RED SOX 10, ROCKIES 5: Sean McAdam: Sox took the Rockies’ best punch and stood tall
01:43 AM EDT on Sunday, October 28, 2007
DENVER — There comes a time in every postseason series when a team is tested, when a team has to decide what they’re made of.
For the Red Sox, that point came somewhere between the bottom of the seventh and the top of the eighth in Game Three of the World Series.
In the bottom of the sixth, the Red Sox held a commanding 6-0 lead and had outscored the Colorado Rockies 21-2 at that point. Another lopsided win seemed certain and a World Series sweep seemed imminent.
Then it got interesting. The Rockies worked two walks off Daisuke Matsuzaka and Javier Lopez allowed both inherited baserunners to score. In the seventh, Mike Timlin yielded two singles to start the inning and the Sox turned to Hideki Okajima, who had retired all seven hitters in Game 2 — four by strikeout.
But Okajima’s first pitch to Matt Holliday — the Rockies’ Game Two baserunning goat — was drilled some 430 feet to straightaway center.
Suddenly, the Series outcome wasn’t assured after all. Suddenly, the Red Sox command of the Series seemed legitimately threatened. If the Rockies, trailing by six, could steal this one, then maybe, just maybe, the World Series could get interesting after all.
Coors Field came alive. Rockies fans waved their white rally towels. The energy was palpable.
These were the Rockies, remember, who had won 21 of 22 before walking into the Fenway buzz saw Wednesday night. These were the same Rockies who had been down to their final strike in the National League play-in game against the San Diego Padres. In extra innings. Against baseball’s all-time save leader.
So the Rockies — and their fans — don’t scare easily. Not this month, anyway.
When Todd Helton followed with a single, the Rockies had the potential tying run on base and the potential winning run at the plate with no out.
Then, just as quickly as the Series had turned away from the Red Sox, it turned back. Okajima dug in and struck out the next two hitters and got the final out of the inning on a comebacker.
As if to make their point clear, the Red Sox responded by tacking on three more runs in the top of the eighth on an RBI-double by Jacoby Ellsbury and a two-run double from Dustin Pedroia.
Colorado’s last best chance to get back into the Series had come in the span of a few hitters. Then, they were out again, mere fodder for the Red Sox, on their way to their sixth straight post-season victory.
End of story, and in all likelihood, end of Series.
In a way, Game Three was a perfect microcosm of their season.
During the year, the Red Sox led the division comfortably. In the final weeks of the season, finally put to the test by the late-charging Yankees, the Sox steadied themselves and hung on to win their first division in 12 years.
The World Series has been more of the same. An easy win in Game One, a nail-biting victory in Game Two, and finally, as things seemed guaranteed, a challenge put forth, one which the Red Sox capably answered.
They can wrap up their second World Series in four years tonight. They can extend their World Series winning streak to eight straight. They can make it look easy and enjoy yet another sweep of the National League champs, just the way they did in 2004.
It will look easy on paper. The scores will show the Red Sox reaching double figures in runs at least twice on their way to victory.
But what the line scores and game results won’t show is how the Red Sox took the Rockies’ best punch and didn’t buckle, how the Red Sox could have lost control of the Series and didn’t, how the Sox responded like champions.
That’s a title the Sox can’t officially claim until tonight at earliest, but one they might have earned last night, sometime between the bottom of the seventh inning, when the Rockies took their best shot, and the top of the eighth, when the Red Sox answered in kind.