It was — a.m. in the Red Sox clubhouse beneath the first-base seats at Fenway Park, and players were laughing, cracking jokes. Fans were giddy as they shuffled out of the old ballpark, already planning another winter of parties across New England.
Those tales of long-suffering losers seem like ancient history now. Boston is streaking toward its second title in four years, beating the Rockies 2-1 Thursday night to take a 2-0 World Series lead heading to Colorado this weekend.
"I'm actually ecstatic," third baseman Mike Lowell said. "We're on the verge of winning a World Series."
Curt Schilling, still a big-game pitcher at age 40, allowed one run and four hits in 5 1-3 wily innings. Then the dynamic duo of Hideki Okajima and Jonathan Papelbon came out of the bullpen with scoreless, one-hit relief.
The crowd of 36,730 didn't just sing "Sweet Caroline." The ritual song was shouted with gusto. As the lyrics go, "Good times never seemed so good."
"This place," Papelbon said after delivering a double fist pump following the final strikeout, "delivers an adrenaline and an intensity like none other."
So now comes the big shift, from finicky Fenway to cavernous Coors Field, where the air is so rare that baseballs are stored in humidors, as if they were fancy cigars. Daisuke Matsuzaka, Boston's $103 million pitcher, starts against Josh Fogg on Saturday night. Of the 50 previous teams that took a 2-0 lead in the World Series, 39 went on to win &
including six straight and 12 of the last 13.
"I don't think we want a letdown at all. I think Game — has to be taken as a do-or-die game for us," Lowell said in a clubhouse as crowded as a T station at rush hour. "I think we've had the mentality basically since the 3-1 deficit with the Indians."
Poor Colorado. The Rockies had won 21 of 22 entering the Series but sat around for eight days &
longer than the gap football teams face between games. They're hitting .180 against the Red Sox and have so much rust they could be a relic from an Indiana Jones movie.
Matt Holliday gets four of their five hits and what does he do in the eighth? He ends the inning by stumbling and getting picked off at first base by Papelbon, out by more than a foot on a play called from Boston's dugout.
"I wanted to cry," Holliday said, jokingly.
Colorado called this a Rocktober celebration, but come the Series the Rockies have been dropping like a stone. Ryan Spliborghs argued with plate umpire Laz Diaz after taking a called third strike that ended the seventh. In two games, Rockies batters had 11 hits and 22 strikeouts. Their pitchers have walked 15 to Boston's three.
Numbing numbers indeed.
"It hurts a little bit more because it's a game we think we could have won," Spilborghs said. "But we're not humbled. We're still confident."
After Colorado was humbled 13-1 in an opener that set a record for margin of victory, Todd Helton's RBI groundout put Colorado ahead in the first. Jason Varitek's sacrifice fly tied it in the fourth after rookie Ubaldo Jimenez walked Lowell and J.D. Drew singled. Lowell doubled in the go-ahead run in the fifth after David Ortiz walked with two outs and Manny Ramirez singled.
That was that.
"Come on, man, we've gone two games out of four. You can't get more confident than that," Ortiz said.
Boston has won six straight World Series games for the first time since 1915-16, back when Woodrow Wilson was president, Babe Ruth was an emerging pitcher at the end of the dead-ball era and a group known as the Royal Rooters sang "Tessie" in the Fenway seats.
"We did what we were supposed to do," leadoff man Dustin Pedroia said. "Won our home games."
He was thinking of how he'll prepare for the mile-high altitude in Denver.
"Drink a lot of water," he said.
Schilling improved to 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA in 19 postseason starts &
including 3-0 this year &
and tipped his cap to the pulsing crowd as he walked off the mound. It was, perhaps, his final start in a Red Sox uniform.
"They know I want to come back, and we'll deal with that at the appropriate time," Schilling said.
He sounded more impressed with his bullpen than with his own performance.
Okajima entered with two on in the sixth, retired Garrett Atkins on a grounder and struck out Brad Hawpe. The rookie left-hander from Japan fanned three straight before he was pulled for Papelbon with two outs in the eighth.
Papelbon struck out two of three in the ninth, hitting 97-99 mph, depending on which radar gun you looked at. The two relievers have combined for 17 1-3 scoreless innings in October.
"This was the Pap-ajima show tonight," Schilling said, coining a word. "That was just phenomenal to watch."
Colorado's clubhouse had a determined mood, not a somber one, and players were thinking ahead to Saturday, the first World Series game in Denver's history.
"Our hometown crowd is probably looking forward to this as much as anything in a long time," Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said. "We can use the support, and it should be exciting when we get back."
Rockies rookie Troy Tulowitzki as much as promised them a comeback.
"We're going to make a series out of this," he said.
Notes: Schilling is 4-1 in World Series play. ... Matsuzaka left for Denver about 5 p.m in preparation for Game 3. ... Okajima became the first Japanese-born pitcher in a World Series game.
Red Sox take 2-0 World Series lead