BOSTON — Jeff Francis looked at Fenway Park and sounded like the wide-eyed World Series rookie he is.
“I’m sure the Red Sox are used to this every day,” he said Tuesday, with more than a bit of awe, “but we’ve never seen anything like this, the bus pulling up into the parking lot, and the trailers and the satellite dishes.”
Welcome to the show, Colorado Rockies, a black-and-purple clad club of Tulowitzkis and Torrealbas unknown to many fans even now, after their amazing run of 21 wins in 22 games.
A team that didn’t even exist until 1993 navigated through the cracked corridors and cramped clubhouse of Fenway, then played catch in front of 37-foot-high Green Monster in left and Pesky’s Pole in right. Infielder Clint Barmes plopped into a red seat in row CC to take it all in.
Josh Beckett was set to start tonight’s opener for Boston, and Francis was slated to pitch for the Rockies. Much has been made of possible snow when the Series moves to Coors Field this weekend, but there was a 30 percent chance of rain for Game 1.
With Colorado coming off a record eight-day layoff since sweeping Arizona in the NL Championship Series, there’s been a lot of debate about rust vs. rest — and what better place to discuss rust than quirky old Fenway Park, which opened in 1912 and is filled with nearly a century of baseball sounds and smells.
“We will not apologize for winning quickly,” Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said to a roomful of laughter.
Last year, of course, the Tigers fumbled and flopped after a six-day layoff and lost to the St. Louis Cardinals in five games — with a Detroit pitcher making an error every night. Teams took notice — a day ahead of today’s opener, Red Sox manager Terry Francona was at the cage running pitchers’ fielding practice.
In some ways, the Red Sox have become the Yankees, an October fixture attracting national attention. Manny and his do-rag, Big Papi and Dice-K are TV staples.
The Rockies? They haven’t been on a FOX Saturday broadcast since July 2004 and haven’t appeared on an ESPN Sunday night telecast since June 2002.
“We’ve been called favorites since Day 1, and look at us,” David Ortiz said, “here we are dancing and just taking it easy. We just have the edge, the attitude to become champions.”
Boston overcame a 3-1 deficit in the AL Championship Series to beat Cleveland. That was nothing compared to what the Red Sox did in 2004, when they became the first baseball team to bounce back from a 3-0 deficit in a best-of-seven postseason series, upending the Yankees. Then they swept the Cardinals for their first World Series title in 86 years, setting off a year of celebrations throughout New England.
Now that the curse has lifted, there might be less pressure. That’s not the Red Sox notion.
“1918, I wasn’t even thinking about coming to life. I never paid attention to any of that,” Ortiz said with a smile.
Boston took over the AL East lead for good on April 18 and ended New York’s run of nine straight division titles. The Rockies were fourth in the NL West at just 76-72 when their spurt began Sept.18. If not for two blown saves by San Diego’s Trevor Hoffman, they wouldn’t even have won the wild card and made their first postseason appearance since 1995.
“We feel anonymous everywhere,” third baseman Garrett Atkins said. “They’re household names over there, and we’re just not.”
Rockies names might not be known in most homes, but they are scrawled inside The Wall. Colorado came to Fenway in June, winning two of three and outscoring the Red Sox 20-5, and some Rockies players partook in the ritual of affixing their names inside the baseball’s most famous fence.
Boston was 51-30 at home during the regular season and 5-1 during the playoffs, benefiting from its accumulated knowledge of Fenway’s idiosyncrasies and ricochet patterns.
“A lot of special things happen here,” Francis said. “It’s a special baseball place: the fans, the players, the team and the city.”
Since its last win on Oct. 15, Colorado had workouts and simulated games. That only went so far.
“The postseason, the World Series, you can’t simulate that,” right fielder Brad Hawpe said. “There’s nothing like that.”
Both teams had some roster news on the workout day: Colorado’s Aaron Cook is in and Boston’s Tim Wakefield is out.
Cook, who hasn’t pitched in a major league game since Aug. 10 because of a strained muscle in his side, has recovered and is down to pitch Game 4. Wakefield, a 41-year-old knuckleballer, was dropped from the roster because of a bad shoulder and likely will be replaced by Jon Lester for the fourth game.
Also, there was this: Rookie Jacoby Ellsbury will start in center for Boston in place of Coco Crisp, injured when he ran into the fence below the triangle as he caught the final out in Game 7 of the ALCS Sunday night.
So enough of the talking. Time to play.
Colorado already has been thinking ahead, perhaps obsessing.
“There’s no getting away from it,” Hawpe said. “This is what you think about when you wake up in the morning. I’s the last thing you think about before you go to bed.”
WHAT: Game 1
WHO: Colorado at Boston
WHERE: Fenway Park, Boston
PITCHERS: Jeff Francis (17-9, 4.22 ERA) vs. Josh Beckett (20-7, 3.27)
TV/RADIO: Channel 8; WKNR 850-AM