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Series heads west, Rox continue south

Rox heading in wrong direction

DENVER -- As though it was in 19th century America, under orders from Horace Greeley, this World Series moved west, leaving the Northeast, crossing the Mississippi, journeying all the way to the base of the mighty western mountains.

And the results didn't change a bit. Oh, we got to see a bit of what the excitement was about the Colorado Rockies. But the Boston Red Sox still won. The Rockies still lost. On Saturday night, in Game 3, it was Boston 10, Colorado 5. You can see the finish line from here.

There was a display of the indomitable quality that the Rockies had in putting together this season's astounding late run. They came charging back from a 6-0 deficit and closed to 6-5 in the seventh inning on the strength of Matt Holliday's three-run home run.

But their problem was that they were down six runs in the first place. You can be as scrappy and persistent and perseverant as you want, but dropping behind by six runs is the kind of thing you cannot withstand, particularly this deep in the postseason.

Starting pitching again made a tremendous difference. At this level -- October, not high altitude -- you can win only if you can pitch. This explains in large measure why the Red Sox are on the verge of a World Series sweep, and the Rockies are on the verge of being swept.

The Red Sox are 3-for-3 in stellar starting pitching performances in the 2007 World Series. The Rockies are 1-for-3, and even in that one, the Red Sox were better and the Colorado starter didn't finish five innings.

Daisuke Matsuzaka, with tough acts to follow in Josh Beckett and Curt Schilling, staged his own proof of World Series worth on Saturday night. Not only did Dice-K pitch at a highly effective level, he delivered a two-run single in a six-run Boston third. When the pitcher hits, the loss of that designated hitter position seems sort of incidental, doesn't it?

There was a school of thought that the nature of this Series would change dramatically when the scene shifted from Fenway Park to Coors Field. The Rockies would be surrounded by adoring fans, the curveball wouldn't curve as much, and maybe the Red Sox would be huffing and puffing in the rarified Colorado air.

The Rockies were surrounded by adoring fans, a crowd of 49,983. The curveball probably didn't curve as much. But the Red Sox didn't seem to be particularly gassed. And the whole thing still came down to pitching. While Dice-K was shutting the Rockies out for the first five innings, Josh Fogg was giving up six runs on 10 hits in 2 2/3 innings.

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Matsuzaka eventually gave up two runs in 5 1/3 innings, although those two runs both scored while Javier Lopez, one Boston pitcher who has not fared well in this postseason, was on the mound.

If Matsuzaka was not at Beckett's level of dominance, what he did here will add a bit of luster to his postseason reputation. He had not been able to get beyond the fifth inning in his first two postseason starts in North America. But then he was the winning pitcher in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series against Cleveland at Fenway Park.

And here, against another team with a lineup that can be very difficult, in another park that is far from pitcher-friendly, Dice-K was very good. Compared to Fogg, he was headed for Cooperstown, but even against a more formidable standard, Matsuzaka was fine.

"I did think tonight that was the best life on his fastball that he had in some time," manager Terry Francona said. "He threw some pretty good changeups, and that's a good lineup. I thought he pitched really well."

The two runs batted in, not a predictable part of the package, were also welcome.

"We'll take RBIs from anybody," Francona said. "He said he was a good hitter, but during the season he batted in two separate games and once was against Randy Johnson and he just kind of smiled after he struck him out. But he competes."

"I can't quite say that I'm a confident hitter, but I love hitting," Matsuzaka said, through an interpreter.

Matsuzaka said he was "relieved" not to have been the one to have broken his team's momentum. He was being very modest. The entire Colorado team hasn't done much to break the Boston momentum, either.

In the end, the Rockies had enough to make this game interesting, but not to win it. After drawing to within one run, their bullpen was unable to keep the game close.

This game might have been more interesting than the 10-5 score would indicate, but in this series, the 3-0 Boston lead is not at all misleading. The Red Sox have given up seven runs in three games, against a team with a highly reputable lineup, in a Series contested in two parks favorable to hitters. On the other hand, the Red Sox have scored 25 runs. No, there is nothing at all of the fluke in this 3-0 Boston edge.

What next? Twenty-two teams have taken 3-0 World Series leads. They have all won. "It looks like we're in groundbreaking territory," said Rockies manager Clint Hurdle, who must specialize now in this type of relentless optimism.

The Rockies did win their last 10 games before this series and 21 of their last 22 overall, and in so doing they converted a seemingly impossible situation into a postseason berth and then a spot in the World Series. But none of those 22 games was played against, well, the Boston Red Sox.

Against the splendid pitching that Boston has produced, the Rockies are still seeking the one-game winning streak. Even that is proving to be extremely elusive.

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

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