Even in defeat, Rockies' staff sharp
Jimenez and bullpen combine to limit mighty Sox to two runs
BOSTON -- One day after they lost by a 12-run margin, the Colorado Rockies' pitching staff clearly pushed that dismal performance to the back of its memory bank.
No, the improved effort on Thursday during Game 2 of the World Series didn't bring the Rockies a win, but it did give them something to hang their hats on as they continue to plow through the final round of the postseason. The Rockies head home to Denver with a two-game deficit in the World Series, but they have the peace of mind that their pitching in the second game was more representative of what they can do, and what they've been doing since early September.
"Absolutely, we're optimistic," reliever Matt Herges said following the Rockies' 2-1 loss to the Red Sox. "[Losing] 13-1 [in Game 1], it could have been 2-1. But we were losing that game [regardless] because [Josh] Beckett was so good.
"The fact that we came back tonight -- sure, we didn't win, but we came back and put up a pretty good showing. I think that's going to carry over until we get to Denver."
The staff was not without its problems. Walks were an issue, as evidenced by the five free passes issued by starting right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez. Two of the walks translated into crucial scoring opportunities, and that made the difference in a game decided by one run.
Mike Lowell walked with one out in the fourth and later scored on a Jason Varitek sacrifice fly. With two outs in the fifth, Jimenez walked David Ortiz, who scored on Lowell's double to left.
"Well, it's disappointing," Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said when asked about the high walk totals, previously uncharacteristic for this pitching staff. "It puts you in positions you don't want to get into. That being said, we've got to find a way to correct it."
Still, although the Rockies issued a total of seven walks, the pitching staff managed to hold the red-hot Boston offense to two runs, forcing the Red Sox to strand 12 baserunners.
"We pitched good," said Brian Fuentes, who threw two scoreless innings. "We had some walks that hurt us and we got into some situations, but overall, we pitched well. We've been doing that all year. We've been picking each other up, and that was another example of that."
Fuentes wasn't the only one who drew positives from this game. The 23-year-old Jimenez absorbed the loss but displayed a dominance in the first few frames that reflected his two very solid performances to begin the postseason.
"The first three innings, I was able to locate my fastball down in the strike zone," he said. "But after that inning, I started falling behind in the count. It wasn't that bad, but I could do better."
Said Hurdle: "I thought for a first-year player up here, pitching in this venue against this ballclub, he gave us everything he had, man, he put us in a good position.
"They're a very disciplined team. We know that. We knew it going in. We knew it in June. We know it now. They made him make some pitches, elevated his pitch count a little bit, but he battled. He made some big pitches tonight. There's a lot of growth for him out there tonight."
The Rockies aren't going to needlessly heap praise onto the Red Sox, but the overwhelming theme over the first two games of the World Series has been Boston's savvy approach at the plate. The Rockies have quietly admired the Red Sox in that area.
"They're about as professional as you can get," Herges said. "They're patient, they don't miss mistakes. They have an idea, they have a plan. And I know on top of that, they do their homework. They watch video.
"It always comes down to executing. If you don't execute, you're going to get it handed to you -- especially with a ballclub like this. We executed for the most part tonight. We're looking forward to getting back to our house [Coors Field]."
Although the pitching has traditionally been an issue at Coors Field, the Rockies' staff, having enjoyed its fair share of success there this year, is anxious to return home. Herges spoke at length about the thin air still having an effect at Coors, even in the humidor era.
But he also sounded confident that the only potential pitching issues would be on the visitors' side.
"I'm not saying we're going to be a different team," Herges said. "We're going to be the same team, but we play better at home. It is a different place. The altitude, it's different. It's different for pitchers. I know hitters go there licking their chops. But it's just a place we feel comfortable at. Our fans are going to be phenomenal, as they have been this postseason. It'll be very nice."
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.