The participants in this year's fall classic were finalized last night when the Boston Red Sox completed yet-another comeback in the post-season. The Mighty BoSox won the final three games of their best of seven against the Cleveland Indians to advance toward the snow-covered tundra of Coors Field in Colorado (they literally had yesterdays practice snowed out).
If you haven't heard about the Colorado Rockies and their one loss over the last 22 games then you wouldn't be reading this, because you don't care about baseball. During this rare stretch of dominance, including 7-0 in the playoffs, the Rockies have proven to be strong -- albeit youthful -- on the mound, while productive and threatening at the plate throughout their line up. They also had the best defensive team in the National League throughout the regular season, and will carry this edge with them to Fenway Park. While the Rockies have outscored their opponent by a total of 73 runs during this stretch, the tango looming with Red Sox presents more than a few roadblocks that can crush their momentum and end their World Series dreams.
Pitching has been strong for the Rockies who boast a 2.85 ERA (combined) throughout this historic run, while holding opponents to a .232 batting average. However, aside from their ace, Canadian lefty Jeff Francis, valid concern can be expressed with regards to the remainder of the youthful Rockies staff. Not only will mounting pressure from the fans potential rattle their confidence, but the Colorado starters will face much stronger bats from the American League Champion Red Sox. If the Rockies' young arms can withstand imminent threads in the form of Ortiz-Manny-Lowell, and can stay relaxed at Fenway Park, they'll greatly enhance their chances of winning the World Series crown.
What happens to the hottest team in baseball when they get nine days off before the World Series? This is the most significant internal issue facing the Rockies, who've been bored all week while watching the ALCS play out and pitching simulated- and playing inter-squad games. Normally teams cool off significantly during extended layoffs as their mental focus, intensity and momentum waiver,
but whether or not this conventional wisdom applies to to the team in the midst of one of the greatest runs in post-season history will be worth watching. The Rockies bats will likely suffer some serious frostbite, not only based on the respective climates in Colorado and Boston, but because they haven't faced any real pitching in so long.
Unfortunately for the Rockies, this real pitching will come in the form of two of the best post-season pitchers of our generation in Josh Beckett and Curt Shilling, in addition to a shutdown closer, Jonathon Paplebon and respectable bullpen. Furthermore, the Red Sox start The Series with all cylinders smoking. They are getting production at the plate from their role players like Pedroia and Youkilis and have their big-time pitchers hungry and rested.
The Rockies will need more Cinderella-type magic to beat the Sox, however improbable it may seem that they'll extend their streak by the required 4 victories to close the season. Colorado fans will be hopeful that the magic remains, as it will make for a fantastic match-up. However, as the first four games of the Series play out, Beckett will likely win two starts, in addition to another guaranteed from the veteran Curt Shilling. Consequently, facing a projected 3-1 deficit starting Game 5, and the difficulty of winning two games at Fenway Park to stay alive, I like the eventual winner to be Boston in 6. Thus, it looks like the party will continue in the Boston-area as the Patriots stay undefeated, Boston College tops the NCAA football polls and the Red Sox win the World Series.