10/25/07 3:08 AM ET
Rockies cooled off quickly in Game 1
Francis hit hard early as Red Sox pull away for Series lead
By Thomas Harding / MLB.com
The Red Sox's Dustin Pedroia knocked the 18th leadoff home run in Fall Classic history atop the Green Monster, and Wednesday night didn't get much better for the Rockies, who fell, 13-1, in front of 36,733.
"It felt like a Spring Training game there at the end, after they started pulling people," said Rockies first baseman Todd Helton, who had a double and a single. "But a loss is a loss, plain and simple."
The Rockies had joined the 1976 Reds as the only teams to win their first seven postseason games, but were playing after an eight-day layoff before the Series opener. Only the 1910 Philadelphia Athletics sat longer, but they beat the Cubs, 4-1, in the Fall Classic. But Connie Mack's A's didn't have to face Red Sox ace Josh Beckett, who struck out nine batters in seven innings Wednesday.
The Rockies, who will start rookie Ubaldo Jimenez against Red Sox veteran Curt Schilling in Thursday night's Game 2, will try to overcome the fact that the Game 1 winner has won 9 of the last 10 World Series.
At least unlike the end of the regular season, when winning 13 of their final 14 barely qualified them for the playoffs, now they're in a best-of-seven series.
"One of the strengths this club has had throughout the season is our confidence hasn't been shaken by the results of a game -- really, a series of games," Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said. "That being said, that's not the way we drew it up.
"I feel real confident we'll get back out there and get after it tomorrow."
The Red Sox entered the series cast nationally as the large-market favorite ($143 million payroll) against the scrappy, small-market ($54.5 million) Rockies. In that vein, a blowout in which Boston set records for runs and victory margin in a World Series opener was a comeuppance. From another angle, the question is whether the layoff hurt the Rockies.
"We were rusty, I think," Helton said. "I don't know what the final score was, but we didn't play that well. But they played really good. They came out swinging the bats, and put a good, old-fashioned beating on us tonight."
Francis, pitching after 12 days off with only an intrasquad game on Friday, gave up 10 hits and six runs in four innings. That, after winning his two previous playoff starts with a 2.13 ERA and going 4-1 with a 3.03 ERA in his previous five starts.
"You can come up with any number of reasons why that happened, but we're not here to make excuses," Francis said.
After the Pedroia homer to lead off the game, Francis gave up a Kevin Youkilis double -- the first of the Sox's record-tying eight two-baggers -- and allowed runs on Manny Ramirez's single and J.D. Drew's double. He could have kept the Rockies in the game, however, had he not yielded David Ortiz's RBI double in the second and Varitek's two-run double in the fourth, both with two outs. Francis retired the first two in the fourth before giving up three hits and a walk.
"Any time you can't get out of innings like that, it's a frustrating thing," Francis said. "But it comes down to execution. I didn't execute well with two out."
With American League Championship Series Most Valuable Player honors in his pocket and the AL Cy Young Award likely in his future, Beckett was sharp and aggressive, by one count throwing fastballs on 30 of his first 32 pitches. It was far different from June 14, when the Rockies scored six runs in five innings against Beckett in a 7-1 Rockies victory at Fenway.
Beckett, who said of the earlier matchup that he "didn't look at it one time," caught first-inning leadoff man Willy Taveras looking and fanned Kazuo Matsui and Matt Holliday swinging.
|"One of the strengths this club has had throughout the season is our confidence hasn't been shaken by the results of a game -- really, a series of games. That being said, that's not the way we drew it up."|
|-- Rockies manager Clint Hurdle|
Doubles by Garrett Atkins and Troy Tulowitzki in the second inning accounted for the Rockies' only run. That would barely faze Beckett, who would strike out Brad Hawpe three times and fan everyone in the Rockies' lineup but Yorvit Torrealba and Ryan Spilborghs. Beckett is now 4-0 with a 1.20 ERA this postseason.
"He obviously cut me up tonight," said Hawpe, who also struck out against Eric Gagne in the ninth. "His fastball was moving a lot tonight, a lot more than it was last time. He was pitching in and out. His curveball was good, too."
Rookie Franklin Morales replaced Francis in the fifth and wound up allowing seven runs on six hits. But three of those runs scored courtesy of bases-loaded walks issued by his replacement, rookie Ryan Speier.
By then, a World Series debut after a 15-year wait was headed the wrong direction for the Rockies.
"You've got to forget about it," Taveras said. "They pitched and they hit tonight. We didn't pitch and we didn't hit."
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.