Usual approach gives Sox just enough
After opening rout, Boston lineup displays patience in Game 2
BOSTON -- Same approach. Different results. Same outcome.
After the Red Sox put up 13 runs in Game 1 of the World Series on Wednesday night, Mike Lowell and his teammates talked about their simple approach: Focus on one pitch to hit, stay off the rest. It's an approach that many teams take, but Boston has the talent and the discipline to execute it better.
In Game 1, this approach yielded a slew of hits, an early exit for Rockies ace Jeff Francis and some bases-loaded walks to open it up. The pitches to hit weren't nearly as numerous off 23-year-old rookie Ubaldo Jimenez in Game 2, yet the Red Sox still waited for their pitch. The walks that resulted set up the runners that moved along and the few plays that made the difference in a 2-1 win.
"We just try to do what we think is in our best interest to either score a run or win the game," manager Terry Francona said, "and the way that the offenses were going, we needed to move some runners tonight. When you start matching up -- and they have some guys that can really match up -- one run can be really, really big."
Jimenez needed just six pitches to retire the side in order in the opening inning, then 13 to get through the second. He worked his way through the Red Sox's lineup one time with just one two-ball count while protecting a 1-0 lead.
"Obviously, he's got velocity," Lowell said, "but he impressed in that he was able to throw three different pitches in any count. Usually [when] you see a lot of young guys, they go [into a] 1-0 [count] and it's a fastball for sure. And he's not like that. He was able to keep us off balance. He was impressive."
Jimenez didn't pitch much differently in the second, insisted Lowell. If anything, he might've been tougher, mixing in curveballs that he spotted for strikes amidst the mid-90s fastballs he pounded into the zone.
Yet once the batting order flipped over, the Red Sox made Jimenez work.
"He was effective in the zone early," right fielder J.D. Drew said. "We just tried to continue to stick with our game plan and get good pitches to hit. He got a little erratic, and we got some baserunners."
Dustin Pedroia, who led off the first inning with a first-pitch flyout, stepped up again with two outs in the third and drew a four-pitch walk, the first of back-to-back free passes that first put pressure on the young Jimenez. David Ortiz barely missed a home run that veered foul down the right-field line, then Jimenez spotted a curveball on the inside corner for strike three and the end of the inning.
Again, Jimenez spotted curves in the fourth to jam Manny Ramirez into a leadoff popout. But a one-out walk to Lowell set up a tie game within two pitches -- one a Drew single that advanced Lowell to third, the other a Jason Varitek sacrifice fly to center.
"I think the fact that we tied the game up to put that pressure on them, I think it mounts up," Lowell said.
It was showing on Jimenez, who was missing his spots. Another walk, this one from Jacoby Ellsbury, extended the fourth for Julio Lugo, who worked the count full on Jimenez before he escaped with a groundout to first. Jimenez retired the first two hitters in the fifth, but he needed 11 pitches to do it.
"They're a very disciplined team -- we know that," Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said. "We knew it going in. We knew it in June. We know it now. They made him make some pitches, elevated his pitch count a little bit."
The stuff, as Lowell pointed out, was still electric. Jimenez spotted breaking balls on 1-0 and 3-1 counts to Ortiz. Yet he missed the corners with his other stuff, eventually putting Ortiz on with a walk. That's when the Red Sox got their hits.
Ramirez didn't pound the ball over the Green Monster or into the gap, but his single through the left side moved Ortiz into scoring position. That brought up Lowell with a chance -- amazingly, given Jimenez's stuff -- to put Boston ahead.
The approach didn't change.
"Everything that I prepare for before the game is to do what I've done during the season," Lowell said, "and I don't see any reason why I should anything differently than [I do] during the season.
"If we brought in pitchers from Mars, then maybe it would be different. But they're pitchers in the big leagues, and I think if you magnify the moment, you're putting too much pressure on yourself."
Again, Lowell waited for his pitch to hit. He didn't offer at Jimenez's first two pitches out of the zone. On the 2-1 offering, he did, lining a go-ahead double to left.
It wasn't the massive output the Red Sox put up to open the series, but in a game like this, it was impressive all the same. Jimenez left at that point with just three hits allowed -- but five walks -- in 4 2/3 innings. His pitch count stood at 92. He hadn't reached 90 pitches in any start of less than six innings since July 19, his first big league start of the season.
That's part of why this offense works. While the Yankees and Tigers put up higher run totals during the season, the Red Sox weren't far behind. On a night when Ortiz and Ramirez managed just a single between them, Boston still managed to produce enough to win.
"You can't expect to go out there and score 13 runs a game," Ellsbury said. "You're going to have your days like that. You just have to go out there, lay some bunts down, move some guys over, draw a lot of walks. That's what it takes. You're not going to score 13 runs a game. When you don't, you've got to do the little things."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.