stage, and give Fogg credit, he’s beaten Jake Peavy in a regular season playoff and Brandon Webb in the NLCS. Dice-K, to our knowledge, has never pitched on Mt. Fuji, so maybe the altitude at Denver will get to him, and worse for Red Sox fans, maybe it gets to his sinker. If it does, maybe the Rockies snap out of their funk and take Game 3.
After that, it would be up to the Aaron Cooks of the world to keep things going for Colorado. And as terrible as ace Jeff Francis looked in Game 1, a potential Game 5 performance isn’t a lock for the Rockies.
Oh, and the Sox would start Josh Bckett in Game 5.
Good luck, boys.