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October or March?

BOSTON -- An autumn rain fell from the dark, windswept sky above Fenway Park as Josh Beckett -- with bulbs flashing everywhere -- unleashed a 96 mph fastball at 8:37 p.m. Wednesday. It was the first pitch of the first game of the 103rd World Series, an electric October moment in this hallowed baseball cathedral. Some three hours later, near the merciful end of the most lopsided Game 1 in the history of the Series, the country had long flipped over to CSI; Red Sox uberfan Stephen King was in the stands reading Newsweek; and Todd Helton, standing on Fenway's moist infield grass, gazed around the ballpark thinking to himself, "Is this the World Series or spring training?"

Said the Colorado Rockies first baseman, after the 13-1 whitewashing was complete, "When [the Red Sox] started pulling people, it felt like a spring training game."

Whether the remaining World Series contests play out like ugly slow-pitch softball games will depend whether the Colorado pitching staff, which allowed a World Series-record 10 extra base hits and the most runs in an Series-opening game, can get its act together. Before Game 1 Rockies pitching coach Bob Apodaca stood in front of his staff and said, "If we try to avoid contact against these guys, we're in for a long night." The night turned out to be longer than any Rockies pitcher could have imagined, fulfilling Apodaca's worst fears: Throwing without aggressiveness, Colorado hurlers allowed 13 runs, 17 hits, eight doubles, eight walks.

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"We were trying to be too fine," said Apodaca, whose staff had posted the second best ERA in the majors after the All-Star break but looked badly overmatched facing the fearsome Boston lineup. "All year long, our pitchers have gone out there, thrown strikes and trusted their stuff and the defense. But tonight ... the excitement, the crowd, we lost our game plan. And if we put anymore baggage on ourselves, then this is going to happen again."

Beginning with starter Jeff Francis, who logged 103 pitches in just four innings, Colorado pitchers didn't look like they'd learned from Cleveland's Jake Westbrook and Paul Byrd, who in the ALCS were successful against Boston by throwing a barrage of first-pitch strikes. With Boston's patient hitters, you can't afford to be anything but aggressive. "I felt good, I felt strong," said the baby-faced Francis, standing in front of his locker after the game. "I just tried to do a little too much. They wait for their pitches, you have to be aggressive with them, and I wasn't."

Apodaca's staff, of course, had little room for error with Beckett taking the mound for Boston. When the night was over, Beckett had burnished his reputation as an October ace with another stellar postseason outing. Beckett has K'd 35 hitters this postseason and walked just two. He's won four games already this postseason and will have the chance to be the first to win five when he takes the mound in Game 5. Beckett was dealin' early on, striking out all three hitters he faced in the first inning on 97 mph heaters. The Rockies, though, expected nothing but brilliance from Beckett. "He's always tough," said Helton. "That's what you get when you face him -- good fastball, good curveball."

After the game, the salsa music blaring on the clubhouse speakers said it all: The Rockies were ready to move on. "This loss is a big loss but knowing the heart of this team, we'll come back tomorrow," said Helton. "Our goal wasn't to get a split here. We wanted to win today and win tomorrow. After getting beating up like this, we'll have to alter our goals a bit."