Red-hot Rockies on mind of ALCS fans
Faithful of Sox, Indians impressed by potential Classic foes
CLEVELAND -- Jason Cole of Rome, N.Y., had one word for them:
Matt Smith of Salem, Ohio, had another:
The American League Championship Series moved to Cleveland on Monday night for Game 3, and the Indians and Red Sox were not the only teams on the mind of those in attendance. Many fans interviewed outside Jacobs Field before the Tribe's win were talking about one of the hottest teams in the history of autumn baseball and the World Series opponent for whichever team advances here:
"They have me worried," said Michele Waters, a Red Sox fan transplanted from Waterbury, Conn., to Columbus, Ohio. "If we wind up playing them, they have me worried. They're just on fire. Nothing is stopping them. They're like the Sox in '04.
"I think the Sox have a better chance of beating the Rockies than the Indians do. We just have a better team. But this will go six or seven games, and you just don't know who's going to be there."
As most everyone knows by now, Colorado started winning on Sept. 16 and hasn't stopped, except for that 4-2 blip against Brandon Webb at the D-backs on Sept. 28 at Coors Field. The Rockies finished their sweep of the National League Championship Series when their 6-4 victory over the Diamondbacks in Denver late Monday night Colorado time.
"They're unbelievable now," said Smith, an Indians fan. "What is it, 20 out of 21? That's all I have to say: Unbelievable. Hopefully we'll have a chance to slow them down."
"Hottest team in baseball -- and they're a Wild Card," said Rich Finley, here with son Austin and representing Red Sox Nation out of Des Moines, Iowa. "They have a team ERA of 1.77, and that's one of the lowest in MLB history for a postseason. When you think of a team in Colorado, you think of a team of mashers."
The Rockies' team ERA through the first three games of the NLCS was even better -- 1.24. The last NL team to record an ERA lower than 2.00 in the LCS was the 1996 Braves club, which had an ERA of 1.92 in its seven-game series against the Cardinals. The lowest team ERA recorded by a club in the NLCS in a four-game series is 1.03 by the Phillies in the 1983 LCS against the Dodgers.
"I'm always nervous whenever an AL team goes to an NL park," Finley said. "You would have [David] Ortiz playing in a different park and having to play first base."
How did someone from Des Moines become a Sox fan? "I lived in Oklahoma, when I was young, and I was a fan of the Dolphins, Celtics, Red Sox and Sooners," Finley said. "Dad said to pick one team. I picked the Red Sox."
It was a beautiful night for baseball, certainly nothing like the snowy conditions that greeted fans at the start of this season. It was 70 degrees around the start of batting practice. Red Sox fans Matt and Margaret Letourneau of Ashburn, Va., were among the earliest to enter The Jake, and while in line waiting for the gates to open, they were talking about a hot club that someone seemed likely to have to deal with starting Oct. 24 either here or at Fenway Park.
"The Red Sox need to win the series," Matt Letourneau said. "The postseason is all about who gets hot. We saw last year that the best team doesn't always win. If we get past the Indians, then we'll worry about the Rockies."
The Rockies won two of three in the June 12-14 Interleague series at Fenway, where Josh Fogg beat Curt Schilling in the middle game and Jeff Francis beat top AL Cy Young Award candidate Josh Beckett in the finale. Do Interleague results matter?
"Not necessarily," Letourneau said. "The Indians showed that by going 0-6 against the Yankees during the season and then winning the ALDS. It's a different time of year. Take Beckett, for example. He's throwing shutouts now."
Good luck trying to distinguish the Sox fans from Indians fans here. They were wearing virtually identical colors, the same look except for the familiar logos.
"It's Red Sox Nation -- we show up everywhere," Letourneau said in reference to the large Sox contingent. "We're from the D.C. area, and we'll have our fans here."
Brandon Bembenic of State College, Pa., made his fellow fans outside the gates laugh when he said Colorado is "impressive for a National League team."
"But that's what I would have said last year about the Cardinals," he added. "Who would have thought the NL would win? I'm still very much of the belief that the American League is dominant." The Rockies could have to wait as long as nine days for the World Series to start.
"That [wait] might play in our favor," Bembenic said. "You want them to cool off. But it didn't seem to hurt them when they waited five days after eliminating the Phillies."
Tony Elder is a Reds fan who was here from St. Mary's, W. Va., mainly because his son likes the Sox. He was somewhat neutral, and you don't find many of those around here.
"I'm glad the Rockies are winning, myself," he said. "Our son went to the Air Force Academy at Colorado Springs, and we went to watch one of the games. It's nice to see the success they are having there. It's nice to see someone new winning."
Gareth and Emily Harris were standing right behind the Indians' dugout during BP, and it was a case study on the rising global popularity of the game.
He is from the U.K, and he said, "I just married a girl from Cleveland. While she was at her bachelorette party, her Dad took me to see the game on June 1 when Cleveland came back to beat Detroit, 12-11. That was my introduction to Major League Baseball."
So now that he knows a thing or two about baseball, what does Gareth think of the Rockies?
"The Rockies are similar to the Indians, good but with a low budget," he said. "They're on a hot streak. I hope the layoff they will have makes them cold.
"But to be honest with you, you can't see past the Red Sox right now."
Right there, you knew he understood the game.
John Spears of Columbus, Ohio, said the Rockies are "the closest thing to an AL club. Not to sound overconfident, but you've got Manny [Ramirez], David [Ortiz], very few weaknesses on the Red Sox. Outstanding lineup and pitching by the Indians. It may be a good matchup either way, but I like the AL."
Mark Newman is enterprise editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.