DENVER - You look at that $143 million payroll and it's easy to think of the Boston Red Sox as just another checkbook baseball team.
Then you look at the Red Sox' 10-5 victory over the Colorado Rockies in Game 3 of the World Series on Saturday night and quickly realize that there's more to this team than high-priced veteran talent.
The Red Sox are one win away from their second championship in four years, on the strength of two big innings - a six-run third and a three-run eighth.
A pair of rookies keyed both of those pivotal innings in leading the Red Sox to their sixth straight win.
Leadoff man Jacoby Ellsbury and No. 2 hitter Dustin Pedroia combined for seven hits, three runs, and four RBIs in the win.
Ellsbury and Pedroia are 24. They are making the major-league minimum of $380,000. Actually, Ellsbury is making a lot less, having spent most of the season in the minors.
On a team in which Manny Ramirez is paid $18 million and Curt Schilling $13 million, Ellsbury and Pedroia have made equally important postseason contributions.
Particularly on Saturday night.
Ellsbury began the big sixth inning with a double off losing pitcher Josh Fogg. Later in the inning, he doubled in a run.
Colorado scratched back from a 6-0 hole and made it a 6-5 game on Matt Holliday's three-run homer in the seventh.
Boston responded with a three-run knockout punch in the top of the eighth to take the air out of the Rockies' comeback bid. Ellsbury and Pedroia drove in two of those runs with back-to-back doubles.
"They carried the team," Ramirez said of the rookie duo.
"They were on base the whole night," manager Terry Francona said. "They did exactly what you would hope your one-two hitters would do. When they're on base like that and then you've got to face the middle of the order, it creates a lot of opportunities, which we were able to cash in on."
Another low-priced youngster played a big role in the win. Jonathan Papelbon, the team's 26-year-old closer, got the final four outs.
The Red Sox were built on big free-agent signings (Ramirez), small free-agent signings that paid off big (David Ortiz), and shrewd trades (Schilling, Josh Beckett, Mike Lowell).
The team has also been constructed through the draft.
First baseman Kevin Youkilis was an eighth-round pick in 2001. Papelbon was a fourth-rounder in 2003. Pedroia was a second-rounder in 2004. Ellsbury was a first-rounder in 2005. All four came from the college ranks.
"I'm sure there's a lot of people in our player-development department that are pretty proud right now, as they should be," Francona said. "We're the ones that get to stand up there and talk about the young kids, but the player-development people, the ones that spend all the time with them, they've done a great job."
Pedroia entered Game 4 last night hitting .304 with two home runs, 12 runs, and 10 RBIs in 13 games this postseason. Five of those RBIs came in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series against Cleveland.
During the season, the 5-foot-9 second baseman hit .317. He is a top candidate for AL rookie of the year. Not bad for a guy who nine months ago had one goal as he was getting ready to report to spring training.
"I was just trying to make the team," he said.
The Red Sox were once a franchise synonymous with heartbreaking failure. They ended an 86-year World Series championship drought in 2004 and stood on the brink of another title last night. This means young players such as Papelbon, Pedroia, and Ellsbury know the franchise only as a winning one.
"I got drafted the year they won the World Series, so I know it was a special time for them," Pedroia said. "I want to win the World Series like they did. This whole ride we've been on all year has been extremely fun, and we're one game from being the best team in baseball. It's been crazy."
The Red Sox entered last night as the 23d team to win the first three games of a World Series. The previous 22 all won the Series, 19 in sweeps.
So, clearly, the Rockies were facing stiff odds as they tried to extend the Series.
Only once in baseball history has a team come back from three games down to win a best-of-seven series. The 2004 Red Sox did that against the Yankees in the ALCS.
Knowing the Red Sox' history, a reporter from MLB.com asked Francona whether he had any advice for the Rockies. Francona laughed off the ridiculous question and said, "I don't know how to answer that. I really don't want them to win."