The questions before Game 3 of the World Series -- if, indeed, there were any in this so-far lopsided affair -- centered on whether the American League's Red Sox could be nearly as good in a National League park where teams have to check their DHs at the gate.
The Red Sox answered those dumb questions easily enough.
With DH David Ortiz playing first base and a re-worked lineup that put rookies in back-to-back spots at the top of the order, the Sox crushed Colorado to take a 3-0 lead in the Series. Boston centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury led off in Game 3, pushing second baseman Dustin Pedroia into the No. 2 hole. Together, they had seven of Boston's 15 hits, drove in four runs and scored three.
"Having Dustin behind me," Ellsbury said to a group of reporters in front of his locker after the game, "he's going to get the job done."
From the first at-bat of the game, both of the rookies did the job. Ellsbury started with a swinging dribbler that went for an infield hit. Pedroia hit a slow roller to the hole between shortstop and third that he beat out. And though the Sox didn't score that inning, the Rockies could tell right then that they were in for another long night at the ballpark.
"They had the best record in the Major Leagues for a reason," Colorado reliever Matt Herges said. "They have superstars up and down the lineup."
The Sox have some superstars, sure, but nobody would yet put Ellsbury or Pedroia in that category. After a slow start, Pedroia played steadily all year, probably good enough to grab Rookie of the Year honors. But Ellsbury didn't even make his big-league debut until June 30 and put together only 116 at-bats in the regular season.
Manager Terry Francona liked what he saw, though, and when regular centerfielder Coco Crisp continued to disappoint, the skipper called on Ellsbury, giving him a start in Game 6 of the AL Championship Series. He's now hitting .350 as a postseason starter -- .417 in the three games of the series after adding three doubles to that infield single on Saturday night. Pedroia was three-for-five and is hitting .357 in the Series.
"They did exactly what you would hope your 1-2 hitters would do," Francona said. "It created a lot of opportunities."
The Sox get their first chance to close out the Series on Sunday night. Francona could juggle the lineup again, depending on the health of the sore-kneed Ortiz. But one thing is abundantly clear: DH or no DH, the Sox are going to be just fine.
Here are the grades for Game 3 of the World Series.
Yorvit Torrealba - C
Torrealba did his part with a pair of singles, including one that drove in a run in the two-run sixth. He also hit a ball hard in the second that left fielder Manny Ramirez retreated on but pulled down nicely.
Jason Varitek - C
1-for-4, BB, RBI, run, K
Varitek was nipped at first base in the second on a broken-bat dribbler to short -- the bat shot through Josh Fogg's legs -- singled in the fourth and drove in a run in the ninth with a sac fly.
Todd Helton - 1B
1-for-4, run, BB, K
The veteran Helton fought Daisuke Matsuzaka in a 12-pitch at-bat in the fourth before he was finally caught looking at an 82 mph slider for a strikeout. He singled to left in the seventh.
David Ortiz - 1B
1-for-4, run, RBI, 2 Ks
Big Papi whiffed with two runners on in the first, but he blasted a run-scoring double into right field in the third and booked around the bases to score later in the inning on Mike Lowell's single.
Kaz Matsui - 2B
3-for-5, run, K
The Rocks' new leadoff man could have had another hit in the fifth, driving a grounder deep to the backhand side of shortstop. But Julio Lugo picked it and threw for a forceout at third. Still a good night.
Dustin Pedroia - 2B
3-for-5, run, 2 RBI
Dropped into the No. 2 hole, Pedroia beat out a slow hopper in the hole at short in the first inning, beat out a bunt in the third and, in the eighth, went with a pitch to drive a two-run double to right.
Garrett Atkins - 3B
0-for-2, run, HBP, two BBs, K
Atkins has one hit in 10 at-bats in the three Series games, which isn't going to get him onto the MVP ballot. He was hit by a pitch in the second and later struck out in a seven-pitch at-bat against Hideki Okajima.
Mike Lowell - 3B
2-for-5, two runs, two RBIs, K
His ground single up the middle drove in two runs in the third, but his 9th inning was awesome. He singled to center, took second on a sac bunt, stole third and scored on Jason Varitek's sac fly.
Troy Tulowitzki - SS
1-for-4, run, BB, K
His lone hit was a single up the middle in the seventh that finished off Matsuzaka and preceded a home run by Matt Holliday. He failed to move over a runner at second in the first, striking out.
Julio Lugo - SS
1-for-3, double, two runs, two BBs
Drawing a couple of walks is amazing, and he used his speed to leg out the double in the second. His best play, though, was a high leaping snag of Jeff Baker's line drive in the sixth that saved a run.
Matt Holliday - LF
1-for-5, HR, run, three RBIs
Holliday crushed a Hideki Okajima changeup some 437 feet into center field to get the Rockies back in the game. He also hit into a couple of other hard outs. He's doing his part.
Manny Ramirez - LF
0-for-4, BB, K
He had his trouble on the basepaths (see Field Notes), but he played left field at Coors like he was born there. He hit one ball hard, a long flyout to center. But that was pretty much it.
Cory Sullivan - CF
Sullivan got the start for Willy Taveras and made absolutely no impression, grounding into a fielder's choice and flying out to left in the fifth. He may not get another start.
Boston's new leadoff man was living large right from the start, getting on with a swinging dribbler in the first, then dropping in a run-scoring double in the third that knocked out starter Josh Fogg.
Brad Hawpe - RF
2-for-5, triple, two Ks
It's still tough going for Hawpe, who has struck out eight times in the three games. He had a chance to end the game again on a strikeout, but tripled down the right field line off Jonathan Papelbon.
J.D. Drew - RF
1-for-4, double, K
In an otherwise uneventful night for Drew, the highlight was doubling off the wall in left-center to start the fifth. He was stranded. He also muffed a pickup on a hit and was charged with an error.
Josh Fogg - SP
2 2/3 innings, 10 hits, six runs
Fogg was out of it from the start, giving up hits to the first two batters and allowing four extra-base hits in his limited time on the mound. He was throwing in the low 90s, but he had leadoff batters on in two of the three innings he started. And giving something up to the opposing pitcher? Yecch.
Daisuke Matsuzaka - SP
5 1/3 innings, three hits, two runs, three BBs, five Ks
Matsuzaka lasted past the fifth, which was an improvement, but back-to-back walks in the sixth inning finally did him in. His best moves: A two-run single in the third inning off Fogg, and a nifty defensive play in the first, when he grabbed a hard grounder and got the runner at second in a rundown.
After starter Fogg let down the Rockies, Franklin Morales stopped the bleeding, at least initially. Later, closer Brian Fuentes had a terrible eighth, allowing three runs on three hits. That was it.
Boston's 'pen gave up eight hits and three runs in 3 2/3 of an inning. Javier Lopez and Mike Timlin put the runners on, then Hideki Okajima let up the monster home run to Matt Holliday.
The only hit the Colorado bench managed might have been the softest hit of the night, a Seth Smith bloop into right. A lot of other guys hit it pretty hard with a lot less to show for it.
Coco Crisp singled after coming into the game in the seventh, and Kevin Youkilis replaced David Ortiz in the sixth, going 0-for-1. Alex Cora had a sac bunt, too. About what you'd expect.
Clint Hurdle - Manager
It was a curious move to see Hurdle leave reliever Franklin Morales in to hit in the third inning, but he clearly couldn't afford to burn the pitcher that early in the game, even behind 6-0. I'm fine with it.
Terry Francona - Manager
Tito got a chance to play National League ball with a pair of double-switches, and he also got Big Papi out of the game in the sixth before he killed himself running the bases and playing first.
As much grief as we give Manny Ramirez for his play in the field, he made a couple of fine plays in Game 3, going back on liners without much trouble ... The most controversial play of the night came at the plate in the top of the third, when Ramirez was thrown out at the plate trying to score from second on a Jason Varitek single. The play was close -- so close it was even hard to tell on TV's close-up replays. But Ramirez would have been safe, for sure, had he not had to stutter-step so he could hit third base in stride. The throw from Matt Holliday was to the first base side of the plate ... Rookie Jacoby Ellsbury, Boston's new leadoff man, had a pair of doubles in the third inning, only the second time that's been done in the World Series. Matt Williams did it for the Diamondbacks in 2001. Ellsbury later added another double.
"That's a pretty good team in the other dugout. I think that has something to do with it."
-- Colorado pitcher Brian Fuentes
Game 4 on Sunday night pits 23-year-old Jon Lester of the Sox against 27-year-old Aaron Cook, a matchup of fresh -- maybe too fresh -- arms. Lester, who has fought his way back after off-season treatment for cancer, had only 11 starts this season and is only getting this one because of the injury to knuckleballer Tim Wakefield. Cook, the Rockies' Opening Day pitcher, missed much of the season with an oblique pull. He hasn't pitched since Aug. 10. This will be Lester's first start in Coors Field. Cook has 12 Coors Field starts this season with a 5.31 ERA. As for the hitters: The Rockies are hitting a wimpy .222 in the first three games, with seven runs scored. The Red Sox are hitting .352. They've scored 25 runs.
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