The book on Game 1: Great expectations

Beckett, Rox meet expectations

BOSTON -- Do not demean the Colorado Rockies because they could not hit Josh Beckett.

If you want to kick them around a little bit for giving up 13 runs in their first World Series game, you have the First Amendment on your side, go ahead, take a shot.

But don't get on them because they could score only one run in seven innings against Beckett. His 2007 postseason earned run average actually went up a bit as a result of this outing. The inability to hit Beckett should not be a reflection on the Rockies, any portion of the Mountain Time Zone, the National League West, or the Senior Circuit in general, for that matter.

Losing a World Series opener by 12 runs may require some excuse-making on behalf of the Colorado pitchers. But not hitting Beckett is becoming an October way of life.

In this postseason, the Angels could not hit Beckett. Nor could the Cleveland Indians and they had two tries. In three postseason starts before this one, Beckett had an ERA of 1.17. Against the best the American League could offer, he struck out 26 and walked one.

Now we come to Game 1 of the 2007 World Series, the Rockies up against the Boston Red Sox. But the real problem was that they were up against Beckett.

Before this game even started, Rockies manager Clint Hurdle, asked about being able to add a designated hitter to his lineup, cut directly to the chase: "It's all going to depend how Beckett pitches tonight," Hurdle said. "He's really good."

That "really good" part, of course, is severely understated, but if you're the opposing manager you cannot say: "If Beckett pitches the way he pitched the last three games, we have the same chance as a snowball in Hades."

What Hurdle correctly did was identify the primary factor in this World Series opener. If Beckett was really on, no team on the planet was going to hit him hard. And Beckett was really on.

The Rockies' only hope was that their starter, Jeff Francis, could reach Beckett's level, at least for one Wednesday night. But he could not. The Red Sox scored three in the first and one in the second. After that, the only drama was whether forecast heavy rains would come before this game became official.

The rains held off long enough for this contest to become a rout. Some people will look at this result and say that the Rockies are hopelessly overmatched by the Red Sox. No, it is too early to say that. Other teams have been beaten badly in Game 1 of the World Series and have come back to win. The 1959 Los Angeles Dodgers and the 1982 St. Louis Cardinals come to mind.

Beckett's Red Octobers
How Josh Beckett fared in his 10 postseason outings
IP
H
R
ER
BB
K
W-L
Game/Series
7.0
2
1
1
5
9
L
Game 1, 2003 NLDS
6.1
8
6
6
1
5
ND
Game 1, 2003 NLCS
9.0
2
0
0
1
11
W
Game 5, 2003 NLCS
4.0
1
1
1
0
3
ND
Game 7, 2003 NLCS*
7.1
3
2
2
3
10
L
Game 3, 2003 WS
9.0
5
0
0
2
9
W
Game 6, 2003 WS
9.0
4
0
0
0
8
W
Game 1, 2007 ALDS
6.0
4
2
2
0
7
W
Game 1, 2007 ALCS
8.0
5
1
1
1
11
W
Game 5, 2007 ALCS
7.0
6
1
1
1
9
W
Game 1, 2007 WS
72.2
40
14
14
14
82
6-2
1.73 ERA

But the Rockies were hopelessly overmatched by Josh Beckett. There is no consolation is this other than noting that the Rockies are in really good company, including the AL West champions and the only other team besides the Red Sox that was good enough to win 96 games in the regular season.

Francis could have had a truly commendable effort and the Rockies still would have lost, maybe 3-1. The way it actually went, the Rockies were blown out, but their pitching in this game did not cost them a victory. It merely cost them a measure of embarrassment.

With his performance on Wednesday night, seven innings of one-run ball, Beckett is now 4-0 in his four postseason starts, with a 1.20 ERA. In 30 innings, he has walked two and struck out 35. In a way, this is a long-distance continuation of his 2003 postseason work when he threw a two-hit shutout against the Chicago Cubs in the NL Championship Series, and encored with a five-hit, short-rest Game 6 shutout of the Yankees in the World Series that earned him the Series MVP Award.

So Beckett is a postseason legend in the making. Losing to him is, by now, the only result that can be fairly expected. A 13-1 loss is beyond the range of normal expectations, but anybody who had been watching this October would have seen the Rockies being down 1-0 in this Series, which is precisely where they are.

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The way it was, the game turned into a two-headed monster for the Rockies. "I think you saw a real good Beckett and I think you saw our inability to shut down innings," Hurdle said.

Beckett himself gave his standard post-triumph analysis of his work. He just executed pitches. The defense behind him was terrific. His teammates with the bats did their work exceptionally well.

This time he was maybe even more self-effacing than usual. "I executed just enough pitches to survive," Beckett said. "I held them off just long enough."

Beckett was asked to judge his own stellar postseason performance and he said: "I hope my teammates are happy. That's who I'm really here to please. If they're happy, I'm happy."

He can rest easily on that score. When it comes to his performance the rest of the Red Sox have left happy behind and are closing in on ecstatic.

"He's proven himself over the whole year and now he's just stepping up even more and showing you that he's probably one of the best pitchers in the game," said first baseman Kevin Youkilis. "He's always been known since he was young as a phenom, and I think right now he's setting his mark and living up to all the expectations that were put on him when he was younger. You've got to tip your cap to Josh. He's handled it well the past few years and he's doing an unbelievable job for us. He's a guy out there that we want in a big game."

The opener of a World Series will qualify in that category. The Colorado Rockies didn't have to lose, 13-1. But the fact was that, with Josh Beckett at the top of his form, they weren't going to win, anyway. Their hopes for this Series must rest with beating somebody else.

Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.