Saturday, October 27, 2007

World Series, Game 3

L.A. Sunset, October 23, 2007
Here we are, Game 3 in Colorado and the prognosticators are weighing in heavily for the Rockies to win their first World Series game, ever. It makes sense. The odds do not favor a sweep, even with Boston, clearly the superior and more experienced team, up two games to none.
The thinking is that the Rockies, who had the NL’s best home record, are a better team at home and not just because of the mythical “home field advantage”. For starters, the air is thinner in the Mile High City and the ball travels I’m told 9 percent farther in Denver than down here where the rest of us live.
The people who built Coors Field tried to counter this advantage by building a park with an outfield bigger than Central Park. But alas, for the first 13 seasons in the life of the Rockies’ franchise, Coors was known as the place where pitchers went to die. Then last year, someone got the idea to change the baseballs. So they started putting game balls in a controlled atmosphere (referred to as the humidor) to keep them from shrinking and hardening in the thin air. While it’s worked (scoring has been down and the Rockies’ pitchers have had lower ERAs) it wasn’t the only factor in the Rockies’ success.
The Rockies braintrust decided to built a team around defense and pitching, as opposed to just getting a bunch of big bats. They have a very nice, young nucleus of hitters but they also made the fewest errors in the majors in a like forever this season.
The Rockies infield is excellent but they also have some very, very good outfielders, who can cover all that wide open space and have, in the case of Brad Hawp in right field, uber arms.
Willy Tavaras gets to everything in center – he made a couple of stellar plays there in Game 2 – but word late today is he’s being benched for his failure to produce at the plate. Cory Sullivan is also a fine fielder but he’s no Willie the speed demon. Still, the Rockies have a clear advantage in the field, especially since Boston’s left fielder, while being one of the game’s best hitters, is not exactly what one would call a good fielder. And with Manny being shaky in left and David Ortiz forced to play first instead of DH (where he’s been only seven times all season -- 17 times during the last two years), the thinking is that Boston is at a huge disadvantage.
I say it’s a factor but don’t count out the Red Sox. Why? Because they have a great freaking pitching, that’s why. Tonight, the very pricey Dice K gets the start and while he hasn’t exactly lived up to his $103 million price tag, the Japanese import has been one of the better pitchers in either league.
Read Jayson Stark’s column on today if you don’t agree with me. I predict you’ll be as surprised as I was. If you don’t have an Insider’s subscription, I’ll give you the highlights here.
He struck out 201 hitters in the regular season, more than probably Cy Young winner Josh Beckett or Cubs ace Carlos Zambrano and he was sixth in the AL overall.
And, points out Stark, he got all those K’s in only 204 2/3 innings. Better than, among others, Felix Hernandez and Justin Verlander. Opposing hitters were .246 against him this year, which is better than Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and C.C. Sabithia, among others.
Further, I think it’s a huge thing that, while the Rockies faced Schilling (and beat him) and Beckett (and beat him) during the regular season, they did not see Dice K. For a pitcher who has 100 different pitches, I think this put the hitters at a disadvantage, particularly on the big stage of the World Series and in an absolutely must win game.
Let us ponder that for a minute.
The Rockies have to win tonight. Sure, they wouldn’t be the first team to come back from a 3-0 deficit in the World Series. Oh, wait. They would be. That’s right, no team in MLB history has ever come back from being down three games to none. And the only time it’s ever been done in a seven-game series was by the Red Sox – the famous 2004 comeback against the Yankees.
So while everybody seems to be calmly expecting the Rockies to win Game 3, I’m not sure they’re considering what a huge hill they have to climb. It’s bad enough they must realize by now that they’re not the best team out there, but now they have to think about what happens if they can’t pull out a win tonight.
The Rockies are at home. They’re supposed to win tonight. They have a lot more to lose than the Red Sox and facing a deceptive pitcher you’ve never seen before only adds insult to injury.

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