It was another disheartening loss for the Rockies tonight, though in a different way this time. So close. In what could be his last start for the Boston Red Sox, Curt Schilling turned in an outing to remember against the Colorado Rockies. After hitting Willy Taveras and allowing an infield hit to Matt Holliday, a throwing error by Mike Lowell allowed the runners to move up to second and third. Todd Helton grounded out to his counterpart Kevin Youkilis, scoring the Rockies’ only run of the night. Schilling proceeded to go 5 1/3 innings, scattering 4 hits and 2 walks on 82 pitches. He was hittable, allowing the leadoff hitters on board in 4 of 5 innings; but he was effective, getting key outs on guys all night.
On the other side, starter Ubaldo Jimenez used his 98 mph fastball and and good breaking ball to good effect. With the Sox coming out very aggresive, Jimenez held the Sox hitless for three innings. I think the logic was that maybe he would start out trying to get first-pitch strikes, and maybe Jimenez would leave something over the plate. After the first time through the lineup, however, Boston turned the patience back on and drew 5 walks off the wild righty. Jimenez threw two pitches behind the heads of Youkilis and Julio Lugo, and had numerous balls in the dirt or way outside. Give credit to Yorvit Torrealba for preventing several wild pitches during this one.
The offensive hero of the game was Lowell, with two key plays that produced both runs for Boston. With the Sox behind 1-0, he was able to to take third on a single by J.D. Drew because he caught Brad Hawpe napping over in right field. As Hawpe sidled over to the ball, not charging it, Lowell turned it on going around second, and beat a hurried throw. Huge heads up play. That allowed Jason Varitek to score him with a sacrifice fly, tying it at one apiece.
The next time up, Lowell had Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz at first and second, and he cranked a 2-strike, 2-out breaking ball through the left side of the infield for a double and the game-winning RBI. What a player. Did you see Manny almost get thrown out at third on that one? What’s he doing?
Schilling was able to command the ball just enough, but got into a jam in the 6th inning. After Kazuo Matsui popped out, he allowed a single to Holliday and walked Helton. Call to the bullpen. Hideki Okajima comes in and defuses an important situation, getting Garrett Atkins to ground out and then fanning Brad Hawpe on three pitches. He keeps going and pitches 2 1/3 on the night, keeping the Rox quiet. No runs, no hits and four K’s for Okajima, what an outing!
Jonathan Papelbon in, top of the 8th. One of the most heads up play of the game was the pickoff of Holliday at first base. It prevents Helton from hitting as the winning run. In the ninth, Paps comes back out throwing 97-98 mph fastballs, and he strikes out Helton to start. HELTON. Atkins flies out to centerfield, and Hawpe swings and misses from the heels to end it. I swear I see smoke trailing off the ball as it zips by these guys.
And just like that, the Red Sox are up 2 games to none on the Colorado Rockies. I just don’t see Josh Fogg and Aaron Cook, who hasn’t pitched for over a month, able to even it up, so there will be some real pressure on Colorado these next few games (remember the last guy who tried to come off the DL for the playoffs? Clemens or somebody?).
Since we won’t have the luxury of a DH in Colorado, there is some debate about who should sit; in my mind, it’s not that complicated. We want to protect Papi’s knee, so we will sit him for one game. First base should not see much action when (if) Josh Beckett starts Game 5; however, that’s lefty Jeff Francis. Cook is an extreme groundball pitcher, so Papi would likely have to run the bases a little more in Game 4 vs Game 3, so here’s what I’d suggest:
Game 3: Ortiz/Lowell
Game 4: Youkilis/Lowell
Game 5: Ortiz/Lowell (Youkilis)
If Papi’s knee acts up, Youkilis could always play Game 5 as well. As for the third baseman for Game 5, Lowell should definitely get first dibs for his defense at the hot corner.
The Rockies bullpen also did a good job, and I was impressed with the way Brian Fuentes threw the ball. But they had to use four pitchers in relief again, because of Jimenez’s short outing. They really need innings from their Game 3 guy, Fogg.
One thing that bothers me. Why does Eric Byrnes look so disheveled after the game? He’s in jeans and a flannel shirt and casual coat, while everyone else is in a suit. And his hair looks like he has yet to shower since the NLDS.