Wednesday, October 24, 2007

World Series Game 1 Preview: Beckett v. Francis

This pitching matchup occurred before on June 14 at Fenway and ended in a 7-1 loss to the Rockies. Looking at the box score, it seemed like the Red Sox should have had a better game than one run. Mike Lowell, Jason Varitek and Manny Ramirez all had 2 hits and everybody in the lineup but David Ortiz and JD Drew had a hit. Jeff Francis was pulled after 5 innings and gave up no runs whatsoever.

Beckett, on the other hand, gave up more earned runs than he had all year and recorded his first loss for the year. 3rd baseman Garrett Atkins was the game's hero hitting a grand slam in the third inning to give the Rockies a 5-0 advantage. Matt Holliday would hit a 2 out solo shot in the fourth and went 2 for 5 on the day. A few other Rockies also had good days at the plate. Atkins would finish the day 3 for 5, 2nd baseman Kaz Matsui would also go 3 for 5 on the day and the catcher Yorvit Torrealba was 2 for 4 for the day.

The impression I got of this game was that Beckett temporarily reverted back to his 2006 form being susceptible to the long ball, something he has improved upon dramatically this season. Francis was somewhat lucky in his ability to get out of jams as the Red Sox hit him well but couldn't seem to come through with clutch hits.

Things to look for:
1) Matt Holliday: He's the NLCS MVP and finished near the top in the NL in every offensive category. Ironically his batting average and OBP in the post season are significantly down from his regular season and career numbers going only 8 for 28. Why all the fuss? 4 of those 8 hits were homeruns.

2) Hawpe, Torrealba and Matsui: These three guys have been the heart of the Rockies offensive production in the post season. They have been an excellent supplement to Holliday's bat by doing a great job of getting on base and coming through with big hits in the playoffs. Together they've drawn 14 walks, put up 17 RBI's and a combined 24/77 hitting. All three of these hitters were below .300 hitters for the season. If the sox pitching can snap these guys back to reality the rest of the lineup is hitting below .200.

3) Feeling rusty or rested? The Rockies have had a record 8 day layoff after sweeping the Diamondbacks in 4 games. Different teams and players react differently to long layoffs. They may react well to the additional rest to heal and prepare, or they may be caught flatfooted with their timing off trying to catch up to a Josh Beckett fastball. The Rockies have attempted simulated games to stay sharp. If Beckett comes out throwing fire and they're not ready for it, it could be a long night for Rockies hitters.

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