Chess Match: Game 1 decided early
Rockies unable to squelch Red Sox rallies in opener
BOSTON -- Truthfully, Terry Francona could have made 20 tactical gaffes and Clint Hurdle could have pulled all the right levers, and it might not have mattered on Wednesday night. Still, a few early decisions may have decided how the opener ended.Bringing 'em in
The situation: After a double and a ground-ball out, Kevin Youkilis stands on third base with one out in the first inning. The Red Sox lead, 1-0.
The decision: Colorado brings the infield in for Manny Ramirez's at-bat.The outcome: Ramirez hits a soft line drive that goes over Troy Tulowitzki, playing in at shortstop. The ball drops for a base hit, making it 2-0. If Tulowitzki had been playing at normal depth, he likely would have caught the ball for out No. 2. Mike Lowell flies out, which would have been the third out, but after Lowell, two more hits add up to a third Red Sox run. The analysis: With Josh Beckett pitching for Boston, it's understandable that the Rockies wanted to keep their deficit at a single run. But plenty of elements argued against bringing in the infield. Youkilis is far from speedy, and there's a chance he could have been thrown out even from normal depth. Ramirez, meanwhile, hits fewer ground balls than the vast majority of hitters -- reducing the chances that the infield-in tactic bears fruit.
"With less than two outs, we play the infield in. That's something we've done for a high percentage of the time throughout the season. Offensively, they've got a lot of options. You've just got to pick your shots, when to take them. We went after Manny. That didn't work." -- HurdleTaking on 'Tek
The situation: Runners on second and third, two outs, bottom of the fourth. Colorado trails, 4-1, with Mike Lowell at the plate.
The decision: The Rockies give Lowell a free pass, intentionally walking him to face Jason Varitek with the bases loaded.The outcome: Varitek laces a two-run double, stretching the lead to five runs. The analysis: It is at least a defensible decision, given the difference in the two men's performances against left-handed pitchers. Lowell was one of Boston's best against lefties, hitting .323 with a .383 on-base percentage and a .466 slugging percentage. Varitek wasn't bad against lefties this year, putting up a .264/.388/.413 line, but not as dangerous as Lowell. Still, Jeff Francis had handled Lowell easily in two previous plate appearances, and might well have done so again.
"We passed on Lowell. He got 120 RBIs this year, so if you keep pitching to him with men on base, you're barking up the wrong tree. We made some decisions that didn't work out." -- HurdleThrown in the fire
The situation: After four innings, Colorado elects to pull the plug on Francis, who had a rough outing.
The decision: Manager Clint Hurdle calls on rookie Franklin Morales, moved to the bullpen to be a long man after pitching as a starter in the first two rounds.The outcome: Morales gets two outs with minimal damage, but six straight hitters reach after that. He doesn't survive the inning and is charged with seven runs as the game turns into a rout. The analysis: With Josh Beckett on the mound and a five-run Boston lead, it might not have mattered who Colorado pitched. But Morales entered with a grand total of seven relief appearances in his entire professional career (and none above Class A ball). He might not have been the best fit to make his Major League relief debut in a game that wasn't completely out of reach yet.
"With two outs and one man on, six straight guys got on base. So we did some things we can work on." -- Hurdle
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.