BOSTON — Josh Beckett, Dustin Pedroia and the Boston Red Sox were revved up and ready. Not so the Colorado Rockies, who showed up in Beantown looking rusty not rested.
Back in the World Series with no Bambino’s curse to worry about, the Red Sox flattened the Rockies 13-1 in Wednesday night’s opener.
Beckett got off to the most overpowering start since Sandy Koufax, Pedroia became only the second player to lead off the Series with a home run, and then a relentless offense led by Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz racked up hit after hit.
Boston set a record for runs and victory margin in an opener and finished with 17 hits, becoming the first club to hit eight doubles in a Series game since 1925. After taking a 6-1 lead against Colorado ace Jeff Francis, the Red Sox piled on seven runs in the fifth, when Rockies reliever Ryan Speier walked three straight batters with the bases loaded — the first time that ever happened in a Series game.
“It’s great for us to come out here and win a game that big, get our psyche up and get our confidence going,” Boston first baseman Kevin Youklis said. “We’re playing good ball right now and we got to keep that momentum of playing good ball.”
Make no mistake, these Red Sox are slick, and not just because of an on-and-off drizzle that seemed to dampen the noise from 36,733 fans in Fenway Park.
Colorado has the altitude — the series shifts to mile-high Coors Field this weekend — and had won 21 of 22 coming in. But after a record eight days off, the Rockies looked like a team starting spring training. Just four batters in and trailing by only a run, the Rockies moved their infield in.
“That’s not the way we drew it up,” Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said.
Boston, meanwhile, showed the veteran attitude and stretched a Red Sox Series winning streak to five for the first time since 1915-16. While the Rockies lined up for the introductions on the foul side of the third-base line, looking like World Series rookies, the Red Sox stood shoulder-to-shoulder on the infield side, knowing they belonged.
With stubble on his upper lip and a hint of a soul patch on his chin, the 27-year-old Beckett pitched in the manner of a young Roger Clemens. Coming off his AL championship series MVP, the 2003 World Series MVP blew away the Rockies with 95-97 mph fastballs the first time through the order, then started mixing in a 77 mph curve.
Beckett allowed six hits in seven innings, struck out nine and walked one, improving to 4-0 with a 1.20 ERA in the postseason this year.
Francis fell behind 3-0 in the first inning and was finished after four, giving up six runs and 10 hits. Colorado, which had matched the 1976 Cincinnati Big Red Machine by sweeping its first seven postseason games, lost for just the second time since Sept. 15. The Rockies allowed just eight runs in their sweep of Arizona in the NL championship series and gave up nearly twice that in five innings.
Boston tries to make it 2-0 Thursday night when Curt Schilling, 9-2 in postseason play, pitches against rookie Ubaldo Jimenez.
The winner of the opener has gone on to win nine of the last 10 World Series and 62 of 102 overall. While the 1959 Chicago White Sox and 1996 Atlanta Braves both won their openers by 11 runs, they went on to lose the Series.
It was looking a lot more like March than October by the late innings. Boston brought out bench players, the Rockies rotated relievers and some fans headed home early.
Beckett began the game by fanning Willy Taveras, Kaz Matsui, Matt Holliday and Todd Helton, becoming the first pitcher to strike out the first four batters in a Series game since Koufax got five Yankees to start the 1963 Series, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. And what a five those were: Tony Kubek, Bobby Richardson, Tom Tresh, Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris.
Boston’s batters started right where they left off in Series play. When the Red Sox completed their sweep of St. Louis in 2004, leadoff man Johnny Damon homered on Jason Marquis’ fourth pitch.
Pedroia connected on Francis’ second offering, leaning to catch an outside pitch and yank it just over the 37-foot Green Monster in left. The only other player to homer starting a Series was Baltimore’s Don Buford against Tom Seaver and the 1969 Miracle Mets.
Youkilis then doubled to deep right-center and Ortiz, after trying a bunt, advanced the runner with a groundout. When Colorado moved the infield in, Ramirez singled over Troy Tulowitzki — who might have caught the ball had he been playing back at the normal shortstop position.
Jason Varitek singled with two outs and J.D. Drew doubled to right, with Brad Hawpe sliding to keep the ball from rolling to the low fence. Ramirez scored for a 3-0 lead but Varitek was held up by third-base coach De Marlo Hale. Julio Lugo then grounded to third baseman Garrett Atkins, who just beat him at first with a one-bounce throw.
Atkins doubled off the wall in the second, missing a homer by a foot-and-a-half, and came around on a two-out double by Tulowitzki. Ortiz’s opposite-field RBI double got the run right back in the second — a ball that went just over Tulowitzki and rolled to the wall, where Holliday hesitated to pick it up.
Varitek’s two-run double made it 6-1 in the fourth, and the rout was on. Youkilis and Ortiz hit consecutive RBI doubles in the fifth against Franklin Morales, who got just two outs and was charged with seven runs for a 94.50 Series ERA.
Colorado’s players hung their heads. Given their recent run, this was something they weren’t used to.