So here's the recipe for a Red Sox victory: Get good starting pitching, outstanding work from the bullpen, show patience at the plate and grind out at-bats.
So here's the recipe for a Red Sox victory.
Get good starting pitching, outstanding work from the bullpen, show patience at the plate and grind out at-bats.
It worked 96 times during the regular season, three times during the Division Series, four times in the Championship Series, and now, two times in the World Series.
Thursday night's 2-1 win over the Rockies was more a testament to the Sox philosophy rather than the talent of the players, although you can't discount the latter reason. This is a team that can win many different ways, in a 13-1 wipeout as it did in Game 1 on Wednesday or a tight affair as it did Thursday.
In short, the Red Sox will play the game however it's laid out, and more often than not will come out on top.
"That's the mark of a good team," said relief pitcher Mike Timlin, "to win in different ways and with different personalities. Guys contribute. The big guys don't hit home runs, the guys at the top of the lineup, the bottom of the lineup get guys over, steal a bag here or there. You put pressure on the other team."
That's what good teams do. That's what championship teams do. And the Red Sox are looking more and more like a championship team.
The win gave the Sox a 2-0 lead in the World Series as the series shifts to Denver for the next three games. But you get the sense the series won't return to Boston.
Not judging from the first two games anyway.
"Today we showed we can win the close games too," said shortstop Alex Cora.
The stars of this game were many. Curt Schilling pitched 5 1/3 quality innings, allowing just the one run. Hideki Okajima and Jonathan Papelbon combined to allow one hit in 3 2/3 innings of relief.
And on a night when Rockies pitchers silenced the Red Sox attack, the hitters still made their mark. They picked up seven walks (to go with the eight they got Wednesday), forced Colorado starter Ubaldo Jiminez to throw 91 pitches in 4 2/3 innings and put enough quality swings on pitches
to score enough runs.
"That's the key," said center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury. "At this time of year, when you get a starting performance like that and Okajima came in and threw great and Papelbon closed the door, you have to win those close games.
"Every game you're not going to score 13, 14 runs. The days you get a good pitching performance, you've got to go out there and execute and sometimes play a little small ball."
Thursday's game looked more like a game of attrition than anything, but you get the feeling that despite holding just a one-run lead, they could have played 20 innings and the Rockies weren't going to catch the Sox.
It's dangerous to draw conclusions after two games, but it really seems the Sox are better than the Rockies in just about every facet of the game -- hitting, starting pitching and relief pitching.
There's no guarantee this will continue in Colorado; after all, the Sox have lost three games in a row before. But they sure seem to be on a roll now and they'll be tough to stop.
"We scored two runs in 18 innings in this ballpark," said Rockies manager Clint Hurdle. "That makes it tough to win."
The Rockies touched Schilling for a first-inning run, but that lead vanished in the fourth inning. With one out, Mike Lowell drew a walk, one of five given up by Jiminez, and went to third on J.D. Drew's single to right. He scored on Jason Varitek's sacrifice fly.
An inning later, the Sox took the lead for good. With two outs, David Ortiz walked, Manny Ramirez singled, and Lowell doubled down the left-field line.
That was it for the scoring, but that was enough. The Rockies mounted some threats against Schilling, but they couldn't get break through. Thank the bullpen for that.
In the sixth, the Rockies put runners at first and second with one out when Okajima came into the game. A ground ball to first moved the runners up a base, but he struck out Brad Hawpe to end the inning.
That was the last sniff of a threat. Okajima retired all seven batters he faced in 2 1/3 innings before giving way to Papelbon with two outs in the eighth.
Papelbon gave up a single up the middle to Matt Holliday, one of four hits for Holliday, but got out of the inning by picking him off first base.
"It was just a simple pick," Papelbon said. "I just kind of held the ball and just delivered a basically simple pick-over. It probably will go down as one of the biggest outs of my career so far."
A perfect ninth inning by Papelbon sealed the win.
"It was a phenomenal effort on both their parts," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona of Okajima and Papelbon. "If Oki doesn't throw as many strikes as he did, he wouldn't have been able to stay out there for as long as he did, but he was so good. His command was spectacular."
Okajima threw 20 strikes in 28 pitches.
"That set up the whole game," Francona said.
The win was the sixth World Series win in a row for the Red Sox (they swept the Cardinals in 2004), but they'll control their emotions until they pick up two more wins.
"We have a long way to go," second baseman Dustin Pedroia said. "Obviously, we're excited to win these two games here but we still have a lot of work to do."
-- The Enterprise