Seeking their sixth consecutive win in a World Series game and fifth straight victory overall, the Red Sox send Curt Schilling to the hill Thursday night for Game 2 at Fenway Park.
Since falling behind 3-1 to the Cleveland Indians in the AL championship series, Boston has appeared unstoppable. The Red Sox have outscored the opposition 43-6 while winning their last four contests, including a 13-1 rout of the Rockies in Game 1 on Wednesday night.
Starting with Dustin Pedroia’s leadoff home run in the first inning, the Red Sox never looked back. They pounded out 17 hits and set records for both runs scored and margin of victory in a World Series opener.
“It’s great for us to come out here and win a game that big, get our psyche up and get our confidence going,” said Boston first baseman Kevin Youkilis, who doubled twice. “The biggest thing for us was to score runs early and often.”
Meanwhile, a Colorado club which swept through the first two rounds of the postseason and had won 21 of its last 22 games overall saw its winning streak and momentum evaporate. The Rockies appeared to have cooled after an eight-day layoff, although manager Clint Hurdle refused to cite the extra time before the World Series as a factor.
“You can ask me all series long, I’m not going to be able to give you an answer on that,” Hurdle said. “We’re a no-excuse ballclub, always have been, we’re going to be. We got outplayed tonight.”
The Red Sox, who lost four World Series—all in the maximum seven games— between their championship seasons of 1918 and 2004, are now making the Fall Classic look easy. Wednesday’s victory was their fifth straight in the World Series including their four-game sweep of St. Louis three years ago. They have allowed a total of just four runs in the last four of those contests.
Schilling (2-0, 3.38 ERA) won both Game 6 of the ALCS and Game 2 of the World Series in 2004, and he’ll try to repeat the pattern Thursday. The right-hander pitched effectively in Game 6 against the Indians on Saturday, giving up two runs and six hits over seven innings while striking out five and not walking a batter in a 12-2 victory. He improved to 10-2 with a 2.25 ERA in 18 career postseason starts.
Schilling, 41, no longer possesses the blazing fastball he had for most of his career, but has remade himself this year into a pitcher who keeps hitters off-balance with his changeups and pinpoint control.
“With the miles that have been put on his shoulder and the games he’s pitched, he’s not the guy that can pitch 96, 97 anymore,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. “But he can still pitch very effectively and still navigate his way through some lineups.”
However, Schilling wasn’t very effective against the Colorado lineup on June 13 at Fenway, as he allowed six runs—five earned—and nine hits, including a three-run homer to Brad Hawpe in Boston’s 12-2 defeat.
He has still fared well against the Rockies over his career, going 11-6 with a 4.44 ERA in 26 outings - 25 starts. Colorado first baseman Todd Helton, though, has usually found a way to hit Schilling, as he is 18-for-54 (.333) with five homers and six doubles in their matchups.
Rockies starter Ubaldo Jimenez (0-0, 1.59) may not possess Schilling’s postseason pedigree yet, but he’s working on it—and he can light up the radar gun the way Schilling used to with a fastball approaching 100 mph.
After going 4-4 with a 4.28 ERA in 15 regular-season starts, the 23-year-old rookie right-hander has been dominant in the playoffs, giving up only two runs and eight hits over 11 1-3 innings in two outings. Jimenez has not earned a postseason decision, but kept the Rockies close enough to win both games.
“That stuff will be electric,” Hurdle said of Jimenez, who has never faced the Red Sox. “That’s the kind of stuff that every once in a while, you step back and you go, ‘Wow! That’s special.’ He’s shown some special poise for a young pitcher. And he’s got good stuff. Anytime you get a swing-and-a-miss pitch against a good offensive club and you’re playing in a small park, that’s important.”
For his part, Jimenez claims not to be intimidated by the task of pitching in the World Series in front of Fenway’s frenzied fans.
“I don’t feel any pressure,” he said. “I’m just really excited about it.”
After this contest the teams will travel to Colorado, where the series resumes Saturday night.