The Colorado Rockies’ high-powered offense has cooled off since the start of the World Series. Returning to the comforts of home could help change their fortunes.
The Rockies host the first World Series contest in the state of Colorado on Saturday night as they try to cut into the Boston Red Sox’s 2-0 series lead and avoid falling in a deeper hole.
Colorado was the hottest team in baseball entering the postseason, winning 21 of 22 games - including its first seven in the playoffs as it swept Philadelphia in the division series and Arizona in the championship series—to reach the World Series for the first time in franchise history. The Rockies also entered the World Series on a 10-game road winning streak, but were outscored 15-2 in the first two games at Fenway Park.
A frenzied atmosphere, however, awaits them at Coors Field.
“I think that’s why they play 81 games at home and 81 games on the road,” Rockies starting pitcher Josh Fogg said. “The whole 50,000 people screaming for you, and you get last at-bats. That’s the reason why they play them that way.
“That’s the advantage. You have a chance to go out there and try to score if their team scores, and it’s tough to play with 50,000 people yelling at you. I’m looking forward to them screaming on my side this time.”
The Rockies no doubt need a morale boost after being humbled in the first two games. They’re batting .180 with 22 strikeouts in the World Series after leading the NL with a .280 batting average in the regular season.
“It’s a little shocking,” Colorado rookie shortstop Troy Tulowitzki said. “You don’t now how to react now. We became used to winning and used to shaking hands, coming into the clubhouse and playing music and celebrating after wins.
“To come in and have it dead quiet? It’s like, ‘Hey, what’s going on here?’ It’s definitely different.”
A major problem for Colorado has been the struggles at the plate from the top of the lineup as Willy Taveras and Kaz Matsui are just 1-for-15 in the series. Taveras, who had missed almost a month with a calf injury before being a surprise addition to the roster for the NLCS, is just 3-for-25 in the postseason and Rockies manager Clint Hurdle may make some changes to his lineup.
“I’m thinking through some things,” he said. “Anytime we get challenged offensively, you always need to rethink things and look at your options.”
One benefit for the Rockies is that Boston’s Kevin Youkilis won’t start. With no designated hitter in NL ballparks, Youkilis—who’s reached base five times and scored three runs in the series— will begin on the bench and David Ortiz will play first base.
Ortiz made 27 appearances at first base over the last three years, mostly in interleague play.
“It’s hard to get one of your guys out of the lineup,” Ortiz said. “But you’ve got to do something.”
The Red Sox have been doing just about everything right since falling behind 3-1 to Cleveland in the AL championship series. They’ve outscored their opponents 45-7 in winning their last five games, and also have outscored foes 39-14 during a six-game World Series winning streak dating back to 2004.
Boston’s Manny Ramirez has continued his strong 2007 postseason by going 4-for-8 in the World Series. Ramirez is batting .421 (16-for-38) with 16 RBIs in 12 playoff games this year.
Fogg (2-0, 1.13 ERA), a Massachusetts native, will try to remain perfect in the postseason for Colorado. He pitched two scoreless innings of relief to win Game 2 of the NLDS on Oct. 4 and won Game 3 of the NLCS on Oct. 14 by allowing one run over six innings in a 4-1 victory.
The right-hander is 4-0 with a 3.50 ERA in his last eight starts overall.
“Tomorrow is the biggest game of the year for us,” Fogg said. “Luckily that’s the way we’ve played the last month, and I think that’s the attitude that everybody in that locker room has right now.”
Fogg beat Boston on June 13 by yielding two runs in five innings in a 12-2 victory at Fenway Park.
The Rockies will get their first look at Daisuke Matsuzaka (1-1, 5.65), who helped the Red Sox capture the AL pennant by winning Game 7 against Cleveland on Sunday when he gave up two runs and six hits over five innings in an 11-2 victory.
The Japanese right-hander believes that the altitude in Denver may affect how he throws breaking balls on Saturday.
“Playing catch today and just feeling things out, I felt I might have to work a little harder on my command while I’m here, and the one thing that I want to be particularly careful about is leaving the breaking ball up,” he said through an interpreter.
Matsuzaka is 0-4 with a 6.75 ERA in his last six road outings, including a 4-2 loss in Game 3 at Cleveland on Oct. 15 when he surrendered four runs over 4 2-3 innings.
The last 11 teams to win the first two games of the World Series at home have gone on to win the title, but Colorado isn’t conceding anything yet.
“We need to go home and take care of business,” Tulowitzki said. “Being down 2-0, it isn’t over. But we’ve got our work cut out for us.”