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Monday, October 29, 2007

Hank Steinbrenner says 'goodbye' to A-Rod

The prime reason Rodriguex bolted from the Yankees was for money and it only goes to prove that once a selfish and egotistical individual always a selfish and egotistical individual.


Monday, October 29th 2007, 4:52 AM

Hank Steinbrenner may be new to the baseball business, but the eldest son of George Steinbrenner knows one thing: If you don't want to be a Yankee, the Yankees don't want you.

That was Steinbrenner's message to Alex Rodriguez last night after he learned that the third baseman had opted out of the final three years of his contract, electing to become a free agent before the Yankees even had a chance to offer him an extension.

"It's clear he didn't want to be a Yankee," Hank Steinbrenner told the Daily News last night. "He doesn't understand the privilege of being a Yankee on a team where the owners are willing to pay $200 million to put a winning product on the field.

"I don't want anybody on my team that doesn't want to be a Yankee."

Rodriguez's decision means that the Texas Rangers will save almost $30 million that had been on its way to New York to help pay for the final three years of A-Rod's contract, which would have paid him $91 million over those three seasons.

The Yankees were planning to offer A-Rod a contract extension of five years and about $135 million to $140 million, a deal that would have kept the two-time MVP in pinstripes through his 40th birthday. The Yankees had not yet made the offer, as they were trying to set up a face-to-face meeting with agent Scott Boras and A-Rod, a meeting that never happened.

The Yankees have said time and time again that they will not pursue Rodriguez as a free agent because of the money they would now no longer receive from the Rangers. Last night, Steinbrenner made it clear that his team had no intention of changing its tune on that stance.

"We're not going to back down," Steinbrenner said. "It's goodbye."

According to Boras, Rodriguez wanted to know what direction the Yankees were moving in before he agreed to any contract extension, something that was unlikely to happen before Rodriguez's opt-out deadline of 10 days after the World Series.

Boras cited the uncertainty over the status of pending free agents such as Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada and Andy Pettitte as A-Rod's biggest concern. As it turns out, all Rodriguez had to do was return a phone call if he wanted that information.

Steinbrenner said last night that both he and his brother, Hal, personally placed phone calls to Rodriguez expressing their desire to keep him in pinstripes, but neither call was returned by the third baseman.

"I'll tell you this: the commitment from my family is '78 through '96," Steinbrenner said of the team's direction. "We will never go 18 years without a championship again. That's our commitment."

If the Yankees stand by their well-stated position not to bid on Rodriguez as a free agent, then one of the most controversial Yankee careers will end after four years of incredible ups and downs.

In his first season as a Yank, A-Rod hit .286 with 36 homers and 106 RBI in 2004. He carried the Yankees through the division series against the Twins and crushed the ball in the first three games of the ALCS against the Red Sox, but he went cold in the four-game fold against Boston, taking a lot of heat for the worst collapse in postseason history.

A-Rod rebounded with an MVP season in 2005, hitting .321 with 48 homers and 130 RBI, but his season ended with a disastrous 2-for-15, no-RBI performance in the five-game first-round loss to the Angels. His 2006 season (.290-35-121) was solid, but another October collapse, this time a 1-for-14 series in a four-game loss to the Tigers, left A-Rod with a label as playoff choke artist.

This year, Rodriguez came to spring training with a new attitude, and it helped him post the finest overall season of his career. But after hitting .314 with 54 home runs and 156 RBI (and a likely third career MVP award), A-Rod managed just one solo homer and three meaningless singles in another first-round playoff exit, likely the lasting image of his time in pinstripes.

Twin peaks: Sox are champs

Boston rides four-game sweep to second title in four seasons
By Ian Browne / MLB.com

DENVER -- A scintillating seven-game winning streak that began in Cleveland with the season on the brink of elimination ended Sunday night with the Red Sox mobbing each other in the thin air of Coors Field of all places, culminating in a World Series championship that didn't take even close to 86 years this time around.
By sweeping the Rockies with a 4-3 victory in Game 4, the Red Sox are champions of Major League Baseball for the second time in four seasons, once again doing it by giving their National League opponent the broom treatment. It was the seventh -- there goes that number again -- time the Red Sox have won the World Series.

It all ended with Jonathan Papelbon, the closer who has been brilliant all year and into the postseason, striking out Seth Smith on 95-mph heat. The fiery right-hander tossed his glove high in the air with joy, took his hat off and then embraced catcher Jason Varitek after saving the World Series clincher for left-hander Jon Lester.

From there, it was a sea of Red Sox piling on top of each other in the middle of the diamond.

"It was just an amazing ride," said Papelbon. "Hopefully this is a sign of more to come. The guys in this clubhouse, we have a chance to be here year after year. We can put a good team out there year after year."

Three years ago, the Red Sox were overjoyed just to do it once. Now, the organization -- which has made the postseason four of the past five seasons-- is hoping to turn into a perennial powerhouse.

Victory did not seem to be any sweeter this time than it was in 2004.

"You know what, what happened in '04, we'll never forget," said Terry Francona, the first manager in Major League history to win his first eight World Series games. "I won't ever forget it. But this is '07, and we said that from Day 1. And we accomplished our goal, and it's not easy to do."

Give the Rockies credit for this: they didn't quit. Down, 4-1, in the bottom of the eighth, Garrett Atkins blasted a two-run homer to left against Hideki Okajima, putting the heat on the Red Sox.

"They don't panic when they're down," World Series MVP Mike Lowell said of the Rockies. "It got a little dicey there after Atkins hit the home run, but Pap's been there all year for us. There's no better guy to have in that situation than him."

It was Papelbon, who didn't allow a run in seven postseason appearances, who recorded the final five outs. It was his third save of the World Series.

There was also a feel-good touch to the end of the script, as Lester, who was undergoing chemotherapy treatments for anaplastic large cell lymphoma at this time last year, fired 5 2/3 shutout innings against Colorado to earn the win in his first career postseason start.
"Words can't describe it," said Lester. "It really hasn't sunk in. Maybe it will sink in when we go ride around Boston with the trophy. Right now, it's just a lot of fun. This is the one you work for ever since you first picked up a baseball. This is what you dream of and this is what you work towards all year."

Aaron Cook, making his first start since Aug. 10 because of a left oblique strain, hung tough (six innings, six hits, three runs) for the Rockies in a losing effort.

But the Red Sox did enough offensively to get the job done. Lowell -- who has a way of making his hits count -- belted a solo homer in the top of the seventh to give Boston a 3-0 lead.

Brad Hawpe drew the Rockies within two on a solo shot to right against Manny Delcarmen in the bottom of the seventh. But after Mike Timlin navigated the Red Sox through the final two outs of that inning, Bobby Kielty opened the eighth with a pinch-hit homer to push the lead back to three runs.

The fact that Kielty hit a decisive home run was symbolic of the way this postseason went for Boston. From the veterans to the rookies to the role players, everyone did their thing.

"You have to have horses," said Red Sox right-hander Curt Schilling. "You have to have Papelbons, you have to have [Josh] Becketts, you have to have Mannys, you have to have Davids, but when you have Jon Lester winning it and Bobby Kielty hitting the game-winning homer, it just speaks to the depth of the club."

Don't let the relative ease of the World Series conquest fool you. The ride to the pinnacle was anything but easy for the Red Sox. They trailed the Indians, 3-1, in the American League Championship Series before climbing out of that seemingly daunting deficit.

If the script sounds reasonably familiar, it should. In 2004, the Red Sox came back from 3-0 down to beat the Yankees in the ALCS, and they finished that championship ride with eight straight wins.

"It's the most impossible thing to get done, and we got it done," said Red Sox slugger David Ortiz. "And [three] years later, we did it again."

Coming into the World Series, the Rockies had won 21 of 22. But the Red Sox cooled them right off, riding their battle-tested playoff horses (Beckett and Schilling) to victories at Fenway, and then having Daisuke Matsuzaka and Lester seal the deal in the Rocky Mountains.

"We had momentum on our side," said Timlin, who has now been a part of four World Series champions. "We came from a tough series with the Indians and we just carried it into this one. They had the time off and it didn't play in their favor, and we rolled."

After taking over first place in the AL East for good on April 18 and winning 96 games during the regular season, Boston went 11-3 in the postseason.

"I'm just so proud of everybody," said Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia, a force in his rookie year. "It took 25 guys and every scout and coach to win this."

In Game 4 of the World Series, the Red Sox again set the tone early. Jacoby Ellsbury, fresh off his four-hit performance in Game 3, led the game off with a double. He moved to third on a groundout by Pedroia and scored on Ortiz's single to right.

Cook held the Red Sox down for a while after that first, throwing three straight shutout innings. But the Boston bats came alive in the fifth. Lowell got it started with a leadoff double to center and belly-flopped home on a one-out single to right by Varitek. After Julio Lugo followed with a single, Cook struck out Lester and Ellsbury to keep it at 2-0.

Things would get topsy-turvy later, but the Red Sox found a way to finish it off. By the end of the night, the infield seats at Coors Field were packed with Boston fans, who cheered the players on for roughly 90 minutes in a post-clinch party.

"I thought there would be a different feeling, because there wasn't sort of the long, dramatic buildup," said Red Sox president/CEO Larry Lucchino. "But it's still exhilarating and still jubilant. Just sitting here now, seeing the players in uniform, Red Sox Nation here with us, it's beginning to hit me right now with the fans cheering. It's a gratifying feeling."

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Piece of cake-Ellsbury, Pedroia and Dice-K put championship within reach

By Ian Browne / MLB.com

DENVER -- Can a team that hails from Boston really know all that much about a pure Rocky Mountain high? The Red Sox, at the very least, are in the most advantageous position possible to find out.
On the three-year anniversary of the day they clinched their last World Series championship, the Red Sox put themselves on the verge of another taste of Major League Baseball's summit. This, after they pounced on the Rockies early, held on for dear life in the middle and put it away late. All of that en route to a thoroughly eventful 10-5 victory in Saturday night's Game 3 of the World Series at Coors Field.

Just like in 2004, the Red Sox are out to a 3-0 lead in the Fall Classic. And they'll try to end it every bit as quickly as they did three years ago, when they gave the St. Louis Cardinals the broom treatment.

Leave it to Red Sox slugger Manny Ramirez to put the current state of affairs in proper perspective.

"We don't want to eat the cake first, before your birthday," said Ramirez. "We've got to wait and see what's going to happen [in Game 4]."

Per usual, the Red Sox weren't making early celebration plans.

"Go out and play [Sunday's] game," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "That's what is in our best interest -- is to play tomorrow's game and see how we do. That's what we always do: stay in the moment."

Creating a chance at another World Series sweep was anything but easy. After building a 6-0 lead by the top of the third inning, the Red Sox had to withstand a furious comeback by the Rockies. When Matt Holliday clocked a three-run homer over the wall in center against Hideki Okajima with nobody out in the bottom of the seventh, Boston's once-commanding lead was down to a precious run. Okajima settled down and got through the rest of the inning unscathed, helping to preserve the win for fellow Japanese rookie Daisuke Matsuzaka.

"Oki has been great for us all year," said Red Sox third baseman Mike Lowell. "I don't think he lets previous at-bats change his focus and change his approach. He goes after hitters and did a great job again today. After that big home run, we just needed to get out of the inning with the lead and see if we can tack on a few more."

Tack, they did. In a key top of the eighth for the Sox, two rookies delivered big hits in succession. First, it was Jacoby Ellsbury (4-for-5, three doubles), who lofted an RBI double that fell just in front of diving Rockies right fielder Brad Hawpe. And Dustin Pedroia immediately followed with a two-run double to right, pumping his fist with excitement when he reached second. Both of those clutch knocks came against Rockies reliever Brian Fuentes.

"[Ellsbury] and Pedroia, they carried the team," Ramirez said. "You have to give those guys credit."

Closer Jonathan Papelbon came on with two on and two outs in the eighth and got the Red Sox out of that jam. He finished it off in the ninth for his second save of the World Series.
Boston will try to try to finish Colorado off on Sunday. Of the 22 previous teams that have led the World Series 3-0, all have gone on to win. Nineteen, in fact, did it with a sweep. The Red Sox will try to become No. 20 in Game 4, when they send left-hander Jon Lester to the mound for his first career postseason start.

Before getting to Lester, the Red Sox turned to Matsuzaka, whose inaugural Major League season has been covered like a blanket by two nations -- Japan and Red Sox -- from start to finish.

Sometimes Matsuzaka didn't live up to the billing of the man the Red Sox invested $103.1 million in. But after coming up with enough to win Game 7 of the American League Championship Series against the Indians, Matsuzaka was also able to get the job done vs. the Rockies, holding them to three hits and two runs -- both of which came home after he left the game -- over 5 1/3 innings. Dice-K walked three and struck out five, throwing 101 pitches.

"I think I felt more pressure going into Game 7 of the LCS, so today was easier mentally," Matsuzaka said through translator Masa Hoshino. "But the team won, and I didn't wind up being the one to stop our momentum. So in that sense, I feel very relieved."

If his pitching wasn't enough, Matsuzaka also chipped in with his bat, belting a two-out, two-run single in a six-run uprising by Boston in the top of the third. Matsuzaka could not have picked a better occasion to come up with his first Major League hit, which gave the Red Sox a 5-0 lead.

"I'm a confident hitter, [and] I love hitting," Matsuzaka said. The Red Sox pinned the Rockies and right-hander Josh Fogg squarely against the ropes in that third, getting big hits from not only Matsuzaka, but also David Ortiz (RBI double) and Lowell (two-run single). Ellsbury started and finished the job, belting two doubles in the inning, joining Matt Williams (Game 6, 2001 World Series) as the only players in World Series history to accomplish that feat.

That was what Francona had in mind when he put Ellsbury in the leadoff spot for the first time in this postseason. Pedroia moved down a spot to the No. 2 hole and was a pest to the Rockies, going 3-for-5.

"They were on base the whole night," Francona said. "It created a lot of opportunities."

Backed by a 6-0 lead to start the bottom of the sixth, Matsuzaka issued back-to-back walks to Todd Helton and Garrett Atkins and was then removed from the game.

For the first time all night, the Rockies threatened to come charging back. With Javy Lopez on for Boston, Hawpe lined an RBI single up the middle. Yorvit Torrealba followed with a single through the hole and into left, and it was 6-2.

Francona then called for Mike Timlin, and the first truly anxious moment of the night for Boston came when Ryan Spilborghs greeted the veteran right-hander with a drive that whistled into deep center field. But Ellsbury tracked it down just in front of the wall.

Pinch-hitter Jeff Baker followed with a scorching liner that seemed bound to be a hit, but Red Sox shortstop Julio Lugo timed his leap perfectly and snared it out of thin air to end the inning.

"That ball was smoked," confirmed Lugo.

In this case for the Red Sox, fire did not accompany the smoke.

"That might have saved the game right there, Lugo's play," said Lowell. "I didn't think he had a chance. That ball looked liked it kept rising. He got up there, and I think we were all pumped up when he came down with it."

And now, it's down to this. If the Red Sox can win just one more game in this World Series, their 2007 season will be declared a smashing success.

"We have to continue to stay focused," catcher Jason Varitek said. "We have to try and outplay our opponent."

Keep in mind that Varitek uttered that precise statement after Game 4 of the ALCS, when the Red Sox were in a 3-1 hole and their season was on the brink. It is that tunnel vision -- as much as anything -- that has gotten the Red Sox to this point.

"I think we have to maintain the same intensity, because 3-0 doesn't mean anything if you can't win the fourth," said Lowell. "I truly believe we're going to go into tomorrow's game prepared just like we did today and the first two games in Boston."

"We're going to come tomorrow, play hard and we'll see what's going to happen," said Ramirez.

And perhaps by the end of Game 4, there will be a cake to go with a trophy.

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Rockies seek fresh start at home

World Series shifts to Colorado with Red Sox in control
By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com

DENVER -- The Red Sox are halfway to another World Series championship. And if one judges by the odds, they have the decided advantage against the Rockies as both teams prepare for Game 3 on Saturday night at Coors Field.
After dropping the first two games at Fenway Park, including Game 2 on Thursday night, 2-1, the Rox need a victory. Pronto.

"We've been comfortable at home. We've been resilient at home," Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said. "Our crowd will be a big part of it. We want to put a good product on the field, get this thing headed back in our direction, get some people making some noise for us, get our offense kick-started and see if we can win a ballgame. Game 3 is what this whole thing is about for us right now."

It ought to be. When the home team -- like the Red Sox this week -- has won the first two games of the World Series, good things usually happen. That team has gone on to take the whole thing 27 out of 34 times, including the last 10 in row, dating back to the 1981 Fall Classic when the Dodgers defeated the Yankees in six games after dropping the first two at Yankee Stadium.

This is the 51st time that a team has won the first two games of the World Series either at home or on the road, and those teams have won it all 39 out of the previous 50.

And no team has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit to win the World Series.

So the historical pattern is definitely with the Red Sox, who won the first two games of the 2004 World Series at the Fens against the Cardinals and went on to sweep that series on the road for their first title in 86 years.

When presented with the positive odds, Red Sox manager Terry Francona deadpanned after listening to a dissertation of the numbers:

"By the time you get done with that question the odds are going to change. What we've said all along, and we're really good at it, is playing the game ahead of us. The next game ahead of us is the most important thing on our radar and that'll never change regardless of what our record is."

Curt Schilling, Thursday night's winner and now 3-0 this postseason, also has had experience playing on one of those teams that took a two-game advantage right off the bat in the World Series. His 2001 Diamondbacks won the first two games against the Yankees at what was then called Bank One Ballpark and then survived a sweep of the three games at Yankee Stadium before returning home to win that series in seven games. Of course, he was also on the 2004 Red Sox team that rebounded from a 3-0 deficit to defeat the Yankees in the American League Championship Series, the only time in Major League history that's happened in a best-of-seven series.

Schilling was asked if he could share any lessons he learned from the 2001 World Series, in particular, with his current teammates.

"Since I'm the only guy from that World Series playing in this one, no," said Schilling, who was a co-MVP of the 2001 series with teammate Randy Johnson. "This is the two best teams in the game, the two left standing. Regardless of us being up 2-0 or what percentages say, it's irrelevant to us and it's irrelevant to them. We're both here because we really didn't pay attention to statistics. We played the games at hand and we grinded out a 162-game schedule."

In the Rox case, make that 163.

Of course, they are glad to be home where they compiled a 54-31 record this season, including a National League Wild Card tie-breaker and two rounds of playoffs. The Wild Card-tiebreaker win here on Oct. 1 came over the Padres with three runs in the bottom of the 13th and ended the season for Colorado with 14 wins in its final 15 games.

That streak stretched to 21 out of 22 through sweeps of the Phillies in the NL Division Series and Arizona in the NLCS. In their first World Series, the Rockies won all the games that sent them on to next level at home where they hope to revive their flagging chances this weekend.

After scoring two runs on 11 hits against the Red Sox at Fenway, the Rockies need to clean the slate and all that rot. They've allowed too many gratuitous baserunners, issuing 12 walks and hitting a batter. They haven't been able to close down an inning: 11 of Boston's 15 runs came with two out and none having already scored. On the offensive side, they've stranded seven of nine baserunners in scoring position.

"Well, it's disappointing," Hurdle said. "It puts you in positions you don't want to get into. That being said, we've got to find a way to correct it. We haven't helped ourselves when we've been able to. We've made enough mistakes that we've cost us a little bit and we've put ourselves in a hole down two games. We've got a tough challenge ahead of us, but the reality is we [are] home now [to] play some baseball. I anticipate that we're going to be better at home."

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

World Series - Video On World Series Ticket Prices

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Red Sox Clobber Colorado 13 to 1 - World Series Game One - ESPN

This game wasn' even a contest. Wow, what a clobbering the Rockies got.

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Red Sox send Rockies crashing down to earth

By Jerry Crasnick

BOSTON -- The Red Sox welcomed the Rockies to town with a full-course beatdown menu Wednesday night. It began with a Boston schoolyard tradition -- the atomic wedgie -- followed by a noogie, a nose twist, and the obligatory forfeiture of lunch money and loss of dignity.

All the feel-good vibes the Rockies generated during their recent 21-1 run were lost in a hail of Josh Beckett strikeouts, Kevin Youkilis and David Ortiz extra-base hits and bases-loaded walks. After Fenway favorite Carl Yastrzemski bounced the ceremonial first pitch to the plate, it was all uphill for the Red Sox.
Where this series goes from here depends upon your perspective. A mile-high optimist might say a humbling experience of this magnitude was inevitable, given that the Rockies had suffered one loss in the previous 38 days.
And a single blowout isn't necessarily a sign of things to come. The 1996 Yankees lost the World Series opener 12-1 to Atlanta, then dropped Game 2 in the Bronx before recovering to beat the Braves in six games. In 1960, Pittsburgh beat the Yankees in seven games despite suffering losses of 10-0, 12-0 and 16-3.
On the other hand, just about every scout or big-league talent evaluator you came across this season pronounced the American League worlds ahead of the National League. The "varsity vs. junior varsity'' line will appear routinely in newspaper columns across the country after Boston's 13-1 walkover in Game 1.
The Rockies, naturally, are taking the upbeat approach. The steady drizzle that fell throughout much of Game 1 washed off some of their magic dust, but not all of it.
"It's one loss. It's not two, it's not three and it's not the World Series,'' said Ryan Spilborghs, Colorado's designated hitter in the opener. "If one loss was going to bury us, we obviously wouldn't be in this situation at all. We're still super confident. Like Manny [Ramirez] says, it's not the end of the world for us.''
To their credit, the Rockies generally refrained from using their eight-day layoff since the end of the National League Championship Series as an excuse. But they sure looked like a team that was rusty, and a little bit overwhelmed by the surroundings.
No one had a tougher night than starter Jeff Francis, a 17-game winner who'd gone 2-0 with a 2.13 ERA in his first two playoff starts against Philadelphia and Arizona. He bore little resemblance to the Francis who pitched five shutout innings to beat Beckett and the Red Sox 7-1 at Fenway on June 14.

Nick Laham/Getty Images
Jeff Francis was roughed up for six runs on 10 hits in four innings to suffer the loss in Game 1.
Pick a malady, and Francis suffered from it. He gave up a home run to Dustin Pedroia with his second pitch of the game. Twice he retired the first two batters of an inning only to allow the Red Sox to score. And when he showed an inability to command the inner half of the plate, the Boston hitters were content to look for pitches away and drive them to the opposite field with authority.
While radar guns can be deceiving, Francis' readings Wednesday night were telling. His fastball was routinely clocked at 85-86 mph, and his changeups were coming in at 78-80. That's not exactly optimal separation.
"There were some changeups I threw tonight that came out kind of hard,'' Francis said. "They didn't have a lot of downward movement on them like normally. I didn't have a good feel for that pitch, or my curveball to right-handers.''
Francis wasn't alone. Rookie Franklin Morales was touched for six runs, and Ryan Speier walked three straight Boston hitters with the bases loaded. A Colorado staff that went 7-0 with a 2.08 ERA and allowed 15 earned runs in the National League playoffs gave up a World Series-record nine doubles.
The lesson here: Fenway can be a daunting place, and the view from the mound is a little different when Ortiz and Ramirez are stepping to the plate in the 3-4 spots instead of Eric Byrnes and Conor Jackson/Tony Clark. Young pitchers who try to be too fine usually wind up playing into the opposition's hands.
"There's a lot of factors -- the excitement, the crowd, the competition,'' said Colorado pitching coach Bob Apodaca. "That leads to guys thinking, 'I can't just throw strikes. I have to throw quality strikes.' I said before the game, 'If we try to avoid contact, we're in for a rude awakening. We're going to get into counts we can't afford to get into.' They forced us into a lot of mistakes, and they took advantage. Give them credit.''
So now the Rockies will try to be more aggressive and pound the strike zone and get ahead in the count. And if that doesn't work, ducking and covering might be advisable.

They're an offensive juggernaut. In a lot of people's minds, [the Red Sox are] the best team in the big leagues. You have to execute pitches on them, period, and a lot of times when you do, they still smoke it.
--Rockies reliever Matt Herges
"They're an offensive juggernaut,'' reliever Matt Herges said of the Red Sox. "In a lot of people's minds, they're the best team in the big leagues. You have to execute pitches on them, period, and a lot of times when you do, they still smoke it.''
The Rockies, who won 13 of their last 14 regular-season games and beat San Diego in a playoff to qualify for their first postseason berth since 1995, have grown accustomed to the notion that the extraordinary is possible as long as they stick together and keep the faith.
"We'll see what we're made of tomorrow,'' Herges said. "We have two options. The first is, 'OK, we're done.' Or we do what we've done the whole second half, and scratch and claw like we have to get where we are now. I'm pretty confident we'll bounce back and you'll see the team that won 21 of 22.''
For the sake of injecting some drama in this World Series, the Rockies better hope for a quick turnaround. In October, it's amazing how quickly yesterday's fairy tale can turn into today's roadkill.
Jerry Crasnick covers baseball for ESPN.com. His book "License To Deal" was published by Rodale. Click here to order a copy. Jerry can be reached via e-mail.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Dog Bites Boston Red Sox Toy Bat - World Series

This guy thinks his dog's a Red Sox Fan. Looks more like he's biting the toy to me!

Rox reveal great way to grow

Game 1: Wed., Rockies at Red Sox, 6:35 p.m.
By Troy E. Renck
The Denver Post
Article Last Updated: 10/24/2007 09:54:01 AM MDT

BOSTON — Before they faced the Green Monster, they shared green chili burritos. Before they faced the Boston Red Sox, they learned how to clean socks in cramped laundromats. Before they walked onto the sport's ultimate stage, they ran up phone bills from remote minor-league outposts.

The Rockies are in the World Series, probably getting ready to take batting practice at Fenway Park before Game 1 as you read this. Aside from "Who the heck are these guys?" The most common question is: How did they get here?

Statistics provide a healthy slice of the explanation. The Rockies won 90 games. They won 21 of their last 22 overall, including consecutive playoff sweeps last matched by the 1976 Cincinnati Reds. Their playoff ERA (2.08) requires a microscope to read. They have an NL MVP candidate (left fielder Matt Holliday), a rookie of the year front- runner (shortstop Troy Tulowitzki) and everybody's sentimental favorite (veteran first baseman Todd Helton).
To understand how the Rockies reached this spot, and found themselves on Yawkey Way in October, you must get closer. You must walk into their clubhouse. Of the 25 players who will comprise the Rockies' World Series roster, 15 were raised on the farm. They aren't just homegrown, they have grown up before each other's eyes.

The Rockies are that unique pro sports franchise that has discovered success through friendship and unmistakable camaraderie.

"Anytime you spend so much time together and get to know each other's families, there's going to be a stronger bond," explained Holliday, the first of the minor-leaguers to break out during the 2004 season. "We have been together for years and it's been great because all of the new guys have fit in well, too. I don't think you necessarily have to have this to win, but it makes it easier and a lot more fun."

The Rockies finished last in the National League West last season. They were close then, too, right? So what happened? Their bond grew tighter through failure, when they failed to meet expectations in the second half of 2006. And they became better players.

"We were mad we hadn't done well," right fielder Brad Hawpe said. "We knew we should be a good team."

Linear growth isn't common at the major-league level, but it made sense to this group. They arrived in spring training with inflated confidence, their optimism akin to a college team with a strong senior class.

"I think through their education and their experience, they have really embraced each other's talents. They know that everybody out there has something to bring. They have earned their place, they have talent and they can help this club win," Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said. "I think that is the other unique characteristic. They are committed to doing whatever is asked of them to help the team win."

It doesn't hurt that they like each other. On Sunday night, before the biggest road trip of their lives, nearly a dozen Rockies attended the Broncos-Steelers game at Invesco Field. During the season, the players had weekly barbecues or bowling nights. Ryan Spilborghs served as a tour guide for a field trip along the Freedom Trail when the team was in Boston in June.

"We're not just teammates. We are friends," Holliday said. "These are people we genuinely care about."

The bond was formed, for many of them, during late- night bus rides through small towns, eating greasy potato chips, beef jerky and the convenience-store delicacy: the burrito. They shared hotel rooms, commiserated over position changes and dissected their swings over swigs of soda.

"It was a close group, where guys were pulling for each other," recalled former Rockies pitcher Jason Jennings, who paid Holliday $100 a month to sleep on an air mattress in his Asheville, N.C., apartment. "You are probably never tighter with guys than you are in college. That was what it was like, even when we were in the big leagues. The music was playing, guys were always talking."

Ripping is more like it. This team's affection can be seen in its endless ragging. Nobody is immune. The players razz Tulowitzki over his encyclopedic knowledge of his own hits - there is a running counter above his locker, dating to his days in Little League. They presented a faux Purple Heart to Jason Hirsh after he pitched with a broken leg, and stage Stupid Human Trick contests, with Josh Fogg the most recent target when, in two swings, he couldn't hit a ball into the seats at Arizona's Chase Field.

Rockies reliever LaTroy Hawkins credits Helton for making the vibe work. His comfort level has grown with the young players. He has become more accessible, the barbs now a two-way street.

"Now if you say something, it's not, 'I just made fun of Todd Helton. I am going to be excommunicated,"' outfielder Cory Sullivan said. "Or be designated for assignment."

In 2004, when most of the players came up, like Garrett Atkins, Jeff Francis, Hawpe and Holliday, this dynamic didn't exist. The clubhouse was littered with mercenary veterans who knew they were leaving or were threatened by the kids. When a few players replaced Francis' nameplate with "Franchise," Hurdle ordered it removed.

"They do things now that maybe they would wonder how I was going to react. Or what other people were going to think. Now they know it's all good," Hurdle said. "I trust them, they trust me."

In many ways, the Rockies' 1-9 June road trip typified how the team got here. All momentum from sweeping the Yankees had vanished, the season was on tilt. But rather than splinter or point fingers, the Rockies' bond grew stronger.

"It's hard to comprehend what has happened this last month to get here. It's all gone by so fast. I can't wait to watch it all on video after this is over," Hawpe said. "I am not surprised that we made it this far. I thought we were really good all year, one of the better teams. And we always believed in each other."

Hello, my name is ...
It might not be a bad idea for the Rockies to wear name tags for the 103rd World Series, given their anonymity. Red Sox fans barely know the team name, let alone the players' names. And let's not forget how many of those pulling for the Rockies are late to the bandwagon. Here is national baseball writer Troy E. Renck's Zagat guide to the most prominent Rockies:

LF Matt Holliday

You might remember him from: The all-star's 475-foot home run during the 2007 Home Run Derby. The M-V-P! chants that accompany his at-bats. And The Slide, the Rockies' version of The Drive, as he dribbled his chin near home plate to beat the Padres in the wild-card tiebreaker.

1B Todd Helton

You might remember him from: Something besides this season. He easily is the team's most recognizable figure, even without his "Red Neck" shirt on.

3B Garrett Atkins

You might remember him from: His grand slam off tonight's Red Sox starter, Josh Beckett, during the Rockies' June visit to Fenway Park. And his 231 RBIs the past two seasons.

RF Brad Hawpe

You might remember him from: A 2000 national championship at LSU. His June home run off Boston's Curt Schilling that prompted the veteran pitcher to write on his blog: "I've given up more than my share of home runs, but not that many come as total shocks to me as this one was. It wasn't even in the deepest recesses of my subconscious right there."

CF Willy Taveras

You might remember him from: The sprinting, diving, brilliant catch on Arizona's Tony Clark during Game 2 of the NLCS.

2B Kazuo Matsui

You might remember him from: His playoff grand slam against the Phillies. If you are a Mets fan, don't jog your memory.

SS Troy Tulowitzki

You might remember him from: His unassisted triple play against the Braves on April 29 at Coors Field. And his 24 home runs, an NL record for a rookie shortstop.

C Yorvit Torrealba

You might remember him from: His decisive home run during Game 3 of the NLCS. And the yellow "Live Strong" bracelet he wears on his left wrist as a tribute to a family member who survived cancer.

DH Ryan Spilborghs

You might remember him from: "The Sweet Escape" batter clip at Coors Field - Woo-Hoo! Yee-Hoo!

LHP Jeff Francis

You might remember him from: Tying the Rockies' season record with 17 wins. Or his idolization of former Rockie Larry Walker.

RHP Manny Corpas

You might remember him from: His five postseason saves, and his endless phone calls back to Panama. His dad will be at Coors Field this weekend, perhaps shaving a grand off his next cellphone bill.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Glory, heartbreak to be had in Game 7

American League's World Series berth to be decided at Fenway
By Jason Beck / MLB.com

BOSTON -- This is what this postseason was waiting for.
After five series that went a combined one game over the minimum, the Indians and Red Sox are going the distance.

"When you're in a fist fight and your back is to the wall, that's a pretty good position to be in," said Indians outfielder Trot Nixon, who experienced an American League Championship Series Game 7 in back-to-back seasons with Boston in 2003 and '04. "The Red Sox were there the past few days, and now both teams are."

Either Beantown or Cleveland is going to have a glorious chapter added to its sports history. The other is going to have a heavy helping of heartbreak. Both cities have no shortage of material on either side.

For every key LeBron James bucket that sent Cleveland to the NBA Finals last summer, there's the image of Edgar Renteria's walk-off single in Florida, or Michael Jordan's winning shot, or Earnest Byner fumbling near the goal line in the final minutes.

Cleveland has Tony Pena and Tony Fernandez, both of whom hit clutch LCS home runs, but the city also has The Drive.

Boston has Bucky Dent and Aaron Boone. But Beantown also has David Ortiz's two-run homer in Game 7 of the '04 ALCS, Adam Vinatieri's Super Bowl-winning field goals, and that Larry Bird steal and pass to beat the Pistons in the NBA's Eastern Conference Finals 20 years ago.

On one side or the other, this game is going to join those ranks. The momentum swings that shaped the last six games of the ALCS have all led to this.

"Hey, it's going to come down to Game 7 against the two teams that won more baseball games than anybody in the regular season, two teams that have beat up on each other a little bit over the course of the past week," Indians manager Eric Wedge said. "And that's the way it should be. It's something everyone should look forward to."

The Red Sox certainly do. As manager Terry Francona reasoned, they're just glad to still be playing.

After standing on the brink of elimination the last two games, the Red Sox forced the first Game 7 at Fenway Park since the 1986 ALCS, when they finished off a comeback of three straight victories to beat the Angels. However, that's the only Game 7 the Red Sox have won at home; they dropped the deciding games of the 1975 and 1967 World Series here.

The only Game 7 Cleveland has faced in modern history, of course, came in the '97 World Series, when Renteria's single completed a late-inning Marlins comeback to win the game in extra innings. The only Game 7 the Indians have won in their history came in 1920, when Tris Speaker's club won five games over Brooklyn back when the World Series was a best-of-nine showdown.

If the Indians win Sunday, they'll become just the fifth team in LCS history to recover from a Game 6 loss to take Game 7. On the other hand, the Cardinals pulled off the feat last year when they fended off the Mets in the NLCS.

For teams that lose Games 5 and 6, winning Game 7 in the LCS is even rarer. Neither those '96 Cardinals nor the 2003 Cubs could do it, leaving the '92 Braves as the last to pull it off when Francisco Cabrera drove in Sid Bream to complete a ninth-inning rally.

As for home-field advantage, there is none. The home team is 7-5 in Game 7 of the LCS since it became a best-of-seven format in 1985.

Report: Indians' Byrd bought HGH, syringes from Florida clinic

By TOM WITHERS, AP Sports Writer
October 21, 2007

BOSTON (AP) -- Cleveland pitcher Paul Byrd, whose win in Game 4 of the ALCS moved the Indians within one victory of the World Series, bought nearly $25,000 worth of human growth hormone and syringes from 2002 to 2005, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Sunday.

Byrd, known for his old-school windup and savvy on the mound, purchased the HGH from a Palm Beach, Fla., anti-aging clinic under investigation by authorities for possible illegal distribution of performance-enhancing drugs, the paper said.

The allegations against Byrd came as the Indians prepared to play the Boston Red Sox in Game 7 of the AL championship series at Fenway Park on Sunday night. Cleveland led the series 3-1 after Bryd's Game 4 win but have lost two straight.

Byrd arrived at the ballpark about fours before the start of the game. He walked to Cleveland's clubhouse with teammates David Dellucci and Trot Nixon. Byrd planned to speak to the media before the game.

"I'm going to talk to my team first," he said.

During the time of the alleged purchases, the pitcher was with the Kansas City Royals, Atlanta Braves and the Los Angeles Angels. HGH was not banned by baseball then and was added to the sport's list of prohibited substances in 2005.

Major League Baseball said it will speak to Byrd before the start of the World Series, if Cleveland advances.

"We will investigate the allegations concerning Paul Byrd as we have players implicated in previous similar reports," the league statement said.

Also accused of buying HGH: Los Angeles Angels outfielder Gary Matthews, St. Louis outfielder Rick Ankiel and Texas Rangers infielder Jerry Hairston Jr.

Byrd, a 36-year-old devout Christian, has publicly denied using steroids in the past.

Indians general manager Mark Shapiro has spoken with Byrd about the matter, adding he didn't have enough information to comment further.

"He has been an important member of this organization -- on and off the field -- over the last two years and we support him in this process," Shapiro said in a statement.

Byrd won Game 4 for the Indians at Jacobs Field on Tuesday. In the AL playoffs, he earned the victory in Cleveland's Game 4 series-clinching win over the New York Yankees.

According to the Chronicle, which reviewed the clinic's business records, Byrd used his credit card and spent $24,850 on more than 1,000 vials of HGH, an injectable prescription drug with muscle-building properties. He also bought hundreds of syringes.
The Chronicle said it reviewed records of shipping orders and payment information on Byrd such as his Social Security number. The records were provided to the paper by an unidentified source.

Based on the paper's review, Byrd had some shipments sent to his home in Alpharetta, Ga., $1,050 worth of syringes and HGH to the Braves' spring training facility in Kissimmee, Fla., and a $2,000 order to the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York, when the Braves were in town to play the Mets.

The Palm Beach Rejuvenation Center, the clinic where Byrd made the alleged purchases, is part of a network of anti-aging clinics and online pharmacies targeted by the Albany, N.Y., district attorney for alleged illegal sales of steroids and growth hormone.

Citing an anonymous law enforcement source, the Chronicle said two of the prescriptions Byrd used to buy the growth hormone were written by a Florida dentist. The dentist's license was suspended in 2003 for fraud and incompetence. Byrd was slowed by an elbow injury in 2003, and records show he made six purchases of HGH.

Byrd went 15-8 with a 4.59 ERA this season, his second with the Indians. He signed him to a two-year, $14 million free agent contract in December 2005, and Cleveland holds a club option on the right-hander for 2008.

After shoulder surgery in 2002, Byrd began toying with a double-pump windup favored by pitchers from decades ago. He found that the arm-swinging motion helped him better hide the ball from hitters, and the windup became his signature.

Byrd, who has a 97-61 career record, relies on location and off-speed pitches to get outs. Following Game 4, Byrd, who is listed at 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds, joked about finding some extra speed on his fastball.

"I hit 90 mph," he said, "which happens a few times a year."

Red Sox 12, Indians 2 - One More Game Sunday - Game 7

What is it about the Boston Red Sox that they seem to pull victory from the jaws of defeat? Will they do it again?

BOSTON (ESPN) -- The ball cleared the center field wall, and J.D. Drew raised his fist in celebration.

A grand slam.

A curtain call.

And better yet: A chance to do it again in Game 7.

The struggling Red Sox right fielder drove in five runs, backing yet another postseason gem from Curt Schilling on Saturday night as Boston battered the Cleveland Indians 12-2 to tie the AL Championship Series at three games apiece.

Cleveland's 1-2 punch of C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona haven't come close to acing this ALCS test. With Carmona's Game 6 loss, the duo falls to a combined 0-3 vs. the Red Sox.

"Hey, it's going to come down to Game 7, the two teams that won more baseball games than anybody in the regular season, two teams that have beat each other up over the course of the past week," Indians manager Eric Wedge said. "And that's the way it should be. It's something everybody should look forward to."

Baseball and its fans are certainly looking forward to it in a postseason where four of the first five series ended in sweeps.
"There's nothing, I think, funner in sports than a Game 7," Schilling said.

Schilling improved his career postseason record to 10-2, allowing two runs and six hits in seven innings.

Fausto Carmona failed to get anybody out in the third inning, giving up seven runs on six hits and four walks.

After failing to get a victory from co-aces C.C. Sabathia and Carmona, the Indians hope Jake Westbrook can save them on Sunday night.

The Red Sox turn to Daisuke Matsuzaka, who couldn't make it through the fifth inning in either of his previous postseason starts.

A third consecutive victory -- on the anniversary of Carlton Fisk's extra-inning homer in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series -- would put Boston back in the Series for the first time since 2004, when it rallied from a 3-0 deficit in the ALCS en route to its first title in 86 years. The Red Sox also came back from a 2-0 deficit against the Indians in the first round of the 1999 playoffs.

"It just has to stop, and it has to stop tonight," Wedge said. "They need to go to bed tonight with clear heads and think clear thoughts and come here tomorrow expecting to win."

After stumbling in his previous outing, Schilling came back to show why he is considered one of the best postseason pitchers in baseball history. He gave up Victor Martinez's solo homer in the second inning and otherwise held the Indians scoreless until Ryan Garko tripled and scored on Jhonny Peralta's sacrifice fly in the seventh.

By that time, it was already 10-2.

Schilling got Kenny Lofton on a grounder and former teammate Trot Nixon on a fly ball to end the seventh, then left to a standing ovation. He took his hat off -- twice -- and waved up at the box where his wife and family sit.

"This was about our offense just doing a phenomenal job," Schilling said. "J.D. Drew is a special player. I'm sure he's not real proud of the year he had ... but he is the definition of 'even keel.' I mean, he doesn't snap. He doesn't get too high, too low. He just goes up and he plays the game. And tonight, that wins the game."

Drew has struggled to live up to the five-year, $70 million contract the Red Sox threw at him last winter even though no one else seemed interested in bidding. He was signed to protect David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez in the lineup, but manager Terry Francona dropped him from fifth to sixth in the lineup when he failed to deliver timely hits in the regular season.

Coming into the game, Drew was 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position, 1-for-11 in the two series combined and just .237 with a chance for an RBI in 2007 overall. When he came up with the bases loaded in the first inning against Carmona, he delivered.

Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis reached on infield singles, and Ortiz looked at six straight pitches for a walk. Ramirez struck out, then Mike Lowell was out on a shallow fly to right, not deep enough to score Pedroia.

All Carmona needed was to get Drew.

"He almost worked through that inning, and then J.D. got him," Wedge said. "And then things sort of dominoed on him. It just wasn't in the cards for us."

Drew hit a line drive into the camera box in straightaway center field to give Boston a 4-0 lead, raising one fist as he rounded the bases. Called back from the dugout by the same fans who had clamored for him to be replaced in the lineup, he gave a two-fisted wave.

"I've had a few of those in my career," Drew said. "None here so far. But it was great. I think the atmosphere was great.

"It has been a tough year, my expectations are high. I didn't have the year I would like to have, but I feel like I had a good September and started getting things turned around. Just wanted to go into the playoffs and have good at-bats."
Drew came up again in the third after Ramirez and Lowell walked to start the inning and singled to center to make it 5-0 and spark a six-run inning that essentially ended it.

But there was still time for one last redemption: Eric Gagne, the former star closer booed off the mound in previous postseason appearances, pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Electric Beckett dominates Indians

Red Sox ace twirls another gem, forces Game 6 on Saturday
By Ian Browne / MLB.com

CLEVELAND -- The Red Sox aren't just going back home. They are going back to play some more baseball. With elimination staring his team in the face, Josh Beckett never blinked, pitching yet another postseason gem in leading the Red Sox to a 7-1 victory in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series on Thursday night at Jacobs Field.
Following an off-day on Friday, the Red Sox will again try to stay alive in Saturday night's Game 6, when they send Curt Schilling to the mound at what figures to be an electric Fenway Park.

The Indians lead the best-of-seven series, 3-2, meaning they still have two more chances to get to the World Series.

The Red Sox, meanwhile, knew their margin was at zero, and they played like it.

In particular, Beckett pitched like it while improving to 3-0 with a 1.17 ERA this postseason. Over eight innings, the Red Sox ace allowed just one run on five hits while fanning a season-high 11 batters.

"I felt good," said Beckett. "Like we always say, it's easy when you've got everything going. Once again, I had great defense and I held them off just long enough for us to put up some runs. It was a team effort. We know what we have to do now: We have to win."

That's all Beckett has done this October. And at the age of 27, he is quickly establishing himself as a legendary performer this time of year, pushing his career postseason record to 5-2 with a 1.78 ERA.

"He's the man. He's the man in the playoffs," said Red Sox left fielder Manny Ramirez, who has transformed into a media darling in this series while remaining a hitting machine. "That's why he's our No. 1 starter. We've got a lot of confidence in him."

The Red Sox are still alive in their quest to try to become the 11th team in the history of postseason play to rally back from a 3-1 deficit.

"We just have to keep grinding it out," said second baseman Dustin Pedroia. "Our backs are still against the wall. We just have to play it pitch by pitch and go from there."

While Beckett was front and center in this win, the offense also regained its groove. Pedroia went 2-for-4 from the leadoff spot. Kevin Youkilis homered and tripled while driving in three runs. David Ortiz added a hit, two walks and two RBIs, while Ramirez went 2-for-4 and narrowly missed hitting a home run.

The Red Sox didn't trail once.

"I think getting ahead was a huge factor for us in this game," said Youkilis. "We know when Josh Beckett is on the mound, we know maybe that one run could be all we need in a game."

Clinging to a 2-1 lead after five, the Red Sox finally got the insurance they seemed to be on the cusp of all night against Indians ace C.C. Sabathia.

Pedroia led off the sixth with a double to right-center and Youkilis brought him home with a triple that went off the glove of a diving Grady Sizemore. Indians manager Eric Wedge then lifted Sabathia in favor of Rafael Betancourt, and Ortiz lofted a sacrifice fly to left to make it 4-1.

"When we have the little guys getting on base, it's a totally different situation," said Ortiz. "We had the little guys on base and the middle of the lineup comes up to hit."

And hit they did.

The Sox broke it open with three in the eighth, sending eight batters to the plate.

"We really did a good job getting runners on base early, but we didn't do a whole lot with it," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "But we stayed at it and stayed at it and finally cashed in."

Looking to play with a lead, the Red Sox got one quick as Youkilis belted a solo homer to left with one out in the first. With two outs, Ramirez hit a double to left-center. Mike Lowell followed with a single to right, but Ramirez was thrown out at the plate by Indians right fielder Franklin Gutierrez.

The Indians bounced right back in the bottom of the first, as Sizemore led off with a bloop double down the line in left. Asdrubal Cabrera followed with a single to right, setting up runners at the corners with nobody out. Travis Hafner then hit into a 6-3 double play, but Sizemore crossed home with the tying run.

"I thought I executed my pitches pretty well in the first inning," said Beckett. "Just unfortunately you give up a bloop hit to a guy that's ... good hitters find ways to get hits, and Grady is definitely one of those."

After that, Beckett basically pulled the plug on the Indians, throwing his mid-to-upper-90s heat on the corners and dropping in curveballs at will.

"He was unbelievable," said Ortiz. "We have a lot of confidence in Josh, and I'm pretty sure the rest of our pitching staff is going to put it together just like he did."

Back came the Red Sox in the third, with the top of the order again making things happen. Pedroia led off with a single to right. After Youkilis hit into a double play, Ortiz drew a walk. Up stepped Ramirez, who lofted a drive to right-center that landed on the top of the yellow line that rests above the wall before bouncing back into play.

Ortiz came home and Ramirez, who thought it was a homer off the bat, settled for an RBI single that made it 2-1 Red Sox. Ramirez and Francona both argued vehemently that it was a home run, but the umpiring crew, after huddling for a bit, stuck with the original call. According to the Jacobs Field ground rules, a ball must be hit over the yellow line to be a home run.

"I thought it was out [of the park], but what can I say," Ramirez said.

As it turns out, it didn't much matter.

The bottom of the fifth began with an interesting wrinkle. Kenny Lofton worked Beckett to a 3-0 count and then thought he had walked on the next pitch. But it was ruled a strike. Perhaps Beckett was upset that Lofton presumed he had walked. Because once Lofton popped the next pitch into shallow left, Beckett appeared to shout something in his direction. Lofton was not amused, and after turning the corner at first base, he went towards Beckett. Both benches emptied briefly but nothing came of it.

Beckett and Lofton had a similar war of words in 2005 during a Marlins-Phillies game.

"It was a lot of stuff," said Beckett. "It kind of goes back before today. Those things have a way of working themselves out though."

Casey Blake and Sizemore then produced consecutive singles, but Beckett blew a 97-mph heater by Cabrera to end that threat.

Though Beckett won't start another game in this series, he all but vowed to be there if his team needs him out of the bullpen in a potential Game 7.

"We'll delve into that later," Beckett said. "Obviously I'm preparing myself for them to ask me that, and as of right now, yeah, I think that would be something I could do."

But all Beckett was thinking about in Game 5 was getting his team another game. That mission was accomplished in dominant fashion.

"Awesome," said Pedroia. "He's been doing it all year long. That's why he's one of the best in the game. He dealt tonight."

And thanks in large part to that, Fenway Park is not yet closed for the season.

Joe Torre refuses to take pay cut, walks away from Yankees

Friday, October 19th 2007, 4:00 AM

It's the end of an era.

Yankee skipper Joe Torre yesterday rejected a one-year, "performance-based," $5 million contract to return as manager of the Bronx Bombers, ending a historic run in which he took the team to four World Championships and 12 straight playoff appearances.

The end came after a face-to-face showdown in Tampa with Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, in which The Boss refused to sweeten an offer Torre felt he could not accept.

The 67-year-old Torre, looking defiant but tired, returned in darkness to his home in Harrison, Westchester County, where he was met by a gang of photographers, flashes popping at machine-gun speed.

"It's been fun," Torre's wife, Ali, said after her husband walked into the house. "It's always difficult to say goodbye, but there's always hello."

As Torre slammed the door on prospects he might return to run the team he has managed since being hired in 1995, Yankees President Randy Levine said he was ready to find someone else to fill Torre's big shoes. "It is now time for the New York Yankees to move forward," Levine said.

Tributes to Torre, the first New Yorker to manage the Yankees, began pouring in as word of his refusal to bend to Steinbrenner's will rocked the sports world.

"This is a very sad day for anybody who is a Yankee fan," said Yankee fan-in-chief Rudy Giuliani. "Joe Torre was what I think athletes would describe as a class guy. Somebody who transcended baseball."

Mayor Bloomberg lauded Torre as a "great New Yorker who brought historic leadership and excitement - and incredible success - to the Bronx for the past 12 seasons."

Torre's fierce rival, Boston Red Sox manager Terry Francona, added, "I think you're going to hear people in baseball, every area of baseball, say very, very kind, respectful things about Joe the next couple days, and they're all deserved."

Torre's fate had been hanging in the balance for 10 days, since the Yanks were bounced out of the first round of the playoffs for the third straight year.

During that time, speculation abounded that bench coach Don Mattingly, Yankees broadcaster Joe Girardi or other baseball stalwarts such as Cardinals manager Tony La Russa and ex-Mets manager Bobby Valentine might replace Torre.

Yesterday, general manager Brian Cashman, Chief Operating Officer Lonn Trost and Levine surprised Yanks watchers by flying Torre to Tampa to meet with The Boss.

Torre had been offered a one-year deal that would have boosted his pay to $8 million if the team made it to the World Series. He flew to Tampa to try to get Steinbrenner to agree to a two-year deal.

"Everybody in this room, including The Boss, wanted him back," Cashman said. But Steinbrenner wouldn't budge and Torre stood up, shook his hand and left, sources told the Daily News.

The offer was a substantial pay cut for Torre, who made $7.5 million in the final year of his three-year, $19.2 million contract - and was the highest-paid manager in Major League Baseball.

"Joe Torre turned down that offer," Levine said after Torre flew back home.

Asked why, Levine said, "We're going to let Joe speak for himself." Torre is set to do just that today at a 2 p.m. press conference in Rye.

Levine explained the thinking behind their "performance-based" contract offer.

"We all have the same goal and that goal wasn't met," he said. "We thought we needed to go to a performance-based model."

Levine said the Yanks' failure to reach the World Series was "not one person's fault. ... It was collectively all of our faults."

Levine also said the offer was "very fair" and "clearly was at the top of the market."

Torre did not lose his cool during the talks.

"Joe was very respectful," Levine said. "He was the dignified man he has been. There was no acrimony, we had an open discussion and he declined the offer."

Superagent Scott Boras, who represents Yankee slugger Alex Rodriguez, said Torre had no choice.

"It is ... near impossible to accept a salary cut," Boras told The Associated Press. "Successful people can afford their principles."

After landing at Westchester County Airport, Torre drove home in his gray Mercedes. The house was decorated for Halloween with a Frankenstein hanging from a tree out front and a skeleton emerging from the ground beside an ominous RIP headstone.

Dressed in jeans and a striped shirt, and carrying an issue of USA Today and a briefcase, Torre left the car engine running and did not speak as he made his way to the door. His hand appeared to be shaking as he fit the key into the lock.

Minutes later, Torre's wife pulled up in a silver Mercedes and joined her husband inside. After about five minutes, she came out and turned off the ignition to his car.

"I've got to turn the light off," she said.

Torre has been the Bombers' manager longer than anybody except the legendary Casey Stengel - and the first to guide the Yanks to 12 straight postseason appearances. When Torre succeeded Buck Showalter, the Yankees had not won the World Series since 1978. Few expected the Brooklyn-born Torre to do much better. The Daily News greeted him with the headline, "CLUELESS JOE."

Torre proved everybody wrong. With a mixture of off-field stoicism and on-field success, he kept the meddling Steinbrenner at bay.

Torre also inspired many men to take better care of themselves by going public with his prostate-cancer battle.

Torre's end was foretold last year when he was nearly fired after the Yanks were ousted from the Division Series - despite having the most expensive payroll in baseball.

Just before the Yankees fell to the Cleveland Indians last week, Steinbrenner made it clear that Torre's head was on the block. At the meeting with Torre yesterday, the 77-year-old team owner let his sons, Hank and Hal, do the talking.

"The objective of the Yankees since the '20s has been to win the championship every year," Hank Steinbrenner said. "None of us think we can win the championship every year, but that's the goal."

Torre's exit also puts the future of possibly departing Yankees Alex Rodriguez, Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada in doubt.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Outburst puts Tribe one win from Series

Seven-run fifth inning helps Byrd earn Game 4 win over Boston
By Anthony Castrovince / MLB.com

CLEVELAND -- This Indians' story, remember, does not begin here in the present tense, in the pomp and circumstance of October baseball and the national spotlight that comes with it.
It has short-season A ball roots at Mahoning Valley, where Victor Martinez and C.C. Sabathia were teammates in 1999. It harkens back to the days when Jhonny Peralta, Fausto Carmona and Rafael Betancourt weren't postseason studs, but rather non-drafted free agents.

It is borne out of the lessons learned in the trauma of a 94-loss season in 2003 and the tease of a 93-win season in 2005 that fell short of a playoff berth.

It is the tale of a group of young players who not only share a locker room but also a common thread of Minor and Major League experiences that got them where they are today. And where they are today, specifically, is a lone win away from the organization's first World Series appearance in a decade.

A 7-3 victory over the Red Sox in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series at a sold-out Jacobs Field on Tuesday night has the Indians holding a 3-1 lead in this best-of-seven slate and on the doorstep of the dreamland.

"It means a lot to every single person here in this room," Martinez said. "We came up from a long way, and to be in this spot right now is amazing. You look three or four years ago, and pretty much the same guys in this room were rookies."

Well, they weren't all rookies, and they weren't all here.

Paul Byrd, for example, is one of the Tribe's veteran hired hands, brought aboard in the midst of the journey to add some experience to the youthful unit. It was experience that revealed itself once again in six-plus innings of work in which Byrd successfully tamed a dangerous Red Sox lineup.

The Indians' bats also looked pretty tame early on in this one, until they awoke with a seven-run fifth inning off an unsuspecting Tim Wakefield and Manny Delcarmen.

A club getting assertive outings from its Nos. 3 and 4 pitchers, as the Indians have the past two nights from Jake Westbrook and Byrd, and getting big hits up and down the lineup -- as the Tribe did on this night from Martinez, Peralta, Casey Blake and Asdrubal Cabrera, among others -- can authoritatively be described as a club that's clicking.

And talk about good timing.

Only 10 of the 65 teams in postseason history who have taken a 3-1 lead in a best-of-seven set have gone on to lose that series, so the past and the present are on the Tribe's side.

"It's not just one player," Martinez said of the Indians' postseason charge. "Every night, it's a different player. That's what makes this team really exciting. We expect anything from anybody."

A team never quite knows what to expect when a knuckleballer like Wakefield takes the mound. And for four innings, the only thing that came to be expected were the zeros Wakefield and Byrd were quickly stringing up on the scoreboard.

The Indians didn't get a hit off Wakefield until the fourth inning, and Byrd, not known for being prone to punchouts, struck out four batters in his first five innings of work.

"I didn't really expect to strike anybody out," Byrd said. "I was hoping to jam some people. But Wakefield was really tough. He threw a great game, and I wasn't expecting very many runs."

Seemingly out of nowhere, though, the runs arrived in the bottom of the fifth.

Blake led off the inning by slapping Wakefield's knuckleball out to the left-field home run porch to break up the scoring monotony. Franklin Gutierrez singled and Kelly Shoppach was hit by a pitch, and, suddenly, the Tribe's offense had some life.

After Grady Sizemore hit into a fielder's choice at second to put runners on the corners, Cabrera punched a bouncer up the middle that ricocheted off Wakefield's glove and fell in for an infield RBI single to make it 2-0.

When Wakefield got Travis Hafner to go down swinging for the second out, it appeared he'd get out of the inning without further harm. But an Indians team that, entering this game, had scored 22 of its 44 postseason runs with two outs once again showed a flair for the dramatic. Martinez grounded a single through the hole on the left side to knock in another run and end Wakefield's night.

In came reliever Manny Delcarmen, and out went Delcarmen's 2-1 offering to Peralta, who belted a three-run homer to right to make it 6-0.

"When I hit the homer," Peralta said, "I thought, 'That's the game.'"

Still, just for good measure, the Indians kept piling on. Kenny Lofton kept the rally going with a two-out single, and he stole second base to become the all-time stolen-base leader in postseason history. That swipe loomed large when Blake hit a fly ball to shallow center that just barely avoided Coco Crisp's diving reach. It fell in for an RBI single to complete the seven-run onslaught.

It was the second time this series the Indians have put up a seven spot -- the first coming in the 11th inning of the 13-6 victory in Game 2 at Fenway Park.

"Somebody gets it going," Blake said, "and there's maybe a little advantage, a little momentum going there, and it's just a combination of guys working the pitcher and just battling."

This battle, for all intents and purposes, was over, once that 35-minute fifth was finalized. The Red Sox kept it moderately interesting with consecutive solo shots from Kevin Youkilis, David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez in the sixth, but the Indians weren't going to cough this one up.

The Tribe's focus now is to not cough up a prime opportunity to wrap this thing up at home on Thursday night. They'll have their ace Sabathia on the mound, and another bustling Jacobs Field crowd behind them.

Only when -- and if -- that next victory comes will this story have the final chapter the Indians are seeking out.

"We're up, 3-1, and that doesn't mean anything," Martinez said. "We've got to finish them off."

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Stoneman steps aside for Reagins

Successful Angels GM resigns to become consultant for club
By Lyle Spencer / MLB.com

ANAHEIM -- A door to a world of new challenges opened on Tuesday for Tony Reagins, selected to succeed Bill Stoneman as general manager of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
Stability, continuity and seamless transition were identified by club owner Arte Moreno as the primary reasons for staying inside the organization to replace Stoneman, who will serve as his advisor on baseball matters.

"This organization is not broken," Reagins said during Tuesday's press conference at Angel Stadium, presided over by Moreno. "I don't need to come in and try to reinvent the wheel.

"We know where we've been and where we're going. We're committed to remain steadfast to bring a championship contender to Angels fans across the country, year in and year out."

Stoneman was the GM for eight years, producing four playoff teams, three American League West champions and a World Series champion in 2002.

Referring to diminished energy and the desire to free up more time for family and other interests, Stoneman introduced Reagins after emotionally thanking numerous people who made his eight years as GM memorable.

"I've known Tony since coming on the job here," Stoneman said of Reagins, the club's director of player development for the past six seasons and a member of the organization for 16 years. "This is one of the brightest, most energetic and dedicated guys I've known. He's able to get things done, and he understands the game very well, [understands] players very well.

Ken Forsch, Angels assistant GM for 10 years, will remain in that capacity, and Gary Sutherland, special assistant to the GM, also will stay on, Reagins said.

Abe Flores was promoted from manager of baseball operations to fill Reagins' role as director of player development, with player performance analyst Tory Hernandez also gaining a promotion to Flores' former role. Eddie Bane will continue as director of scouting.

Reagins is the 10th GM in franchise history. He is the first African-American to hold the position for the Angels and the second African-American GM in the Majors, joining Ken Williams of the Chicago White Sox.

Reagins has worked closely with Angels manager Mike Scioscia since the system provided six rookies for the 2002 club, Reagins' first year as director of player development.

Scioscia sees Reagins continuing the work Stoneman has done in creating a consistent winner in Anaheim.

"Bill's done a great job of laying the foundation for what we are right now," Scioscia said via conference call. "I know Tony has the same vision for where this organization should go.

"Tony has a lot of similarities to Bill in his sense of duty and diligence. He's not afraid to take chances, and he's a good [talent] evaluator. He's going to be great at this position. Tony's a good communicator, terrific with people. He's got the key components for a general manager."

Moreno said the organization would do everything "within reason" to give Scioscia what he needs to bring another championship to Southern California, adding that he "felt it was important to give Mike more responsibility."

Asked if he anticipated playing a more prominent role in personnel decisions with a less experienced GM on the job, Scioscia replied that he and his coaching staff always have had input on player moves.

"We've been given some terrific clubs, and I don't think that's going to change," Scioscia said. "To say I'm going to have a larger role, I don't know how I could have a larger role without moving into the general manager's chair."

That, he added, is something that has not come up in conversations with management, and he is not interested in leaving the dugout or having a dual role.

Repeating his state-of-the-Angels message delivered after they'd been swept by Boston in the American League Division Series, Scioscia said the club's primary offseason need is improving its slugging percentage.

"Although we made the most out of the offense we had," the manager said, "a little more batter's box offense, particularly in slugging percentage, is what we need at the Major League level.

"With outside sources, that's the No. 1 priority we're going to address, getting deeper in the batter's box."

He added that injury-free seasons from Garret Anderson, Casey Kotchman, Howard Kendrick and Gary Matthews Jr. could help significantly in that department. Each missed significant time with various injuries in 2007.

Matthews, Anderson and relief pitcher Justin Speier were among those attending Tuesday's press conference.

Working his way up from the ground floor, Reagins joined the organization in 1992 as an intern in baseball operations and marketing in 1992. He became a full-time member of baseball operations in April 1998, rising through the ranks.

"Under his direction, the Angels' farm system has developed the core of talent graded one of the top five in baseball the last five years," Moreno said. "I feel it's important to continue to build from within. It makes it easy for me to keep Bill at my side to help with baseball decisions and help Tony move forward.

"We talked about this when I bought the team [after the 2002 season]. We felt stability was important to the team. That's one of the reasons we felt this was an important decision."

Stoneman assumed the job on Nov. 1, 1999. Seventeen days later, Scioscia was named manager, and the two have worked in tandem to direct the most successful run in franchise history.

During the final week of the regular season, after the Angels had wrapped up the AL West title, Stoneman talked about what an exciting season it had been and that he was happy in Anaheim under Moreno.

"The decision is one I've known for quite a while I was going to have to make," said Stoneman, who had the option to remain in the GM's chair had he chosen to do so. "As time went on, I realized I'm getting older, and you really don't have the energy you once had.

"You have to face that as a fact. In order to do this job, you have to have a ton of energy. There are so many elements you think about. The main thing was, I was worn down and was coming to that realization.

"I don't have the same energy I brought into this job. It was really time for the betterment of the Angels to step aside for somebody who was a lot more energetic -- yet knows the Angels as well as I do -- to take over and provide a seamless transition in behind the scenes operations here."

Three other high-profile general managers -- Atlanta's John Schuerholz, Minnesota's Terry Ryan and St. Louis' Walt Jocketty -- recently have walked away from their jobs, citing the job's multiple and time-consuming demands.

Stoneman, 63, pitched for eight seasons in the Major Leagues and authored two no-hitters for the Montreal Expos. He took the Angels to unprecedented levels of success by focusing on player development and building from within while going outside to add key free agents such as Vladimir Guerrero, Bartolo Colon, Orlando Cabrera and Matthews.

Reagins has been chiefly responsible for the club's Minor League system, which includes seven affiliates and a club in San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic.

Reagins, 41, is a graduate of Cal State Fullerton University. He's a native of Indio, Calif., where he was an all-CIF tailback on the Indio High School football team in the mid-1980s. He played American Legion baseball in Indio.

Reagins was joined at the press conference by his wife, Colleen, and their daughter, Kennedy.

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Yanks' meetings inconclusive on Day 1

Team has not made a decision regarding Torre's future
By Bryan Hoch / MLB.com

The Yankees executed a last-minute change of venue, steering their discussions away from Legends Field, but that was apparently the only decision finalized on their first day of season-end meetings.
With dozens of reporters waiting outside the Yankees' Spring Training home in Tampa, Fla., on Tuesday, club executives instead huddled for afternoon meetings at the nearby mansion of principal owner George Steinbrenner.

According to reports, the top hierarchy of team executives gathered for several hours. Yet the Yankees did not come to an official conclusion on the fate of manager Joe Torre, whose contract expires at the end of the month.

On behalf of the club, spokesperson Howard Rubenstein released a statement shortly after 4:30 p.m. ET, saying: "The meetings are adjourned for tonight. There have been no decisions made, nor will there be any comment today. The meetings will resume tomorrow."

A final ruling regarding Torre's future is believed to be the first step in what figures to be a busy offseason for the Yankees. The 67-year-old Torre has made the playoffs in each of his 12 seasons at the helm of the club, but his Yankees have suffered first-round exits in three consecutive seasons, prompting some in the organization to consider a leadership change.

Before Game 3 of the American League Division Series, Steinbrenner said in a rare interview that the Yankees were not likely to have Torre back for 2008 if the club did not advance past the first round. The Yankees fell in four games to the Cleveland Indians and official comment from the organization has been sparse since their Oct. 8 elimination.

The afternoon brought a strange twist from a potential successor in the event that the Yankees wish to part ways with Torre.

A representative for bench coach Don Mattingly refuted a report published in the Newark (N.J.) Star-Ledger, which claimed that Mattingly has told members of the organization that he is not ready to manage and does not feel comfortable replacing Torre.

Agent Ray Schulte called the report, which cited a Mattingly friend as a source, "completely false" and "totally fabricated." Schulte said that Mattingly was caught completely by surprise by the report, and that while he hopes Torre returns for the 2008 season, Mattingly would be ready to assume the reins of the club if offered the job.

The organizational meetings are scheduled to resume Wednesday and will feature direct influence from Steinbrenner's sons, Hank and Hal -- both of whom will be taking on increased importance in the club's planning going forward.

In addition to settling the Torre issue, Yankees decision-makers are expected to tackle courses of action in dealing with the club's numerous potential free agents, including an expected contract extension offer for Alex Rodriguez and plans for lifetime Yankees Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera, both of whom are seeking multi-year contracts.

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Surging Rox making baseball history

Last place to first Colorado on a Cinderella run for the ages
By Jim Molony / MLB.com

DENVER -- When the 1976 Cincinnati Reds ran off seven consecutive postseason victories en route to a second straight World Series title it represented the pinnacle of the Big Red Machine's '70s dynasty.
While the 2007 Colorado Rockies certainly aren't in the class of those Reds, their 7-0 run to clinch the franchise's first World Series made the Rockies the first team in 31 years to go 7-0 in the postseason and also earned Colorado another rare place in baseball history.

Besides the streak, their sweep of Arizona in the National League Championship Series made the Rockies one of only five teams to finish in last place one year and reach the World Series the next, joining the 1991 Atlanta Braves, the 1991 Minnesota Twins, the 1993 Philadelphia Phillies and the 1998 San Diego Padres.

Baseball fans haven't forgotten the previous four teams to go from last place to the Fall Classic in one year, and it's doubtful they will soon forget a Colorado team which has won 21 of its last 22 games and was 6 1/2 games out of first place in the National League West as recently as Sept. 15. A year ago, the Rockies finished 76-86, 12 games behind San Diego and Los Angeles.

"These guys just don't quit," Colorado manager Clint Hurdle said. "This has been fun to watch let me tell you."

The 21-1 run is incredible on its own, but it is even more amazing when you consider the Rockies are in the playoffs for only the second time in their 15-year existence and first time since 1995.

They became only the second team to sweep an NLCS since the seven-game series was instituted in 1985 and first since Atlanta swept Cincinnati in the 1995 NLCS.

"At some point, maybe the historic [magnitude] of this will sink in, but right now we're just a team that is enjoying playing the game and coming out expecting to win every day," Rockies third baseman Garrett Atkins said. "What you're seeing is 25 guys pulling in the same direction."

And rewriting baseball history in the process.

The Wild Card Rockies did not have home-field advantage in either series, yet swept NL East champion Philadelphia in three games and NL West champion Arizona in four to complete their bottom to top jump that earned them a place along the other great turnaround stories in baseball history:

• The 1991 Atlanta Braves, a year after finishing last (65-97) in the NL West, went 94-68 to win the division, then beat Pittsburgh in the NLCS before losing to Minnesota in the World Series.
Those '91 Twins made a similar last to first leap. The '90 Twins finished 74-88 and in the American League West cellar, 29 games behind Oakland. When the Twins and Braves met in that memorable 1991 World Series it was the first and only time in the 20th century two teams that had finished last the year before met in the World Series.
• The 1993 Philadelphia Phillies made it to the NLCS and then the World Series, one year after finishing dead last in the NL East, 70-92 and 26 games out of first place.

• The only other team to go from cellar to World Series in one year was the 1998 San Diego Padres. The year before, that team finished in the NL West cellar, 76-86 and 14 games behind San Francisco. The '98 Padres finished the regular season 98-64, good for first place in the division, then beat Houston in the NLDS and Atlanta in the NLCS to advance to the World Series.

Now comes the Rockies, the latest team to climb from the cellar to the pinnacle in one season.

Even Cinderella didn't climb that far.

"If you would have told me back in Spring Training that we were going to the World Series I wouldn't have believed it," Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki said. "This has been an incredible run, we played so long where if we lost our season was over we've been playing every day like that's still the case."

Of the previous four to go from cellar to pennant, only the Twins went on to win the World Series. None of those teams went unbeaten in the postseason, let alone win 21 of their last 22.

The Rockies will face either Boston or Cleveland in the World Series with a chance to join Minnesota as the only team to finish last one year and win a Fall Classic the next.

Keep the history book handy. The last-to-first Rockies don't look like they are finished rewriting it.

Jim Molony is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Fogg, Torrealba put Rockies 1 win away from sweep with 4-1 win over Arizona

October 15, 2007

DENVER (AP) -- The Colorado Rockies were one strike away from not even making the playoffs. Now, they're one win away from their first World Series.

With a cold rain falling, Josh Fogg shut down Arizona's bats in his first postseason start and Yorvit Torrealba hit a tiebreaking three-run homer to fuel the Rockies' 4-1 victory Sunday night in Game 3 of the NL championship series.

MVP hopeful Matt Holliday also homered as the wild-card Rockies took a 3-0 lead with their 20th win in 21 games, a streak that has taken Colorado from afterthoughts to the buzz of baseball.

"Tomorrow we're going to come here just like we have been doing," Torrealba said. "We're going to relax, watch TV, and when it's time to play, we're going to try to get one more win."

And not think about their first World Series until then.

"No, no, no, no, I'm not thinking about that," insisted the face of the franchise, Todd Helton, whose decade of disappointment has disappeared in one of the most incredible winning streaks in baseball history.

"We're still focused on the task at hand."

About two weeks ago, the Rockies had no control over whether they'd even make the playoffs.

The San Diego Padres could've eliminated Colorado on the final Saturday of the regular season. But Milwaukee's Tony Gwynn Jr. hit a tying, two-out, two-strike triple off San Diego's Trevor Hoffman that gave the Rockies a chance.

The next day, Colorado caught the Padres. The night after that, the Rockies beat San Diego in a 13-inning, NL wild-card tiebreaker.

Since then, the Rockies have been unbeatable.

Arizona, which has scored just four runs in the series so far, must win four straight times against a Rockies team that is the first since the 1935 Chicago Cubs to win at least 20 of 21 games after Sept. 1, according to Elias Sports Bureau.

They haven't looked back, sweeping past Philadelphia and taking the first three against Arizona.

They will try to sweep the Diamondbacks on Monday night when Franklin Morales faces Arizona's Micah Owings in a matchup of rookies who have never faced each other's teams.

The Rockies, who this season set a major league record for fielding percentage, turned three double plays in the first three innings.

"When you can take the sting out of them early ... I think it helped our confidence," Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said.

The 2004 Boston Red Sox are the only team to overcome a 3-0 hole to win a best-of-seven postseason series. Boston did it in the ALCS against the Yankees.

"Until they win four and we can't win four at once. We've just got to get one on the board first," Arizona manager Bob Melvin said. "That's what we've been trying to do all year."

Torrealba connected in the sixth inning, three pitches after watching one of Livan Hernandez's trademark "eephus" offerings poke across the plate for a strike -- so slow it didn't register on the stadium scoreboard radar.

Hernandez said he knew better than to throw an inside fastball to his buddy that he played with in San Francisco, but he had used all the pitches in his bag of tricks.

"It's the last pitch I want to throw," Hernandez said. "Yorvit is one of my best friends in baseball and I know he can handle the fastball inside very good. It's just the situation. I'd thrown everything: foul, foul. I know he can hit the fastball inside. Trust me, and he hit it out."

After a 60 mph bender that he fought off for a foul, Torrealba hit a fastball 402 feet into the left-field seats, then raced around the bases pumping his fists and hooting and hollering.

"He worked me really well all season long. He tried to throw me a fastball inside, and it stayed over the plate and I hit it really good," Torrealba said.

Torrealba, who is 8-for-21 in the playoffs with seven RBIs, nearly had a home run in the third when he doubled off the center-field wall. The stadium's pyrotechnics operator thought it was gone and set off some fireworks as Torrealba pulled into second base.

The real fireworks came three innings later from Torrealba, who had just eight home runs in the regular season.

"One pitch, one bad pitch all night," lamented D-backs catcher Miguel Montero.
"That's kind of been the theme of this series so far. They've gotten that one big hit where we haven't," Melvin said.

Holliday's homer in the first inning was the first by either team in this series. Hernandez fell to 7-3 lifetime in the playoffs, allowing four earned runs on eight hits in 5 2-3 innings.

Fogg, who won Game 2 of the division series over Philadelphia in relief of Morales, scattered seven hits, including rookie Mark Reynolds' solo home run in the fourth, in six stellar innings. He didn't walk a batter and struck out three.

With the gametime temperature hovering at 43 degrees -- and quickly dipping into the 30s -- and a light drizzle falling, the crowd showed up wearing fleece jackets, gloves, wool caps and scarves, looking like they were headed for the ski slopes west of Denver, where it was indeed snowing.

Even Montero wore a ski cap beneath his catcher's helmet.

It was only fitting that the Rockies sent a pitcher named Fogg to the mound to deal with the elements in the first NLCS game in Denver in franchise history. The Rockies have lost just once since Sept. 16, and this win at Coors Field was their ninth straight victory overall.

A cool drizzle fell all day and continued into the evening. The grounds crew didn't even remove the tarp until an hour before the game. In between innings, they brought out bags of dry dirt to keep the infield from getting too slick. In the fifth, the crews poured a wheelbarrow full of "diamond dust" around home plate.

The TBS broadcast mentioned how the grounds crew ran out of the quick-dry dirt and started calling around. They said they found some in a warehouse and showed a truck rolling up to the stadium with extra bags.

Holliday, with only two other hits in this series, neither of which left the infield, put Colorado ahead 1-0 in the first inning with a high drive. Left fielder Eric Byrnes crashed into the wall chasing the ball, much to the delight of the crowd that razzed him every chance they got.

Forty-eight hours earlier, Byrnes suggested the Rockies were a lucky bunch who had actually been outplayed by the Diamondbacks in this series.

Although that drew the ire of the fans, Rockies rookie shortstop Troy Tulowitzki said there was some truth to Byrnes' comments "and they can outplay us all four games. If we end up winning the series, I'll be fine with that."

Reynolds hit a 422-foot solo shot in the fourth to tie it at 1-all, sending a first-pitch breaking ball from Fogg halfway up into the left-field seats to quiet the sellout crowd of 50,137.

Jeremy Affeldt threw the seventh, Brian Fuentes the eighth and Manny Corpas the ninth for his fourth save of the playoffs. In Game 2 at Arizona, Corpas blew a save chance in the ninth inning.

The Rockies are trying for their first NL pennant in the franchise's 15-year history, and history appears solidly on their side.

"Nothing has gone our way so far," Byrnes said. "For whatever reason, that's the way it's been."


Before the Rockies, the last team to put together a 19-1 run was the 1977 Kansas City Royals, and Hurdle made his major league debut for the Royals during that stretch. ... Colorado is the second team in NL history to open the postseason with six straight wins, joining the 1976 Cincinnati Reds, which went 7-0 in the playoffs, sweeping the Phillies and Yankees.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Indians 13, Red Sox 6 (11 innings)

BOSTON (AP) -- Trot Nixon spent 13 years in the Red Sox organization trying to prove he could hit lefties.

That ought to be pretty clear to everyone now.

The longtime Boston outfielder snapped an extra-inning tie with a pinch-hit single, and the Cleveland Indians scored a record-setting seven runs in the 11th to beat the Red Sox 13-6 early Sunday and even the AL championship series at a game apiece.

"I think we all know how a player can cross over to the dark side, but I fully expect that I'm the enemy coming in here," Nixon said. "I was excited to finally get in there at 1:30 in the morning."

The anticipated pitching matchup of postseason star Curt Schilling and 19-game winner Fausto Carmona fizzled into a stalemate that lasted 5 hours, 14 minutes before Joe Borowski got Julio Lugo to ground into a game-ending double play.

The best-of-seven series moves to Cleveland for Game 3 on Monday night, when Red Sox rookie Daisuke Matsuzaka will face Jake Westbrook.

"We'll go have our workout in about 10 hours," Boston manager Terry Francona said. "It would be a nice idea if you could run through the postseason without losing. I don't know how realistic that is."

Manny Ramirez set a record with his 23rd postseason homer, and Mike Lowell followed with a shot that gave the Red Sox a 6-5 lead in the fifth and a chance to take control of the series.

Then their big bats finally went quiet, and Boston dropped to 4-1 in the playoffs.

Tom Mastny got the win and deserved it: He retired David Ortiz, Ramirez and Lowell in order in the 10th -- a task few pitchers would relish.

"I really didn't have a choice, did I?" Mastny said with a smile. "It's what we play for. It's exciting. It happened to be the heart of their order."

With Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon done after pitching two innings, Eric Gagne came in for the 11th.

The trade deadline acquisition fanned Casey Blake to start the inning, then gave up a single to Grady Sizemore and walked Asdrubal Cabrera.

Nixon, the seventh overall pick in the 1993 draft, singled to right-center off Javier Lopez.

"I didn't hit it hard, but I hit it where I needed to," Nixon said.

It was his seventh postseason hit against a lefty in 132 at-bats.

"I've struggled at times against left-handers," Nixon added. "But I felt good. I felt like the first pitch I saw, I saw real well. You know, for some reason, I just felt a calmness out there in the batter's box."

The Indians, handcuffed by Josh Beckett and the Boston bullpen in Friday's opener, weren't done.

After a run-scoring wild pitch and Ryan Garko's RBI single chased Lopez, Jon Lester came on and gave up Jhonny Peralta's RBI double and a three-run homer to Franklin Gutierrez -- the outfielder who squeezed Nixon out of the starting lineup -- that made it 13-6.

"Trot hasn't been playing much, but he's kept working hard," Garko said.

The seven runs for Cleveland were the most by a team in one extra inning in postseason history.

A career .224 hitter against lefties, Nixon was allowed to leave as a free agent last winter so the Red Sox could pursue J.D. Drew. But Drew also struggled during his first season in Boston and was replaced in the lineup for Game 1 of the ALCS against lefty C.C. Sabathia.

Nixon batted .251 with three homers and 31 RBIs this year, but didn't drive in a run after July 29 as Gutierrez took over the everyday duties. Nixon played one game in the first-round series against the New York Yankees, facing Roger Clemens and going 2-for-4 with a homer and a double.

Even when Nixon is out of the lineup, Indians manager Eric Wedge is glad he's around.

"He's taught a lot of our young players what it means to be a leader," Wedge said. "You've got to be your strongest when other people are sometimes at their weakest, and you've got to pick people up. Trot's season this year, whether he's playing or not playing, he's been very consistent in that clubhouse, on that bench."

Now, Cleveland hopes Westbrook, its No. 3 starter, can do what co-aces Sabathia and Carmona couldn't: Keep Ortiz and Ramirez off base, or at least keep Lowell from driving them in.

The third baseman, who had a career-high 120 RBIs protecting Ortiz and Ramirez in the lineup, has driven home a run in all five Boston playoff games. On Saturday, he hit a bases-loaded single in the third to knock in two runs and then joined Ramirez in back-to-back homers -- and curtain calls -- in the fifth when the Red Sox briefly took a 6-5 lead.

The Indians tied it in the sixth on Gutierrez's RBI groundout.

Ramirez's homer broke a postseason mark he had shared with former Yankees star Bernie Williams. The left fielder, who tipped his cap to the crowd when the accomplishment was noted on the scoreboard, also drew his third bases-loaded walk in two days, setting the record for one postseason.

Ortiz, who walked in the first and singled in the third, tied a postseason record by reaching base safely in 10 straight plate appearances before grounding into a fielder's choice in the fifth. But the big slugger hustled down the line to beat out a potential double play before Ramirez went deep.

Schilling made his first playoff appearance at Fenway Park since his second bloody sock outing, Game 2 of the 2004 World Series, when he took the mound with a surgically repaired ankle and allowed the St. Louis Cardinals just one unearned run in six innings.

He pitched seven shutout innings against the Los Angeles Angels on Sunday in the first-round clincher.

But the Indians got to him quickly.

"Everything about this one falls on me," Schilling said. "It's about me coming up small in a big game."

Sizemore doubled leading off the game and scored on Victor Martinez's double. After the Red Sox took a 3-1 lead in the third, Peralta put Cleveland back on top with a three-run homer to center in the fourth.

Sizemore made it 5-3 with his solo shot in the fifth, then Travis Hafner and Martinez reached on consecutive singles with two outs and that was all for Schilling. It was the second-shortest postseason start of his career, and his postseason ERA went from 1.93 to 2.53.

"We put together a great inning to take a lead, and I forced our bullpen into a situation. You're asking your bullpen to put up a lot of zeros and it's not fair," Schilling said.

Carmona also was chased in the fifth. He pitched nine innings of three-hit ball in "The Bug Game," an extra-inning victory over the Yankees in the division series.

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