Rockies down 2-0 after narrow defeat
Red Sox do just enough to beat effective but wild Jimenez
BOSTON -- The Rockies have lost two straight games, which qualifies as their first losing streak since they dropped three, Sept. 13-15.
But all the winning in the interim no longer matters, because these two games have been in the World Series. Thursday night's 2-1 loss to the Red Sox in Game 2 at Fenway Park before 37,730 puts the Rockies' October dreams in jeopardy.
The Fall Classic picks up at Coors Field on Saturday night for the first home World Series game in Rockies history. It will be the beginning of a tall task. Of the 50 previous teams that have dropped the first two games, just 11 have come back to win titles -- the last being the Yankees in 1996.
Of course, the Rockies, who are also home on Sunday and, if necessary, Monday, can lean on having won 13 of their final 14 regular-season games, including a one-game National League Wild Card tiebreaker with the Padres just to qualify for the postseason.
"I think it's very comparable," first baseman Todd Helton said. "It's not like we have to win every game, but darn near.
"We've lost two games in a row before. It's been a while, no doubt about that. But it's baseball. Offense gets hot, it gets cold. ... You look at a seven-game series as a mini-season and just turn it around."
The Rockies gave a much better account in Game 2 against the Red Sox than they did while taking a 13-1 beating in Game 1.
Starter Ubaldo Jimenez was wild, walking five while giving up two runs in 4 2/3 innings. In the second inning, Mike Lowell walked, took third on J.D. Drew's single to right and scored on Jason Varitek's sacrifice fly. After retiring two straight in the fifth, Jimenez walked David Ortiz, then yielded a Manny Ramirez single and a Lowell RBI double for the winning run.
"I thought for a first-year player up here, pitching in this venue against this ballclub, he gave us everything he had," Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said.
Rockies relievers Jeremy Affeldt, Matt Herges, Brian Fuentes and Manny Corpas held the Red Sox to three hits and two walks in 4 1/3 scoreless innings.
But the Rockies will need an about-face offensively.
The Rockies went 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position, scoring their only run in the first on a Helton fielder's-choice grounder against Curt Schilling.
But Schilling frustrated the Rockies when they put runners on base. The veteran lasted 5 1/3 innings before giving way to a lights-out bullpen performance by Hideki Okajima (2 1/3 innings, four strikeouts) and Jonathan Papelbon (1 1/3 innings, two strikeouts, a key pickoff and the save).
The Rockies also fanned 10 times to bring their Fall Classic total to 22, and they have a .180 batting average through two contests.
Colorado entered with confidence from having outscored the Boston, 20-5, in a June Interleague Play series at Fenway Park, while taking two of three. But in dropping the first two of the biggest series in the world, they've managed just two runs.
The Rockies became the second team in history to win their first seven postseason games, but it wasn't until the Series that their offensive woes have hurt them. They have a .229 cumulative postseason batting average.
That includes leadoff man Willy Taveras (0-for-3, hit by a pitch Thursday, .120 postseason overall), Garrett Atkins (0-for-4 Thursday, one RBI and a .171 postseason average) and Brad Hawpe (six strikeouts in eight at-bats in the World Series). All were key contributors to the Rockies making the playoffs.
Matt Holliday had four singles, but none drove in a run. Holliday singled off Papelbon in the eighth with two outs, only to be picked off with Helton at the plate to end the inning.
"I don't know if there's any explanation for it, just a few guys struggling right now," Atkins said.
"That makes it tough to win, and the guys on the bubble-gum cards are pretty good, too," Hurdle said. "They had some pitches to hit tonight, didn't square it up, and Schilling got us. ... He's a competitor."
Schilling, 40, no longer has an explosive fastball. He has used guile this postseason to quell teams after they put runners on base. Either way, he is now 11-2 in the postseason for his career.
Schilling hit Taveras in the hand to begin the game. Holliday singled off the glove of Boston third baseman Lowell, and the Rockies wound up with runners at second and third when Lowell threw wildly trying to nab Taveras. But Helton grounded out for what turned out to be the only run of the night for the Rockies, and the rally ended with Atkins' grounder to third.
On Saturday, the Rockies will trust the loudness of a sold-out Coors Field and the savoir faire of righty Josh Fogg, who will face Red Sox righty Diasuke Matsuzaka. Teammates call Fogg "The Dragon Slayer" for his penchant for outdueling big-name opposing pitchers.
Matsuzaka is a rookie sensation more than a big name, but because of the Rockies' plight, they're stepping into the fire no matter who is opposite Fogg on the mound.
"Two games," Hawpe said. "We need to win one more than they do. We're going home. We'll go back there and start over fresh."
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.