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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.

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