DENVER - The comparison, as commonly applied, tends to be odious. It makes John Henry quaver, Larry Lucchino combative, Theo Epstein defensive.
But perhaps in this one instance, the Red Sox will not object to being likened to the New York Yankees.
Only one American League team in 103 years of World Series play has executed a four-game sweep in successive Series appearances. The Yankees have done it on three occasions.
Three years to the night Keith Foulke flipped to Doug Mientkiewicz for the final out of the 2004 Series, the Sox stand poised to become the second. The Sox took a six-run lead, then held off the Colorado Rockies, 10-5, in Game 3 of the World Series.
Rookies Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia rescued the Sox with back-to-back doubles in the eighth inning, fueling a three-run rally after the Rockies had drawn to within 6-5.
Jason Varitek’s sacrifice fly in the ninth accounted for the final Sox run.
Ellsbury (four hits) and Pedroia (three) combined to score three runs and drive in four, justifying manager Terry Francona’s willingness to make them the first rookies to bat 1-2 in a Series lineup.
Ellsbury became the third rookie in Series history with four hits in a game, joining Fred Lindstrom of the New York Giants (Game 5, 1924) and Joe Garagiola of the Cardinals (Game 4, 1946).
Matt Holliday’s three-run home run off Hideki Okajima pulled the Rockies to within a run, 6-5, in the seventh, but Okajima recovered and Jonathan Papelbon recorded the last four outs.
Whatever hopes the locals entertained of a purple reign appeared to vanish in a hail of 10 Red Sox hits in the first three innings. Ellsbury doubled twice in a six-run third inning, and Daisuke Matsuzaka delivered a two-run single for his first major league hit.
Matsuzaka took a three-hit shutout into the sixth, but was lifted after issuing one-out walks to Todd Helton and Garrett Atkins. Matsuzaka also made a nice play afield in the first inning, trapping Kaz Matsui off second base after making a backhanded stab of Holliday’s comebacker.
Colorado manager Clint Hurdle left in starting pitcher Josh Fogg until after Matsuzaka singled and Ellsbury followed with his second double, scoring Julio Lugo to make it 6-0.
Ellsbury became just the second big leaguer in Series history to double twice in an inning, joining Arizona’s Matt Williams, who did it in 2001.
Pedroia followed Ellsbury’s first double by bunting in front of the mound and beating it out as Ellsbury took third. David Ortiz then doubled into the right-field corner, Ellsbury scoring and Pedroia taking third.
Manny Ramírez was walked intentionally to load the bases, but Mike Lowell grounded a 2-and-1 pitch up the middle for a two-run single. J.D. Drew popped to short, but Varitek lined a single to left. Ramirez’s stutter-step into third, followed by a wide turn, gave Holliday just enough time to nail Ramírez at the plate.
Lugo walked, reloading the bases, and Matsuzaka shot a ground ball through the left side to make it 5-0. Ellsbury’s double to center finished off Fogg.
The Rockies broke through after Matsuzaka was lifted in the sixth. Brad Hawpe greeted reliever Javier Lopez with a bloop single over shortstop, Helton scoring, and Yorvit Torrealba grounded a base hit up the middle to make it 6-2.
Francona went to his bullpen again, summoning Mike Timlin. Pinch hitter Ryan Spilborghs drove Ellsbury to the track in center for the second out, and Lugo climbed high into Denver’s thin air to bring pinch hitter Jeff Baker’s line drive back to earth. Lugo also had made a run-saving play in the fifth, backhanding a ball in the hole and flipping off balance to third for the force.
But that only delayed the Rockies’ comeback. Matsui dropped a bunt that died in fair territory about 20 feet down the third base line. Troy Tulowitzki followed with a base hit, and Francona called for Okajima, who had been unscored upon in six previous postseason appearances (9 2/3 innings). That lasted one pitch, Holliday crushing one over the center-field wall.
Okajima gave up a base hit to Helton, then righted himself by whiffing Atkins and Hawpe and retiring Torrealba on a comebacker.