Up 2-0 and a mile high.
We landed in Denver around 4:45am this morning. Needless to say the flight felt a lot shorter after the win than it otherwise might have.
Papajima, that’s mine. It was that or Okibon. Whatever you want to call it those two guys, along with the HORRIBLY unheralded Mike Lowell, were pretty much completely responsible for the 2-1 game 2 win. If you go back and watch Okie’s 2 1/3 innings I think you’ll agree that it was pretty much as perfect and dominating a relief appearance as you could ever expect or imagine on the October stage. Paps was flat out dominating in finishing it up too.
A huge shout out to our advanced scouts as well. The pickoff of Holliday was on them, completely. Our pre-series scouting reports and meetings are far and away more detailed and in depth than anything else I’ve ever been a part of and things like that pickoff are material we cover. For the most part relievers do not throw over unless the sign comes from the bench. That exact scenario was talked about in detail prior to the series, and look what happens. It changed the game. Regardless of the fact Paps K’d Helton to start the 9th it was huge because he’s as dangerous a hitter as anyone in that 8th inning situation.
Mike Lowell, where to start. Throw away the error totals, the guys a consummate gold glove 3rd baseman. He’s a blend of Matt Williams and Scott Rolen to me. Matt Williams never, and I am not exaggerating when I say I don’t think I ever saw Matt drop a ball that hit his glove. Much like Dustin. He threw like Cal Ripken, always one step ahead of the runner. Scotty was far and away the most athletic 3rd baseman I ever saw. Mike seems to be a mix of the two and it’s a pleasure to be able to watch it from the mound. His clutch hitting this year I think has gotten lost in the mix as well as his heads up baserunning.
I find it continually amazing that given the coverage of our sport and the hype around things players do and say that it never fails to ALWAYS come back to fundamentals in the seasons biggest games. Detroits pitchers fielding their position, players throwing to the wrong base, not covering, etc., and then you have the teams that do it right. Mike going first to third won that game, period. Obviously it took Tek getting the ball deep to the OF as well, but if Mike’s not on third it doesn’t matter.
So here we are, 3 games in Denver, needing to win 2. No matter which side of the fence you’re on I would bet you’ll see two teams playing tomorrow that are playing for their lives. We’ll play this game as if we were down 2-0. We have to because the Rockies are backed into a corner and prior to game 1 of the world series they spent 22 straight games being backed into a corner and won 21 of them.
Much is being made of the altitude here. What I can tell you about it’s affect on pitchers is this. Your stuff changes, it’s different. Nothing breaks as sharply here and you have to work harder to make that happen. Changing speeds and keeping the ball down become much more important. The other side effect, for me anyway, was the extra time needed to recover after pitching here. You have to work harder to do the same things you do at sea level, and that being the case I am always sorer after pitching here, for a longer period of time than normal.
As far as how the game changes, that’s a bit different as well. The outfield here is huge, and I mean huge. There is almost an extra field tacked on here, at least it seems that way. The statistics back up the fact that it’s less of a hitters park than it once was, but it still remains a hitters park. The challenges though, are not what some think.
One of the major things that change, due to the size of the field and the long grass, is that you are always pitching with a runner in scoring position, regardless of where the runners are. The size of the field, the length of the grass and often times the depth the visiting teams play allows the Rockies to almost always take 2 bases on a ground ball hit. They play 81 games here and know that opposing teams often times play too deep and they are almost always going 1st to 3rd on ground balls through the infield.
Opposing teams often times have their OF playing deeper due to the parks reputation, when a lot of times the exact opposite approach is the way to go. Fly balls here that get over your head, most times are home runs, especially here. Playing deep is literally giving away ground that sees short pop ups become hits in this park much more so than any other parks out there. Those short pop ups here are often doubles too, instead of singles, because of the parks size.
In any case it should be an exciting and cold couple of days. If we can have it our way we’ll fly home World Champions, but I am pretty sure Colorado plans on forcing a return trip to Fenway.
As to the question that’s often asked, and always answered the same way. Yes I have thought about the fact I’ve made my last start as a Boston Red Sox. It might be the case, it might not. Both sides know how the other feels and when the more important matters are taken care of, it will resolve itself. Neither side is worried or concerned and I’ve stated repeatedly why it’s a non-issue for me. My faith in God means that whatever the outcome here, is what is and was meant to be. It’s that easy. If it was the final game, who can complain? The last 4 years have certainly had their share of ups and downs but I can promise you Shonda, my kids, and I, would not trade a second of the experience. Being able to become a member of this 16+ million people family has been an absolute honor and pleasure. Filled with way more unforgettable memories and experiences than we could ever have imagined or deserved.
If it’s over for us here then the only thing we could honestly say is thank you.