Baseball Today - Saturday, Oct. 27
Baseball Today - Saturday, Oct. 27
Without DH, Francona forced to sit a hot hitter
October 26, 2007
DENVER (AP) -David Ortiz banged his powerful paw into a stiff, black first baseman's mitt in the visitor's clubhouse at Coors Field.
So, how does it feel?
The Red Sox designated hitter - make that former Red Sox designated hitter - will play first base when the World Series resumes on Saturday night in the home of the Colorado Rockies. Boston leads two games to none.
With no DH in the lineups for the NL park, Ortiz either has to play the field or sit out, and Boston manager Terry Francona doesn't even want to consider a lineup without him. Regular first baseman Kevin Youkilis moves to the bench as a potential defensive replacement.
``It's hard to get one of your guys out of the lineup,'' Ortiz said Friday before the Red Sox worked out at Coors Field. ``But you've got to do something.''
Ortiz made 27 appearances at first base over the last three years, mostly in interleague play. In the 2004 World Series, he brought his mitt to St. Louis and made a heads-up throw to trap a runner drifting off third base.
``I've played first base before and it wasn't that bad,'' Ortiz said. ``It's just not Gold Glove-caliber.''
Francona also said his plan is to move Dustin Pedroia into Youkilis' No. 2 spot in the batting order and switch center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury from ninth to Pedroia's slot leading off.
Another option had been to sit Mike Lowell and move Youkilis to third base. Francona indicated in Boston that he could envision playing Ortiz in all three potential games in Denver, but he said Friday he hasn't ruled out a different configuration for Game 4, or 5 if necessary.
``I think David is a really good hitter, and I think Mike Lowell is a really good hitter, and I actually think Youk is a really good hitter,'' Francona said. ``But they won't let us play all three of them. So we'll go with this.''
Ortiz batted .332 with 35 homers and 117 RBIs this season, but he played just seven games at first base when the Red Sox visited NL parks in interleague play. He hasn't made an error this year.
Ortiz has also been playing most of the year with a partially torn meniscus in his right knee, an injury that required a cortisone shot over the final weekend of the regular season. Ortiz said the knee is fine, especially considering he might only need to play two more games; Francona said he'll keep an eye on how the big slugger is moving.
``The worry I have - some of it is physical - but some of it is just the fact that he hasn't been out there,'' Francona said. ``And even if you're a really good Gold Glove-caliber player, when you're not out there every day, it's not fair.
``But he's done it in the past, and he's handled it in the past.''
Francona faced a similar dilemma - every AL manager does, actually - when the 2004 Series went to St. Louis for Game 3. Ortiz started at first base for both games at Busch Stadium and Doug Mientkiewicz relieved him both times to shore up the defense and protect Boston's lead.
But that just meant sitting Kevin Millar, who batted .238 in that postseason; this year, playing Big Papi means sitting either Lowell or Youkilis, each a key part of the offense that has outscored opponents 45-7 over the last five postseason games.
``We're here to try to win a World Series. You can't be upset,'' Youkilis said. ``We're in a great position right now; we're up two games to none. ... You should move on and go to another team if you're worried about your playing time and think you need to play over somebody else. This is the World Series. You've just got to be happy to go out and help in any capacity you can.''
Lowell drove in 120 runs to lead the Red Sox in the regular season and is batting .333 in the postseason while averaging an RBI per game. Youkilis ended his nine-game hitting streak in Game 2, but he's still batting .396 with four homers and 10 RBIs since the start of the playoffs.
``Having to play National League (rules) takes one of their big boppers out of the lineup,'' Rockies pitcher LaTroy Hawkins said. ``It definitely helps. The whole dynamic of the game has to change.''
Still, if it were just about the offense it would be an easy decision.
Merely indispensable in the regular season, Ortiz becomes otherworldly in October. He is batting .385 in 12 postseason games this year, and with 13 walks to go with his 15 hits he has gotten on base more often than not.
So it's no surprise that Francona wants to keep him in the lineup.
But Ortiz is a risk in the infield - an experiment Francona would rather not make in the season's most important games.
``Anything around me, it's going to be (caught),'' Ortiz said. ``After that, I don't know.''
Youkilis has handled 1,586 straight errorless chances at first base in the regular season, breaking Stuffy McInnis' club record for first baseman. At third, Lowell is the all-time major league leader with a .976 fielding percentage.
Francona said he would go with offense for now, and keep Youkilis handy as a defensive replacement if Boston takes a lead.
``You're talking about a guy that drove in 120 - two guys that drove in 120,'' Francona said. ``And we love Youkilis as a hitter, too. It's a difficult situation to be in. ... I'd just rather play all three of them.''
Re: Baseball Today - Saturday, Oct. 27
Rockies struggling to find their groove at the plate
October 27, 2007
DENVER (AP) -Asked about his team's batting woes in the World Series, Kaz Matsui turned philosophical.
``Hitting,'' he said Friday through a translator, ``isn't an absolute science. Sometimes, we can hit. Sometimes, we can't.''
Right now, the Colorado Rockies are leaning more toward can't.
Colorado led the NL with a .280 batting average, but have managed just two runs in losing the first two games to Boston. The Rockies hitting only .180 overall heading into Game 3 on Saturday night at Coors Field.
``Maybe we're trying to do too much,'' Garrett Atkins said. ``We're trying to get the big hit. We just need to get some singles, some walks. They've killed us by stringing together quality at_bats. That's the same kind of offense we have - we've just got to do it.''
Perhaps a change is in order to break the club out of its hitting doldrums?
``I'm thinking through some things,'' manager Clint Hurdle said. ``Anytime we get challenged offensively, you always need to rethink things and look at your options.''
The Rockies could possibly move Matsui up a spot to lead off and slide shortstop Troy Tulowitzki into the No. 2 slot. That's what they did when Willy Taveras missed time at the end of the season with his quadriceps injury.
But Taveras doesn't think a change is necessary. He thinks the Rockies should keep the lineup the same. He likes the speed he and Matsui bring to the top of the lineup.
``This has worked before,'' said Taveras, who's hitting .120 in the postseason. ``This can work. We have a lot of guys who can hit.''
Hard to tell since their eight-day layoff leading into the Series. The Rockies have struck out 22 times in the first two games of the series.
The Rockies simply couldn't replicate Red Sox aces Josh Beckett and Curt Schilling through simulated games.
Now, it's coming back to haunt them. Not that Colorado had many options at the time.
``There's only so much you can do,'' Rockies hitting coach Alan Cockrell said. ``There's nothing like going out and playing. But we're very close. Very, very close to getting our timing and rhythm back.''
Ryan Spilborghs said the team just needs a hit off the end of the bat that falls in, or a broken-bat single, or anything else to break loose.
``We don't need it to pad our egos, just to get something going,'' Spilborghs said. ``Just something.''
Atkins couldn't agree more.
``We're one good inning away from getting our confidence back offensively,'' he said. ``We're going to need a big inning to get back in this series.''
The Rockies aren't accustomed to a losing streak. They had won 21 of 22 coming into the World Series. The team hadn't lost consecutive road games since Aug. 27-28 at San Francisco.
``It's a little shocking,'' Tulowitzki said. ``You don't now how to react now. We became used to winning and used to shaking hands, coming into the clubhouse and playing music and celebrating after wins. To come in and have it dead quiet? It's like, 'Hey, what's going on here?' It's definitely different.''
Yet he doesn't have any easy solutions for the team's hitting slump.
``If I did, I'd let these guys know what the trick was. Hopefully, we can get our bats going and make it a series here,'' he said.
Spilborghs can't believe the hitting funk that Colorado has fallen into during the series. But he doesn't expect it to last.
``We're not too far off,'' Spilborghs said. ``We're a good hitting team.''
Tulowitzki feels the same way. He's anxious to show a nation the real Rockies - the team that led the NL in hitting.
``Honestly, we do feel like we belong here,'' he said. ``I think we belong here. Now, it's time to go out there and show some people.''
Re: Baseball Today - Saturday, Oct. 27
Boston (9-2) at Colorado (7-2)
The Rockies return home down 2-0 and in search of their offense in Game 3 tonight when they send Josh Fogg (10-9, 4.94 ERA) to the mound to face Boston’s Daisuke Matsuzaka (15-12, 4.40) at Coors Field in Denver.
Boston swept Games 1 and 2 at Fenway Park, winning 13-1 in Wednesday’s opener and 2-1 Thursday. Colorado comes out of Boston with a .180 batting average and with 22 strikeouts in two games, getting dominated by the Red Sox Josh Beckett and Curt Schilling.
Matsuzaka led Boston to its Game 7 ALCS win over Cleveland, allowing two runs on six hits over five innings in the 11-2 victory Sunday. The Japanese right-hander has struggled on the road lately, going 0-4 with a 6.75 ERA in his last six on the highway, including a 4-2 loss in Game 3 of the ALCS at Cleveland when he game up four runs in 4 2/3 innings.
For the season, Matsuzaka was 7-8 on the road with a 4.02 ERA.
The Red Sox have outscored the opposition 45-7 in their last five games and they’ve outscored the opposition 39-14 in their six-game World Series winning streak dating back to 2004. A key component will be out of the Boston lineup today when Kevin Youkilis finds himself on the bench. Manager Terry Francona said David Ortiz will start at first base tonight as there is no DH used in the National League stadium.
Fogg has pitched well this postseason, throwing two innings of scoreless relief in Game 2 of the NLDS on Oct. 4 and he won Game 3 of the NLCS on Oct. 14, holding the D’Backs to one run over six innings of a 4-1 victory. The veteran righty is 4-0 with a 3.50 ERA in his last eight starts overall.
Fogg faced the Red Sox back on June 13 at Fenway Park, giving up two runs in five innings of a 12-2 victory. For his career at Coors Field he is 12-9 with a 6.06 ERA in 166 1/3 innings.
The Rockies are still 21-3 in their last 24 games despite the two straight losses in Boston. In front of the home fans, Colorado is on a 40-14 run and 15-3 in its last 18 games as an underdog.
The Rockies hit .296 against right-handed pitching at Coors Field while the Red Sox hit just .262 against righties on the road.
The Red Sox are now 46-14 in their last 60 interleague games, including 10-4 this year. Colorado is 10-10 against the American League, including 2-3 against Boston.
The under is 6-3 for the Rockies in the playoffs (2-1 at home), but the over is 6-3-3 for Boston (1-1-2 on the road).
ATS ADVANTAGE: NONE
Re: Baseball Today - Saturday, Oct. 27
Forecast cool but clear at Coors Field
October 26, 2007
DENVER (AP) -The Colorado Rockies might have a hard time warming up their bats when the World Series shifts to Coors Field on Saturday night, where the weather is expected to be cool but dry for Game 3 against the Boston Red Sox.
Temperatures for the first World Series game played in Colorado are expected to be in the high 30s or low 40s, with a slight breeze and no precipitation, said National Weather Service forecaster Mike Baker.
``It doesn't look too bad if you have a nice jacket and keep warm,'' he said Friday.
Boston swept the first two games at Fenway Park, stifling the Rockies' powerful offense in a 13-1 rout in the opener and a 2-1 victory Thursday night.
The forecast is particularly good news after a storm swept through the state on Sunday, dropping several inches of snow and forcing the Rockies indoors for their next-to-last workout before flying off to Boston.
Game 4 on Sunday should be even better, with gametime temperatures in the upper 40s or low 50s.
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