Rooks Have Sox One Win Away From Crown

There's no 86-year drought to be broken this time around, but the sheer dominance displayed by the Red Sox during a six-game winning streak that has taken them from the edge of elimination to the verge of a world championship has been intriguing enough.

The tale gets a whole lot more compelling tonight, when Jon Lester—a cancer patient this time last year—goes for the World Series clincher.

Leadoff hitter Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia combined for seven hits and sparked multi-run rallies in the third and eighth innings as the Sox beat the Rockies, 10-5, in Game Three of the World Series in front of a sellout crowd of 49,983 in Denver.

Daisuke Matszuaka earned the win after he pitched into the sixth for the first time this month and Hideki Okajima battled out of trouble in the seventh before Jonathan Papelbon—who recorded more than three outs for the fifth time in six postseason appearances—closed it out for the Sox, who took a commanding three games to none lead in the Series and can win their second championship in four years tonight, when Lester opposes Aaron Cook—the architect of quite a comeback story himself; see sidebar for more—in Game Four at 8:29 p.m.

No team down three games to none has even forced a Game Six. Only three times has the trailing team won Game Four—none since 1970. If the Rockies win tonight, their reward is a date with the scorching Josh Beckett (4-0 with a 1.20 ERA in four October starts) in Game Five Monday.

Time to plan the parade for the Sox, who have outscored the Indians and Rockies 55-12 since falling behind three games to one in the ALCS a mere 12 days ago?

"You're in as good a situation as you could be in, up 3-0," Ellsbury told reporters afterward. "But Colorado is a great ballclub and they're going to compete just like you saw tonight. There's no quit in them and it's going to be tough to get that fourth one."

The Rockies were more tenacious than the final score would indicate Saturday, but the efforts of Ellsbury and Pedroia—the first pair of rookies to ever bat 1-2 in a World Series game—helped the Sox chase Josh Fogg during a six-run third and add three insurance runs in the eighth.

Ellsbury (4-for-5, three doubles, two RBI, two runs scored) became the first rookie to rack up four hits in a World Series game since 1946. Pedroia (3-for-5, two RBI, one run scored) raised his postseason average to .304.

"They were on base the whole night," Terry Francona told reporters. "They did exactly what you would hope your 1-2 hitters would do. They're on base like that, and then you've got to face the middle of our order—it created a lot of opportunities. We cashed in early."

Ellsbury and Pedroia delivered infield hits to start the first, but they were stranded there and Fogg needed only 12 pitches to throw a scoreless second. But Ellsbury's double and Pedroia's bunt single—in a four-pitch span—jump-started the Sox, who hammered Fogg for seven hits, including a two-run single by Daisuke Matsuzaka, and two walks before he was finally replaced by Franklin Morales. The Sox could have done even more damage, but Manny Ramirez was thrown out at home on close play at the plate following Jason Varitek's single.

Matsuzaka drove in more runs than he allowed through five shutout innings, but the Rockies—who scored a run apiece in the first two games of the Series—showed signs of stirring against Matsuzaka despite the string of zeroes on the scoreboard. He threw 44 pitches over the third and fourth innings and left after 101 pitches and consecutive one-out walks to Todd Helton and Garrett Atkins in the sixth.

Javier Lopez was greeted with consecutive RBI singles by Brad Hawpe and Yorvit Torrealba—the first time this series the Rockies have had consecutive hits. Mike Timlin came on and the Sox barely avoided further damage as Ryan Spilborough flew out to the wall in centerfield and pinch-hitter Jeff Baker's lined out to a leaping Julio Lugo.

The Sox were not so fortunate in the seventh, when Kaz Matsui and Troy Tulowitzki singled to chase Timlin. Matt Holliday, evoking memories of John Buck, hit Okajima's first pitch beyond the centerfield wall for a three-run homer to close the gap to 6-5. Atkins followed with a single, but Okajima retired potential go-ahead runs Hawpe, Torreabla and Spilborough on a pair of strikeouts and a groundout to escape the jam.

But the Sox—who were quieted following Fogg's departure by Morales, Jeremy Affeldt and Matt Herges; the trio combined to retire 13 of 14 batters between the third and seventh—put to rest any possible comparisons to Game Two of the AL Championship Series by scoring three times in the eighth off Brian Fuentes. Julio Lugo and Coco Crisp (who replaced J.D. Drew during a seventh inning double switch) walked and singled with one out, respectively, before consecutive RBI doubles by Ellsbury and Pedroia.

"Their bullpen really held us down, and we finally spread it out a little bit because it looked like we were hanging on for dear life," Francona said.

Ellsbury had just three hits in 16 playoff at-bats entering Game Three. "I think the biggest thing [is] in the first tow games, I was getting down real quick and I was having to battle back," Ellsbury said. "Tonight, I just relaxed a little bit, went in the cage and just tried to do what got me here, and that's be aggressive in the strike zone.

"I felt a lot more comfortable tonight and fortunately the balls fell for me."

Everything seems to be falling the Sox' way during their season-long winning streak in which they've trailed for all of four innings while receiving two wins apiece from the two best postseason pitchers of this generation (Beckett and Curt Schilling) and a Japanese import who has earned as many victories in the last six days as he did in his final nine regular season starts.

And tonight, the Sox can cap their seventh world championship season with a flourish even a Hollywood screenwriter could not muster. "The fact that we're even talking about baseball is really awesome," Francona said in reference to Lester before Game Three.


Diehard managing editor Jerry Beach can be reached at diehardmag@yahoo.com. To receive a free issue of Diehard, call 888-501-5752. To subscribe to Diehard or diehardmagazine.com, please CLICK HERE

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