Mon, Oct 29, 2007 - Page 20 News List

Win leaves Red Sox on brink of title sweep

ROCKIES REELING Each of the 22 teams that has held a 3-0 World Series lead, as Boston does after beating Colorado on Saturday, has gone on to capture the title

AFP , DENVER, COLORADO

Daisuke Matsuzaka struck out five and allowed only three hits while driving in two runs on Saturday to spark Boston past Colorado 10-5, putting the Red Sox on the brink of a World Series title sweep.

Three years to the day after ending an 86-year title drought by completing a Series sweep of St Louis, the Red Sox reached the verge of another sweep in Major League Baseball's best-of-seven final.

"It's a great situation to be in," Boston leadoff hitter Jacoby Ellsbury said. "We're very confident but we know Colorado is a great ball club. There's no quit in them. We know it's going to be a tough one to get the last one."

Matsuzaka, a 27-year-old right-hander, became the first Japanese pitcher to start a World Series game and also smacked the first hit of his US career as part of a six-run third inning to earn the victory.

It was the first Series hit by a pitcher since 2004 and by a Red Sox pitcher since 1975.

"We'll take RBIs from anybody," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "He said he was a good hitter. He competes and putting the bat on the ball gave us a chance."

All 22 prior teams with a 3-0 World Series lead went on to capture the championship, 19 of them by completing a sweep.

"It looks like we're in groundbreaking territory," Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said. "We need to go out and win game four. You don't need to overreact. You don't need to underreact. We need to show up and win game four."

The Rockies rallied from 6-0 down to 6-5 but Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia, the first pair of leadoff rookies in Series history, hit back-to-back run-scoring doubles in the eighth to give the Red Sox a 9-5 edge.

Boston's Jason Varitek hit a run-scoring sacrifice fly in the ninth to add an insurance run and Boston closing relief ace Jonathan Papelbon silenced Colorado in the final inning to secure the triumph.

The Red Sox pounded Rockies starter Josh Fogg for six runs on seven hits in the third inning to seize a 6-0 lead, allowed Colorado to close within a run, then tagged southpaw reliever Brian Fuentes for three more runs in the eighth.

Boston batters had managed only one hit off Colorado relief pitchers over 4 2/3 innings after the early outburst until Ellsbury and Pedroia provided a cushion.

Papelbon entered with two out in the eighth and runners on first and second to face Colorado's Matt Holliday.

Holliday smashed Papelbon's first offering to deep left field but fell short of another three-run homer when Manny Ramirez gloved it for an inning-ending out, ending the last serious threat.

Holliday had smashed the first pitch from Japanese reliever Hideki Okajima for the three-run homer in the seventh, but Okajima retired three of the next four batters to end the threat.

Boston's big third inning began when Ellsbury doubled down the left-field line, took third on Pedroia's single and scored the game's first run on a David Ortiz double to right field.

An intentional walk to Ramirez loaded the bases for Mike Lowell, who smacked a two-run single up the middle.

Varitek singled next but Holliday threw home and catcher Yorbit Torrealba tagged out a sliding Ramirez.

Julio Lugo walked to load bases for Matsuzaka, whose clutch single boosted Boston's lead to 5-0.

Ellsbury came to the plate again and doubled to left, becoming only the second player in World Series history with two doubles in the same inning, to score Lugo and give the Red Sox a 6-0 edge.

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