October 24, 2007
OK, so earlier I went over in excruciating detail how Colorado Rockies hitters might be successful against Josh Beckett, it boils down to making good contact with the first pitch if it's in the strike zone, or otherwise seeing if you can work into a hitter's count. Now I want to look at the flip side of the coin, how Jeff Francis might best be able to contain the vaunted Boston Red Sox offense.
First of all, Francis has some advantage in that David Ortiz and J.D. Drew become lesser threats against left-handers. Of course, Big Papi seemed to forget this against C.C. Sabathia in the championship series, so we can only hope his memory is jogged. That said, Francis also has a trait of coolness under pressure, forged by many seasons of pitching in Coors Field and presumably the frozen tundra of his Canadian home, which will help him work in the constant traffic that comes with facing the Red Sox. Note the downward progression in batting average for Francis' opponents as the pressure rises:
Bases clear: .286
Men on: .266
Runners in Scoring Position: .253
Bases Loaded: .250
In 65 at bats with a runner on third in 2007, opposing hitters only got 12 hits, or an average of .184. If you compare that to his opponent tonight, the opposition is 19-for-61 (.311) with a runner on third against the talented Mr. Beckett, and that could play a key role in a short series between two solid-hitting clubs.
So the key to victory for Francis is to continue to maintain his cool under pressure. As he did the first time he faced Boston, he can probably get away with allowing singles and a couple of walks. I really don't know how you avoid baserunners against this lineup, but he's got to avoid leaving the ball up where Red Sox hitters can drive it for extra bases. The Rockies defense will be good enough to get to most of the contact, but he shouldn't expect to induce the same kind of weak swings early in the count we got when we needed them in the Arizona series. Counts will go deep, and the game could drag.
For this reason, I think the Rockies bullpen should get plenty of work while they're in Fenway even if we play with the lead, so look for Clint Hurdle to try and create small advantages with frequent changes to mix the varieties of pitches Boston sees. Winning's not going to come easy tonight or in Game 5, so the team has to maximize every possible advantage it may have for success.
Let's go Rockies.
Brandi Griffin writes about the Colorado Rockies under the name Rox Girl at Purple Row.