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Unusually tough night for Rockies' arms

Unusually tough night for Rox staff

BOSTON -- Every Major League player who has had the privilege to play in a World Series would readily admit the experience is unforgettable.

But as happy as the Rockies are to be here, forgive them if they try to wipe this one from their memory banks as soon as possible.

The Rockies' postseason winning streak came to a screeching halt on Wednesday, as the pitching that had played such an integral role during their mind-boggling stretch of 21 wins in 22 games took a nosedive in Game 1 of the World Series.

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Jeff Francis summed it up nicely after allowing six runs over four innings during the Red Sox's 13-1 pummeling of the Rockies.

"That's a pretty hot team over there and they weren't missing anything," the starting left-hander said.

The Rockies lost for the first time in 11 games, and this one was a doozy. The 12-run differential was the largest for a Game 1 in the World Series, and it was the largest in any Fall Classic meeting since Game 5 in 2002, when the Giants beat the Angels, 16-4.

Francis turned in his shortest outing of his three postseason appearances, allowing more runs than he did in his previous two starts combined. He pushed aside any suggestions that nerves played a part in his poor performance, opting instead to focus on the simple fact that he just wasn't very good this time.

Against a fierce Boston lineup, Francis' mistakes suffered plenty of overexposure.

"I made mistakes and they took advantage of it," Francis said. "When you're getting hit around, you want to try to stay away from the middle of the plate, and I wasn't able to do it, for the most part."

Francis added that his changeups didn't have their normal downward movement, and that he didn't have a good feel for the curveballs he threw to right-handers.

"You try to change speeds with your fastball and you're not getting down in the zone like you want to, hitters take advantage of it when you leave it up in the zone," Francis said.

Rockies pitching coach Bob Apodaca saw a continuing trend with all of his hurlers in this game. Boston hitters were both relentless and patient, continually pushing Colorado pitchers into bad counts.

"They scouted us and prepared for what [Francis] was going to offer, and he wasn't too sharp," Apodaca said. "He got into counts you don't want to get into against an offensive ballclub. You pay for it dearly when you get into poor counts, and that's what happened tonight.

"Same thing with the relievers after that. They got into very poor offensive counts. We weren't effective on both sides of the plate. We became very predictable and that's the result, you saw the result."

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The Rockies' bullpen provided no help following Francis' departure. The struggles began immediately, starting with Franklin Morales, who allowed seven runs and didn't make it out of the fifth inning. Ryan Speier replaced Morales and fared no better, issuing three consecutive bases-loaded walks to contribute to the Red Sox's seven-run frame.

"We couldn't make the pitches," catcher Yorvit Torrealba said. "We couldn't keep the ball down. We were leaving the ball up, and they were obviously hitting them. They're a good offensive ballclub and that's something that we need to work on and maybe make better pitches."

Asked if the World Series hype may have affected youngsters such as Morales and Speier, Apodaca admitted there may be something to that. Of course, Boston's relentless approach at the plate was also an issue.

"All of the factors coming into today -- the excitement, the crowd, the competition, the knowing that 'to be effective, I can't just throw strikes, I have to throw quality strikes,'" Apodaca said. "In Speier's case, he's inheriting a bases-loaded situation. All of these factors lead to trying to be too fine in the strike zone.


"They scouted us and prepared for what [Jeff Francis] was going to offer, and he wasn't too sharp. He got into counts you don't want to get into against an offensive ballclub. You pay for it dearly when you get into poor counts and that's what happened tonight."
-- Rockies pitching coach Bob Apodaca

"We talked all year that we are going to attack the strike zone. I said before the game, 'If we try to avoid contact, we're in for a rude awakening. We're going to get into the counts that we can't afford to get into.' They forced us into a lot of mistakes. Give [the Red Sox] credit offensively. They took advantage of the counts they were in."

This Rockies performance was a far cry from the first two rounds of the playoffs, during which their pitchers compiled a 2.08 ERA over seven games, all wins. The starters had a 2.43 ERA, while the relievers posted a 1.61 mark.

Even more incredibly, the Rockies had not lost on the road in nearly six weeks entering this game. Their last road defeat had been Sept. 13 in Philadelphia, and after that, they strung together 11 straight wins away from Coors Field.

Apodaca hopes the pitching staff will focus on what got them this far, but at the same time not forget what stopped them in their tracks on Wednesday night at Fenway Park.

"You draw from success," he said. "You learn from success, just as well as you learn from your failures. We can learn just as much from what we didn't do well today. Because that's maybe the best process you can possibly have -- knowing, 'I cannot do this and be successful.'"

Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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