Rockies return to site of success


The Green Monster in left field. The Pesky Pole in right. Screaming fans all over the place.

The aura of Fenway Park can intimidate visitors. Not the Colorado Rockies. They've seen and heard it all before and done quite well.

In a three-game series in mid-June, they came to the historic ballpark with a losing record and beat the first-place Boston Red Sox twice. In the finale, Jeff Francis had one of his best starts of the year, Josh Beckett had one of his worst and the Rockies won 7-1.

On Wednesday night, Francis and Beckett will meet at Fenway again in Game — of the World Series.

"It was loud. It was energetic," Francis said of his last visit. "Those fans are into the game at all points. There is no limit. You have to get all 27 outs before you can relax."

Beckett was 9-0 when he faced Francis. He lasted just five innings, giving up up six runs, 10 hits and one walk with a season-low one strikeout. He allowed two homers, including a grand slam by Garrett Atkins in the third inning over the 37-foot high Green Monster in left field.

"It was a fun run," Beckett said after the game of his unbeaten streak.

Boston won the opener of that series 2-1 when Tim Wakefield allowed one run in eight innings and Jonathan Papelbon struck out two and picked up the save. The next day, Colorado tagged Curt Schilling for six runs in five innings in a 12-2 victory.

"They took it to us pretty good, I remember that," Boston's Dustin Pedroia said Monday. "They came in here and just beat on us. They swung the bats good. They pitched well. So we're going to have to make some adjustments. But I think we're two totally different teams since then."

The Rockies certainly are.

Just 33-33 after that series, they finished the regular season at 90-73 with a win over San Diego in a one-game playoff. Then they swept Philadelphia and Arizona in the first two postseason rounds, giving them 21 wins in their last 22 games.

"They had an incredible run to this point," Schilling said. "They're going to play us tough."

The Red Sox also have changed.

Rookie Jacoby Ellsbury replaced slumping Coco Crisp in center field for the last two games of the seven-game AL championship series against the Cleveland Indians and could start again Wednesday, although he'd be hitting lefty against left-hander Francis.

The Red Sox also are on an offensive tear. In winning the last three games against Cleveland after falling behind 3-1, they hit .381 (40-for-105) with three homers and outscored the Indians 30-5.

"The way we turned it on in the series against Cleveland, I couldn't be prouder of them," Boston hitting coach Dave Magadan said.

"They hit better at that park than they do anywhere else," Francis said. "We have our work cut out for us, but we are up for the challenge."

The Red Sox hit .279 this season, including .297 at Fenway.

They'll be playing on two days' rest, which should help them keep their batting rhythm. The Rockies will finally play after eight days without a game.

"They'll be ready," Pedroia said. "They've waited their whole lives to be in this situation so I don't think nine days of rest is going to affect their play at all."

Colorado manager Clint Hurdle understood the concern that his hitters might lose their edge, but the city of Denver had time to enjoy winning the NL pennant for the first time in the team's 15-year history.

"All the stories about the down time were appropriate. What will it do to the Rockies?" he said. "But to watch the city &

not to have us run right into the World Series &

has been really cool."

The weather is Boston for the first two games is supposed to be mild, with mostly clear skies and temperatures in the 50s.

There's no snow in the forecast for the weekend games in Denver. Meteorologist Robert Glancy of the National Weather Service said Monday that Games — and 4 should be played in around 45-degree weather.

The Red Sox have an edge in experience; Beckett was the MVP of the 2003 World Series and the 2007 ALCS and Manny Ramirez won the award in the 2004 World Series. The Red Sox still have seven players who were on the roster that ended the franchise's 86-year championship drought.

They also have been resilient, coming back from a 3-0 deficit in the 2004 ALCS and the 3-1 deficit this year.

What's the secret?

"You just try to relax and do what you did all year," Boston's J.D. Drew said. "I knew I didn't want to walk off that field an LCS loser."

He was a winner on Sunday when the Red Sox clinched the ALCS with an 11-2 win at Fenway Park.

But so far this season, the Rockies are 2-1 there.

"That, at least, gives us some familiarity with the ballpark and a little bit with their pitchers recently," NLCS MVP Matt Holliday said. "But that doesn't mean anything in the World Series."

AP Sports Writer Pat Graham in Denver contributed to this report.

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