BOSTON - The first two games of the 103d World Series have produced a blowout and a nail-biter. The Boston Red Sox have been on the winning end of both and now stand two victories from tasting champagne again.
The Red Sox eked out a 2-1 victory over the Colorado Rockies in Game 2 of the Series last night at Fenway Park.
The Rockies finished second in the National League with 860 runs this season, but the Red Sox, winners of the 2004 World Series, have held them to just two so far in this Series.
Curt Schilling followed up Josh Beckett's Game 1 gem with 51/3 innings of one-run ball and is now 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA in 19 postseason starts.
Schilling got a huge boost from lefty reliever Hideki Okajima, who pitched out of a sixth-inning jam.
In all, Okajima pitched 21/3 scoreless innings and struck out four before handing off to closer Jonathan Papelbon with two outs in the eighth. Papelbon nailed down the save with 11/3 innings of one-hit relief.
"It was the Papa-jima show out there tonight," Schilling said.
The Red Sox are two wins away from another title, but manager Terry Francona said, "Our outlook never changes. The next game is the most important thing on our radar, regardless of what our record is."
After drawing eight walks in their Game 1 victory, the patient Boston hitters worked the Rockies pitchers for seven more last night.
Both of Boston's runs could be traced back to walks. Mike Lowell walked in the fourth and scored the first run on Jason Varitek's sacrifice fly. Lowell drove in David Ortiz, who had walked, with a two-out single in the fifth.
The teams are idle today. Game 3 will be played tomorrow night at Denver's Coors Field.
"I anticipate us playing better baseball when we get home," Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said.
Colorado starter Ubaldo Jimenez started strong but quickly faded. He lasted just 42/3 innings and allowed two runs while walking five.
The Rockies were crushed, 13-1, in Game 1, but all was not lost heading into last night.
After eight days off, eight days of taking batting practice and playing simulated games against one another, they did get to reintroduce themselves to competitive baseball and play a game.
OK, so Game 1 didn't go all that well. Last night, the Rockies were looking to turn it around. The first step was erasing the previous night's debacle from their minds.
"Short-term memory is very, very important in this game," Hurdle said. "One of the strengths of our ball club is the ability to honestly self-evaluate and move on. We didn't do that many things well [in Game 1]. You're on a big stage, you don't do things well, you lose a ball game. We want to move forward."
The starting pitching matchup was a study in contrasts.
Jimenez, 23, has made 16 regular-season starts in his career. Schilling, 40, has made 436.
Jimenez is a hard thrower whose fastball is consistently in the neighborhood of 97 m.p.h.
Schilling used to throw in the high 90s. But age and wear and tear on his shoulder have taken the steam out of his fastball. His typical heater now is 88 to 91 m.p.h. He moves the ball around more than he used to and relies on changing speeds.
This might have been Schilling's last start in Fenway Park. He, of course, is a free agent at the end of the season, and the Sox haven't decided whether to re-sign him.
Schilling held the Rockies to one run on three hits over the first innings.
Featuring hard stuff, Jimenez did not allow a hit through the first 31/3 innings, although he walked three batters.
Control is crucial for any pitcher who faces the super-patient Red Sox. They love to work starting pitchers, wear them out, and get into the opposition's bullpen. During the regular season, only the Yankees (25,322) saw more pitches than the Red Sox (25,314). The Phillies (23,307) and Rockies (25,149) rounded out the top four.
"Discipline is a very, very strong theme throughout their lineup," Hurdle said of the Red Sox. "We need to throw strike one."
Jimenez watched extensive video of the Red Sox hitters. He knew he needed to get ahead in counts.
Nonetheless, the lanky righthander hurt himself with shaky control in the fourth inning. Lowell drew a one-out walk and daringly tested the arm of Brad Hawpe in going to third on J.D. Drew's single to right. Lowell then scored on Varitek's sacrifice fly, making it 1-1.
Poor control hurt Jimenez again in the fifth when he walked Ortiz after getting the first two outs of the inning. Manny Ramirez followed with a single and Lowell doubled as Boston went ahead, 2-1.
Schilling went to the mound with a one-run lead in the sixth but got into trouble by allowing a one-out single to Matt Holliday and a walk to Todd Helton. That was it for Schilling as Francona brought in Okajima.
Okajima did his job, getting Garrett Atkins on a grounder to first before striking out Hawpe with runners on second and third. As Okajima reached the top step of the dugout, he was greeted by a grateful Schilling.