Big game Beckett shines again

Tim Brown
Yahoo! Sports

BOSTON – The Colorado Rockies waited 15 long years and nine longer days to sit in this musty clubhouse, ankle-deep in the "justonegame-justonegame-justonegame" rationale.

It was what they had left from Game 1, from any thought this World Series was going to be all about them and their September, them and their October, what they had done to the National League over 22 implausible games.

"Knowing our team," their starter, Jeff Francis, said, "tonight's over."

He could be confident in that, as the sounds of Boston Red Sox baserunners flitting across home plate were gone, finally, replaced by the whoops from their fans as they passed the visitors' clubhouse.

Things may be different here in the American League, where the team with the $195 million payroll can't get out of the first round, leaving the team that bargain-shopped its way to $145 million and still stacked its rotation with big-game pitchers.

If it would help the Rockies' spirits at all, the Boston Red Sox were pretty deep in "justonegame" themselves, over in their musty clubhouse, not long after they'd set the record for runs in a World Series Game 1, in the 103rd one.

"A loss is a loss and a win is a win," Kevin Youkilis said, dismissing the 13-1 win along with the 1-13 loss on Wednesday night. "You've got to move on to the next day."

The Rockies had slayed about everything that stood in front of them for six weeks, running sturdy pitching alongside a dangerous offense and about the surest defense anybody had seen for a while. But, for another night it seemed these Red Sox are an entirely different kind of beast.

The Red Sox throttled Francis, the Rockies' most decorated pitcher, along with a handful of others, while their own guy – Josh Beckett – won his fourth game of the postseason, further justifying Curt Schilling's opinion of him as "the best pitcher on the planet."

In between the eight doubles (tying a World Series record) and nine extra-base hits the Red Sox banged into Fenway Park's gaps and off Fenway's walls, Beckett was in possession of his usual game, which meant nothing but misery for the National League's second-best offensive team.

Perhaps by design, considering the Rockies hadn't seen a real live (and mean) fastball in nine days, Beckett kept the game at 96 m.p.h. for the entire first inning. He struck out the Rockies' first three hitters – Willy Taveras, Kazuo Matsui and Matt Holliday – and didn't even throw an off-speed pitch until the second inning. Once he had their bats moving, Beckett started in with his curveball, and by the end he'd have nine strikeouts and not a single uncomfortable inning.

In four postseason starts, Beckett has not simply won four times, but shamed 19-game winner John Lackey, 19-game winner C.C. Sabathia twice, and 17-game winner Jeff Francis. He has 35 strikeouts alongside two walks.

And now, Beckett, the ace of these playoffs, hands the ball to Schilling, the ace of many others, to face Rockies rookie Ubaldo Jimenez, who is plenty good, but had to feel at least a few of those 17 hits the Red Sox had.

By the fifth inning, when the Red Sox were going through three Rockies pitchers and scoring seven runs, you sort of had to wonder about Jimenez, who, when asked Wednesday afternoon for his impressions of Fenway Park responded, "I don't feel any pressure," quite a leap from, you know, it's old and pretty.

"Well, one of the strengths this club has had throughout the season is our confidence hasn't been shaken by the results of a game," their manager, Clint Hurdle, said. "Really, a series of games. That being said, that's not the way we drew it up. But, you know what, we have to go out and play, and we've got some pitchers that have to make some pitches. We've got to see some pitches. I feel real confident we'll get back out there and get after it (Thursday)."

At least they're done with Beckett for a while. Beckett established his reputation for these games when he started winning them four years ago. Since Game 7 of the 2003 World Series, he has won five postseason starts in a row, four this October. No one – not Schilling, not Randy Johnson, not John Smoltz, not Jack Morris – has won five starts in a single postseason. Beckett is on the schedule for Game 5, and perhaps Game 7, but the Rockies are going to have to win a game or three to make that happen.

Beckett threw only 93 pitches in his seven innings, or 10 fewer than Francis threw in his four innings. His command was such that it was nearly shocking to watch him walk Ryan Spilborghs with two out in the fifth.

Not much has appeared to impress Beckett lately. He trudges into news conferences, his mood seemingly as airy as his wardrobe of black T-shirts, his face as expressive as a cobblestone.

He has put together one of the great October pitching runs in history, bringing him all the joy of a shrug and a smirk.

"I don't know," he said of these past three weeks. "I hope my teammates are happy. That's who I'm really here to please. If they're happy, I'm happy. They go out there and bust their tail for me all the time, and I feel like I need to really do my part and help carry my load. If my teammates feel like that's what I'm doing, then I'm happy."

As for leaving the game with a 13-1 lead, Beckett looked back, unmoved, and offered, "I held 'em off for just long enough."

Just one game, apparently. Just one game.

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