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True grit

Red Sox halfway to another title

BOSTON -- There was no hitting barrage or pitching masterpiece for the Red Sox in Thursday night's Game 2 of the World Series, nor did there need to be. What carried this night was crisp execution in both facets at times when it was needed most.

Hardly content with leaving home with a split, the Sox played a game of survival on both sides of the ball, and it wound up being enough for a 2-1 victory that has pinned the Rockies in a 2-0 hole as the Fall Classic shifts to the thin air of Coors Field for Game 3 on Saturday.

Of the 50 previous teams who have opened a 2-0 lead in the World Series, 39 have gone on to win. Then, there is this stat. Of the 34 teams that have won the first two games of the World Series at home, 27 have emerged as champs.

But the Red Sox are oblivious to that right now -- much like they were when such numbers were slanted against them after they fell behind 3-1 to the Indians in the American League Championship Series.

"I think what we've said all along -- and it will never change, and we're really good at it -- is playing the game ahead of us," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "Our outlook on the way we play won't change. The next game ahead of us is the most important thing on our radar, and that'll never change, regardless of what our record is."

After winning five in a row to put them within two victories of the ultimate goal, the Red Sox are focused to an extreme degree, conjuring up memories of 2004, when they finished October with a record-setting eight wins in a row.

"I don't think we want a letdown at all," said Sox third baseman Mike Lowell. "I think Game 3 has to be taken as a do-or-die game for us. I think we've had that mentality basically since the 3-1 deficit with the Indians, and I think that's the right mentality to have. We want to keep pushing forward. We want to keep grinding out at-bats and innings, and hopefully at the end of nine innings, we're ahead."

If there was a night in which grinding out a win was the operative order of business, this was it.

Curt Schilling, who loves this time of year, gritted his teeth after allowing a run in the first and earned the win with 5 1/3 strong innings. The big right-hander allowed four hits and a run, walking two and striking out four.

But he couldn't have done it without an extremely large effort by the bullpen, in particular Hideki Okjaima, who fired 2 1/3 hitless innings and struck out four while becoming the first Japanese-born pitcher to appear in a World Series game.

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"Last year, I pitched in the Japanese World Series, and I have some experience in a big stage like this, so I was confident out there," Okajima said through a translator. "I felt real good out there."

As always, so did Jonathan Papelbon. The flamethrowing closer even broke out a pickoff move against Matt Holliday at first base to end the eighth, then fired a 1-2-3 ninth, which ended when he unloaded a 99-mph heater (at least according to the scoreboard reading in center field) by a very tardy Brad Hawpe. For Papelbon, it was a save in his first World Series outing.

"This was the Pap-ajima Show tonight," said Schilling. "That was just phenomenal to watch. Okajima was perfect, absolutely perfect -- every single pitch."

But before it got to the bullpen, there was another productive October night for Schilling, who is now 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA lifetime in the postseason, not to mention similarly strong numbers (4-1 with a 2.06 ERA) in the World Series. A free agent after this season, this might have been Schilling's last appearance in a Boston uniform. Then again, he will take the ball for Game 6 right back here at Fenway if the series stretches that far.

When Schilling exited the game, there was an ovation that shook Fenway and a hearty tip of the cap by the righty.

But Schilling is eyeing another ring -- the third of his career -- and not focusing on his own saga.

Schilling was asked what his thoughts and emotions were on what might have been his Fenway finale.

Red Sox at 2-0 in Good Company
Fifty-one teams have taken a 2-0 lead in the World Series, with 39 of the previous 50 going on to win the championship(78%). Sixteen of the last 22 Fall Classics, starting in 1985, have now headed to Game 3 with one team on top, 2-0. Twelve of the 15 previous teams have gone on to win the Series, with the outcome of this World Series undecided.
YearTeam up 2-0OpponentOutcome
2007BostonColoradoTBD
2005Chicago WSHoustonChicago, 4-0
2004BostonSt. LouisBoston, 4-0
2001ArizonaNY YankeesArizona, 4-3
2000NY YankeesNY MetsNY Yankees, 4-1
1999NY YankeesAtlantaNY Yankees, 4-0
1998NY YankeesSan DiegoNY Yankees, 4-0
1996Atlanta NY YankeesNY Yankees, 4-2
1995AtlantaClevelandAtlanta, 4-2
1991MinnesotaAtlantaMinnesota, 4-3
1990CincinnatiOaklandCincinnati, 4-0
1989OaklandSan FranciscoOakland, 4-0
1988Los AngelesOaklandLos Angeles, 4-1
1987MinnesotaSt. LouisMinnesota, 4-3
1986Boston NY MetsNY Mets, 4-3
1985St. Louis Kansas CityKansas City, 4-3

"[I] don't have any," said Schilling. "I guarantee everybody is as sick of hearing it as I am. It seems like the last four or five games, everyone is asking if this could be [my last game]. Whatever happens is going to happen."

And what happens in October, quite simply, is that Schilling wins.

"He came up big in another big game and that's kind of been his MO," said Lowell. "He has a ton of experience, and the most impressive thing about Schill is he's had to change his style of pitching. He's not that power pitcher anymore. You see him really hitting his spots."

After outscoring the Indians and Rockies, 43-6, in their past four games, the Red Sox were tamed early by Rockies right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez. But the Sox got a game-tying sacrifice fly form Jason Varitek in the fourth and then an RBI double by Lowell in the fifth to go in front for good.

Schilling started the game by hitting Willy Taveras. With one out, Holliday struck a hard single down the third-base line, allowing Taveras to get to third. Todd Helton gave the Rockies their first lead of the series on a fielder's-choice grounder to first.

If Jimenez had any nerves in his first World Series start, they didn't show. He mowed right through the Red Sox early. He did escape major damage in the third, however, after walking Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis with two outs. David Ortiz narrowly missed clocking a three-run homer around Pesky's Pole in right, but the liner went just foul. Big Papi then struck out to end the threat.

But the Red Sox did get something of substance in the fourth. Lowell worked a one-out walk and raced to third on J.D. Drew's single to right. Though Lowell will never be accused of being fast, he is one of the headiest baserunners on the team. His aggressiveness paid dividends in this case, as he positioned himself to score easily when Varitek then hit a fly ball to center to tie it.

"Sometimes you get that spin where you stay inside the ball, and I saw it go a little bit towards center and I figured, 1-0, one out, I was going to go," said Lowell. "I was figuring a perfect throw was what it would take. He made as close to a perfect throw as there was and I was fortunate to get in there."

An Ortiz walk started a two-out rally against Jimenez in the fifth. Manny Ramirez mashed a single to left, giving Lowell -- Boston's resident RBI machine -- a chance to come through. Lowell delivered, hammering an RBI double down the line in left. For the first time all night, the Red Sox held the lead at 2-1.

After Schilling gave up a single to Holliday and a walk to Helton with one out in the sixth, he was removed following 82 pitches.

"I had a little trouble getting loose in the sixth," said Schilling. "I could not get it feeling right. I thought I didn't command the baseball very well that inning. So I certainly couldn't complain."

And after a huge night by the bullpen, the Red Sox were again in the winner's circle.

"You know, I think we all just kind of feed off each other," said Papelbon. "That's what we did tonight. We just fed off each other and did what we normally do."

Now, it's off to Denver.

"I think this team is always pretty confident," said Youkilis. "We're just playing good ball right now."

Ian Browne 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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{"content":["world_series" ] }