August 21, 2014

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Red Sox rely on pitching this time, grab 2-0 Series lead

BOSTON — There’s more than one way to rough up the Rockies.
Boston’s big bats battered them in the World Series opener. Then October ace Curt Schilling and a stingy bullpen shut down Colorado in Game 2.
Relying more on guile than pure gas, Schilling pitched Boston to a 2-1 victory Thursday night and a 2-0 lead in the World Series over the suddenly stagnant Rockies.
“I’m actually ecstatic with the way we’re playing,” Boston third baseman Mike Lowell said. “We’re on the verge of winning a World Series.”
Lowell hit a tiebreaking double in the fifth and the Red Sox got 3 2-3 innings of shutout relief from Hideki Okajima and Jonathan Papelbon to win their sixth straight Series game, including a sweep of St. Louis in 2004.
That victory ended an 86-year title drought and set off a wild winter of celebrations all over New England. Two more wins this year and the party’s on again.
“This was the Pap-ajima show tonight,” Schilling said. “That was just phenomenal to watch.”
The Series shifts to spacious Coors Field for Game 3 on Saturday night, when $103 million rookie Daisuke Matsuzaka pitches for Boston against Josh Fogg.
“Our hometown crowd is probably looking forward to this as much as anything in a long time,” Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said. “We could use the support.”
With no designated hitter allowed, the Red Sox must decide whether to play hobbling slugger David Ortiz at first base or leave his mighty bat on the bench.
If they keep getting this kind of pitching, it might not matter.
“We’re going to make a series out of this,” Rockies rookie Troy Tulowitzki said.
One night after Josh Beckett blazed through the Rockies with 97 mph fastballs in a 13-1 rout, Schilling shut them down with savvy and splitters.
Nearly automatic in October, he improved to 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA in 19 postseason starts and tipped his cap to the pulsing crowd as he walked off the mound — perhaps for the final time in a Red Sox uniform.
His fastball hovering around 87 mph, Schilling held punchless Colorado in check for 5 1-3 innings and became the second 40-year-old starter to win a World Series game. Detroit’s Kenny Rogers did it last year against the Cardinals.
Coming off eight days of rest, the wide-eyed Rockies looked awfully rusty while getting blitzed in the opener. They hardly resembled the team that had won 10 straight and 21 of 22 to earn the first pennant in its 15-year history.
Colorado came to play in Game 2. But Boston’s pitchers were too much for an offense that really hasn’t hit all month. The Rockies’ incredible charge to the World Series masked this fact: they came into Thursday batting only .235 in the postseason.
“Tonight we played better, we pitched better. We just didn’t get the big hit,” Colorado’s Garrett Atkins said.
Okajima entered with two on in the sixth and Boston leading 2-1. He retired Atkins on a grounder and struck out Brad Hawpe to squash the threat.
There was more to come. The rookie left-hander from Japan fanned three straight before he was pulled for Papelbon with two outs in the eighth.
“His command was spectacular, and that set up the whole game,” Boston manager Terry Francona said of Okajima.
Matt Holliday spun Papelbon off his feet with a shot up the middle for his fourth hit. But the closer got even when he left the NLCS MVP sprawled in the dirt at first base with his first career pickoff.
“They gave me the (sign) from the dugout,” Papelbon said. “I kind of just held the ball for a second, got relaxed and did a nice easy pick over there. I don’t know if he was going or what.”
Papelbon finished up in the ninth, securing Schilling’s third win in four starts this postseason and his second save. He and Okajima have combined for 17 1-3 scoreless innings in October.
“It has to change for us. We have to hit better,” Atkins said. “Holliday had a good night, but that was about it.”
With two outs in the fifth, Ortiz walked and Manny Ramirez singled before Lowell pulled a 2-1 pitch from losing pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez down the left-field line for a 2-1 Red Sox lead.
Boston loaded the bases, but Matt Herges retired Jason Varitek on an easy fly ball to end the inning.
The Red Sox won their previous four games by a combined score of 43-6 and became the first team in postseason history to put up double-digit run totals in three straight.
But with a bright autumn moon hanging high behind the right-field grandstand, Jimenez seemed to have the Red Sox spooked early on.
A hesitation in his windup, cap tilted slightly to the side, the 23-year-old rookie held Boston hitless for three innings with an array of 96 mph fastballs and sharp sliders. He stayed poised, too, calmly taking time to gather himself behind the mound as Boston’s big boppers stepped in.
Jimenez walked two in the third and Ortiz took a shot at Pesky’s Pole, barely missing a three-run homer on a drive that curled just foul. Tied up on a tough slider, Ortiz later fanned for the third out.
But the patient Red Sox started to wear down Jimenez, laying off balls and driving his pitch count up. Soon, they broke through.
Lowell walked with one out in the fourth and J.D. Drew singled to right for Boston’s first hit. Lowell aggressively turned for third and, with a headfirst slide, beat a long throw from strong-armed Hawpe that was just off line.
Varitek’s sacrifice fly tied it at 1. Jacoby Ellsbury drew a walk and stole second, but Jimenez retired Julio Lugo with runners at second and third to end the inning.
Schilling settled in after allowing a run in the first. Twenty days shy of his 41st birthday, he got an inning-ending double play in the second and struck out two in the third. He put the leadoff batter on in the next two innings, but pitched out of trouble.
The Rockies flashed their speed in the first, one key element that sent them on that incredible surge into the Series.
Schilling hit Willy Taveras on the left hand with a 1-2 pitch and he raced to third when Holliday’s single deflected off the glove of a diving Lowell at third.
Helton’s RBI groundout put Colorado ahead.

Notable

Matsuzaka left for Denver about 5 p.m in preparation for Game 3.
Of the 50 previous teams that took a 2-0 lead in the World Series, 39 went on to win — including six straight and 12 of the last 13.
Okajima became the first Japanese-born pitcher to play in a World Series game. He struck out four, including former Japanese star Kaz Matsui.
Jimenez had a 1.59 ERA in two playoff starts.
James Taylor, a lifelong Red Sox fan, sang the national anthem.