Commentary

Who's hot? Everyone in a Red Sox uniform

Originally Published: October 24, 2007
By Jayson Stark | ESPN.com

BOSTON -- Are they still up there, working those counts? Drawing their 78th bases-loaded walk of the night? Cranking those doubles up the gaps, down the lines, off the Monster?

Has Manny Ramirez made an out yet? Did Kevin Youkilis ever get rescued from the basepaths -- or is he still out there?

Have the Boston Red Sox stopped scoring yet? Or is Game 1 of the World Series still going on?

Sorry. We should know this stuff. But watching the Red Sox orbit those bases Wednesday night gave us a serious case of vertigo.

And if they made us dizzy, you can only imagine all the afflictions they must have laid on those poor Colorado Rockies.

Ya think the Rockies were getting nostalgic for that Arizona Diamondbacks lineup Wednesday as Game 1 of this World Series unraveled on them? The Rockies gave up eight runs to Arizona in the entire NLCS. They gave up nine runs just in a span of (gulp) 14 hitters Wednesday, on the way to a 13-1 mashing by the Red Sox.

You can mark down that 13-1 score as the most lopsided Game 1 blowout in World Series history. And if you want to chalk that up to rust, eight-day layoffs, jet lag or sea-level readjustment issues on the part of the Rockies, go right ahead.

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But it sure seemed as if it had a lot more to do with (A) the Christy Mathewson of his generation (aka Josh Beckett) and (B) the hottest lineup ever to march to home plate in the annals of 103 Octobers.

Wait. Did we just say "the hottest lineup ever to march to home plate in the annals of 103 Octobers?"

Yep. We sure did. Which means ... hotter than the '27 Yankees. Hotter than the '36 Yankees. Hotter than "The Big Red Machine." Hotter even than the 2004 Red Sox.

Seriously. We can say that because this makes three straight postseason games now that these Red Sox have scored in double figures: 12 runs in Game 6 against Cleveland, 11 more runs in Game 7 against Cleveland, and another 13 runs in Game 1 of the World Series.

So let's see now. How many other teams have ever rolled up more than 10 runs in three consecutive postseason games? That would be ... exactly ... zero.

"It's fun to watch," said hitting coach Dave Magadan, after his team had made him look like the Albert Einstein of hitting coaches. "When we get like this, I just try to stay out of their way. They're in a zone right now where all I've got to do is let them know what the pitcher's got and what approach we need to have against him. And they're so good at following through on that ... it's just fun to watch."

Yeah, well, that's easy for him to say. For the Rockies, on the other hand, the scenery apparently wasn't quite as much fun to behold as, say, a fall foliage tour.

Asked to describe what it's like to see those Red Sox hitters stomping into the batter's box, Rockies pitching coach Bob Apodaca put it this way: "[They're] big hairy-chested guys, one after another, who work the count and pounce on your mistakes."

[+] EnlargeKevin Youkilis
Ron Vesely/MLB Photos via Getty ImagesKevin Youkilis had two hits (both doubles) and scored three runs for the Red Sox.

We can't personally vouch for the veracity of that chest-hair scouting report. But the part about working the count and pouncing on mistakes, one after another? It's safe to say he nailed that part.

"It's just havoc, man," said Red Sox infielder Royce Clayton, "up and down the lineup."

What we saw Wednesday -- what we've seen from this lineup over the last few games -- shouldn't be possible, or even legal, this time of year. Not in October. Not against the best pitchers alive (Non-Josh Beckett Division).

But over the last four games -- games started by C.C. Sabathia, Fausto Carmona, Jake Westbrook and Wednesday's innocent victim, Jeff Francis -- the Red Sox have outscored the Indians and Rockies by the narrow margin of (yikes) 43-6.

That's 43 runs in 33 innings. Not to mention the second-largest run differential any team has piled up over a four-game span in postseason history (behind only the '96 Braves).

And what those Red Sox thumpers did Wednesday -- against a team that was 21-1 over the last five weeks, and against a pitching staff that came into this World Series with a 2.08 postseason ERA -- was flat-out ridiculous. For instance:

• The all-time World Series record for extra-base hits in a game was nine -- set 82 years ago by the 1925 Pirates (in a game started by Walter Johnson). The Red Sox not only tied that record. They'd tied it with two outs in the fifth inning.

• The most runs ever scored in Game 1 of any of the previous 102 World Series was 12. The Red Sox racked up 13 before they'd even made their 15th out.

• And no team had ever staged a two-out rally in which it went an entire turn through its lineup -- all nine hitters -- with every one of them reaching base in any inning of the previous 597 World Series games ever played. But the Red Sox did that in the fifth inning of this game (on five hits and four walks).

[The Red Sox hitters] are going to make the pitcher throw three tough pitches to get them out. ... Every guy is seeing five, six, seven, eight pitches. And then boom ... one swing of the bat. It makes it tough.

--Red Sox hitting coach Dave Magadan

"You know," said Lowell, when informed of some of those feats, "when you hear that stuff after the fact, you say, 'Wow. We did that.' But while you're doing it, you're so focused, on every pitch, every inning, every at-bat, you don't even think about it."

Neverthless, it's the sheer accumulation of what they do every pitch, every inning, every at-bat, that makes all this possible -- and makes this lineup what it is -- an official pitcher's nightmare.

The leadoff man, that pesky 4-foot-6 (or whatever he is) Dustin Pedroia, is now 8-for-18 over his last four games, with two homers, three doubles, seven runs scored, six RBIs and three walks. And all he did to kick off this game was crunch the second World Series pitch ever tossed in his direction over the Monster for a historic leadoff home run.

That bomb made Pedroia just the second player in history to lead off the first inning of any World Series opener with a homer. And he and the other guy to do it -- the Orioles' Don Buford (who homered off Tom Seaver in the 1969 opener) -- are also the only two leadoff men ever to do that in the first World Series at-bats of their careers.

Asked if he'd gone up there trying to hit a home run, Pedroia laughed.

"I think I hit, like, 10 all year," he retorted. "So ... no."

But he admitted that he did head up there thinking about setting a tone. And he sure accomplished that.

"Yeah, it was great," Lowell deadpanned, "because it meant he could come back to the dugout and tell us how hard he hit that ball."

It also meant, however, that the volcanic Red Sox offense was right back in full-throttle lava flow. So by the time the first inning was over, they'd mugged Francis for five hits and three runs -- making this just the ninth time in World Series history that a team had scored that many runs in the first inning of Game 1.

It took Francis 30 pitches to survive that inning. And there was more where that came from. By the end of the second, he was already up to 57 pitches. And he was gone after four innings -- forced to hurl 103 pitches just to get 12 outs. "That," said Clayton, "is unbelievable."

But after Francis departed, down 6-1, this mess just got messier. Franklin Morales succeeded him -- and became the first pitcher in any postseason game in history to give up seven runs or more without even making it through an inning. Oof.

[+] EnlargeDavid Ortiz
Greg M. Cooper/US PresswireDavid Ortiz had three hits, including two doubles, to lead a 17-hit attack in the Red Sox's 13-1 win in Game 1.

Then Ryan Speier stalked in and became the first reliever in World Series history to face three hitters and walk all of them.

So by the time the sixth inning was through, 24 Red Sox had already reached base via a hit or a walk, there were 13 runs on the board, and four Rockies pitchers had combined to throw (ready?) 180 pitches -- to get 18 outs.

"One-hundred eighty?" Clayton gulped. "I've never heard of that."

"All that means," Lowell quipped, "is that [catcher] Yorvit Torrealba had to squat a lot more."

Except, of course, that's not all it means. It means the Rockies had just gotten manhandled by one of the most patient, relentless lineups ever to show up in any World Series. And if the NL champs don't throw more strikes, they're going to meet the same fate as the Indians and Angels did in this postseason. Which ain't good, by the way.

"For me, patience is not necessarily walking," said Magadan. "Patience at the plate is waiting for your pitch to hit. And the byproduct of that can be a walk. But a lot of times, you're going to hit in a lot of hitters' counts. These guys have a real good idea of what they're looking for, and they will be stubborn and wait till they get that pitch.

"They're going to make the pitcher throw three tough pitches to get them out. And when you've got to make three quality pitchers to get hitters out, it's tough to grind and get through the lineup. Every guy is seeing five, six, seven, eight pitches. And then boom ... one swing of the bat. It makes it tough."

Yeah, the booms keep on coming, all right. And in the middle of it all, you find two mashers having just about unprecedented Octobers out of the 3-4 holes -- David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez. Do they ever make an out?

Ortiz bopped two doubles and a single Wednesday. So he has now reached base in 28 of his 51 trips to the plate in this postseason -- a .549 on-base percentage.

And Manny ground out two more singles, a double and a walk in Game 1. So he has now been on base in 30 of 50 plate appearances this October -- a .600 on-base percentage.

"I'm sure the Rockies are over there saying, 'We can't let these two guys beat us,'" Magadan said of that deadly duo. "So they're very careful the way they pitch to them. But the mentality both of those guys have is, 'If they don't give me what I'm looking for, something I can drive, we'll take our walk. We'll let Mike Lowell get the job done. We'll let J.D. [Drew] get the job done. We'll let [Jason] Varitek get it done.' They're not afraid to let the next guy get it done. And that's been kind of the mantra with this team."

It's a mantra that has already sent two tremendous teams home for the winter this month. And if the Rockies don't want to join that offseason baseball-player golf tour, they'd better adjust -- faster than you can say, "Oops, we're not 21-1 anymore."

Jayson Stark is a senior writer for ESPN.com. His new book, "The Stark Truth: The Most Overrated and Underrated Players in Baseball History," has been published by Triumph Books and is available in bookstores. Click here to order a copy.

Jayson Stark | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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