Archive for Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Red Sox relax before opener

October 23, 2007

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The grounds crew works behind the freshly painted World Series logo at Fenway Park. The Red Sox will entertain Colorado in Game 1 of the baseball World Series Wednesday.

The grounds crew works behind the freshly painted World Series logo at Fenway Park. The Red Sox will entertain Colorado in Game 1 of the baseball World Series Wednesday.

Boston's Julio Lugo waits to hit during practice. Monday, a day after the Red Sox won the ALCS, about half the team showed up at Fenway Park in Boston for an optional workout. Game 1 of the World Series is Wednesday in Boston.

Boston's Julio Lugo waits to hit during practice. Monday, a day after the Red Sox won the ALCS, about half the team showed up at Fenway Park in Boston for an optional workout. Game 1 of the World Series is Wednesday in Boston.

— Fenway Park was quiet, the Red Sox clubhouse was dry, and Jonathan Papelbon was done with his Irish step dance.

The jubilation of Boston's pennant-clinching comeback was over. There was still one more opponent to face, one that fashioned an incredible streak to reach the World Series for the first time.

Monday's stillness was the calm before the swarm. The Colorado Rockies are coming to town, taking a 21-1 surge into Game 1 Wednesday night.

They certainly should be fresh - perhaps too fresh.

After sweeping the Arizona Diamondbacks to win their first NL pennant, the Rockies will play their first game in nine days. The Red Sox spent most of the time on the field, rallying from a 3-1 AL championship series deficit and outscoring the Cleveland Indians 30-5 in the last three games.

"We've played a lot of intense games but we'd rather go in seeing live pitches in a couple of days than nine days off," said Dustin Pedroia, who drove in five runs in Sunday night's 11-2 clincher.

"They'll be ready. They've waited their whole lives to be in this situation so I don't think nine days of rest is going to affect their play at all," he said.

Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said it was worth the eight-day layoff just to see the city galvanized by the Rockies' first World Series appearance.

"I've enjoyed watching the city embrace it," Hurdle said. "I've been able to go to some places where we're able to be in the background and just watch the buzz from other people. We've gone to places where we've been overly embraced, too.

"All the stories about the down time were appropriate. What will it do to the Rockies? I understand that. But to watch the city - not to have us run right into the World Series - has been really cool."

The weather is Boston for the first two games is supposed to be mild, with mostly clear skies and temperatures in the 50s.

There's no snow in the forecast for the weekend games in Denver. Meteorologist Robert Glancy of the National Weather Service said Monday that Games 3 and 4 should be played in around 45-degree weather.

"We won't have to mess with rain or snow," Glancy said. "We're between storms. It won't be bitterly cold. But stay tuned. Forecasts do change."

ALCS MVP Josh Beckett will pitch the opener against Jeff Francis, who is 2-0 with a 2.13 ERA in his first postseason. Beckett is 3-0 with a 1.17 ERA in this year's playoffs and was the World Series MVP in 2003.

If Beckett is just as sharp Wednesday, Papelbon - a much better closer than dancer - could finish up.

Papelbon put the wackiest touches on Boston's celebration when it clinched the AL East. Standing near the mound in a shirt and shorts, he performed a wild dance while spraying champagne in all directions.

His repeat performance Sunday was more subdued.

"Papelbon put some clothes on this time," J.D. Drew said.

Just imagine his encore if the Red Sox win the World Series for the second time in four years.

"I don't know," Drew said. "He looked like he worked on his dance a little bit between the last time and last night. So we'll see. Maybe he's getting some lessons."

On Monday, there were stacks of bottled water on the clubhouse carpet instead of the ice-filled champagne bins that were quickly emptied less than 12 hours earlier. The plastic sheeting that protected the lockers was gone.

All seemed normal again as about half the team showed up for an optional workout.

That's the way of the Red Sox, a group that tries not to change its approach no matter how extraordinary the situation.

"The mentality is always the same, every day. You play nine innings or whatever it takes," manager Terry Francona said. "I don't think we try to complicate things. That wouldn't be very intelligent. Sometimes this game is really difficult to play. Sometimes you need to simplify it."

There is one difference Francona would love to see: a better performance than the Red Sox had when they lost two of three games to Colorado at Fenway in June. The Rockies won the rubber game behind Francis 7-1, and handed Beckett his first loss of the season after nine wins.

Overall, the Rockies outscored Boston 20-5 in the series.

"They took it to us pretty good," Pedroia said. "So we're going to have to make some adjustments, but I think we're two totally different teams since then."

The Red Sox stayed in first place the rest of the way. The Rockies' big streak forced a one-game tiebreaker with San Diego, which they won in 13 innings.

"They had an incredible run to this point," said Curt Schilling, Boston's probable Game 2 starter. "They're going to play us tough."

They will if their pitchers can tame the Red Sox hitters.

Boston hit .381 (40-for-105) in the last three games of the ALCS. No longer are David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez and Mike Lowell the only threats.

The Red Sox have an edge in experience. They're also resilient. Seven players who were on the ALCS team that rallied from a 3-0 deficit to beat the New York Yankees in the 2004 ALCS were on the team that came back from a 3-1 hole against Cleveland.

What's the secret?

"You just try to relax and do what you did all year," Drew said. "I knew I didn't want to walk off that field an LCS loser. I'd been in that place twice before so it was nice to go home a winner and realize you've still got some more baseball to play."

On that same field, the ALCS logo behind home plate had been replaced Monday by a World Series emblem.

The Red Sox players were relaxed before their final push toward a title. Drew said he would "go lay down and take a nap."

First, he took batting practice to prepare for the Rockies on Wednesday night when the old ballpark will be rocking.

"They've played great," Drew said. "We've got our work cut out for us."

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