The Boston Red Sox survived a scare in their first World Series game at Coors Field, and now are on the verge of their second championship in four years.
The Red Sox can complete their second straight World Series sweep with a win over the Colorado Rockies in Game 4 on Sunday night at Coors Field.
The 22 previous teams that took a 3-0 World Series lead all went on to win— including the Red Sox in 2004, when they took four in a row from the St. Louis Cardinals to win their first title since 1918.
And should Boston win this game to secure its seventh World Series title, it also would be the first team to sweep consecutive World Series opponents since the New York Yankees defeated San Diego in 1998 and Atlanta in 1999.
“We’re very confident, but at the same time we know Colorado is a great ballclub, and it’s going to be a tough one to get the last one,” said Jacoby Ellsbury, who along with Dustin Pedroia and Daisuke Matsuzaka helped lead the Red Sox to a 10-5 win on Saturday.
Ellsbury, who got the start in center field in place of Coco Crisp, became the first rookie in 61 years with four hits in a Series game. Fellow rookie Pedroia had three hits, including a bunt single that helped set up a six-run third inning against ineffective Rockies starter Josh Fogg.
Matsuzaka—the Red Sox’s $103 million Japanese import—gave up two runs and three hits over 5 1-3 innings, and had a two-run single off Fogg in a six-run third-inning rally for his first major league hit.
“I think that I felt more pressure going into Game 7 of the LCS, so today was easier mentally,” Matsuzaka said. “But the team won, and I didn’t wind up being the one to stop our momentum. So in that sense, I feel very relieved.”
The Red Sox have scored at least six runs in one inning five times this postseason, and their hitters are batting .352 (38-for-108) with 16 doubles in the Series. Boston could set the Series record for highest team batting average, currently held by the 1960 New York Yankees squad, which hit .338 in losing to the Pittsburgh Pirates in seven games.
Colorado, though, made things interesting. Brad Hawpe and Yorvit Torrealba had RBI singles in sixth before Matt Holliday hit a three-run homer in the seventh to make it 6-5. Boston then responded late as Ellsbury doubled home Julio Lugo in the eighth, and Pedroia followed with a two-run double that plated Ellsbury and Crisp.
“Pedroia has been with us all year. He’s a veteran. Ellsbury … plays with a lot of confidence, and there’s a reason. He’s a good player and he’s aware of the situations around him. He prepares,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. “So it’s not just false bravado or acting like he’s confident. He should be confident. He’s a good player and he knows how to play the game.”
Jason Varitek added a sacrifice fly to cap the scoring in the longest nine-inning game in Series history at 4 hours, 19 minutes.
Boston’s Jon Lester and Colorado’s Aaron Cook each overcame life-threatening illnesses to get back to pitching in the majors. They will square off in what arguably is the biggest game of their respective careers.
Lester overcame cancer that cut short his 2006 season and jeopardized his career. Cook left a home game in 2004 suffering from dizziness, and was in an operating room a month later to remove a rib that was pressing against a vein and causing blood clots in his lungs.
“It’s tough enough to get here, and what we’ve been through, just to keep our focus, keep our faith, and just realize—I’m sure (Lester) realizes, too, without me talking to him that baseball is not the most important thing, and once you realize that baseball is not the most important thing in the world, you’re able to relax, put it back in perspective, play it like a game and just have fun,” Cook said.
Lester didn’t make his season debut until July 23, and was 4-0 with a 4.72 ERA in 11 starts. He starts in place of Tim Wakefield, who was left off the World Series roster due to a sore left shoulder.
“I’m pretty excited,” said Lester, a left-hander, before Game 3. “It really hasn’t hit home yet, but I’m sure tomorrow when I wake up and realize that I am pitching that I’ll start thinking about it and getting nervous. But right now it really hasn’t hit home, and I’m just trying to focus on (Saturday), and hopefully we can pull it out again.”
Lester has never faced Colorado in his brief career, but is 6-1 with a 4.75 ERA in 13 career road starts.
Cook was Colorado’s opening-day starter, but hasn’t taken the mound since Aug. 10, when he suffered a strained left oblique muscle in a loss to the Chicago Cubs. The right-hander went 8-7 with a 4.12 ERA in 25 starts.
“He’s the right man for the job right now,” Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said. “We’ll see what he can give us. I know he’s geared up and ready to go. He’s been waiting for this opportunity since he was six years old.”
In a 2-1 defeat at Fenway Park on June 12, Cook pitched well but took the loss. He allowed two runs and seven hits, walked two and struck out four over 7 1-3 innings.
Colorado had won 21 of 22 games before an eight-day layoff heading into their first World Series, where they’ve completely fallen apart. The NL champions are hitting only .222 while their starting pitchers have failed to get out of the fifth inning and have an 11.12 ERA.
“We need to go out and win Game 4,” Hurdle said. “I don’t think you need to overreact or underreact. You just show up, get ready to play and find a way to win Game 4.”