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Rox set to battle Sox at Fenway

Rox set to battle Sox at Fenway

The Rockies will face one of their more daunting challenges at the plate when they head to Boston, balancing a ballpark that makes hitters salivate with a pitching staff that induces gasps at the plate.

"You get in that venue to start with, and you think you can spit on the left-field wall," manager Clint Hurdle said. "The right-field pole is 300 feet. You think, 'Wow, I can do some damage here.'"

Enter Tim Wakefield, the perfect weapon for an eager Rockies lineup ready to swing for the fences in Fenway's cozy confines. The knuckleballer will face a younger lineup, antsy after an off-day and ready to rumble with Boston's Green Monster and the short porch in right.

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"Big swings are right what [knuckleballers] are looking for," Hurdle said, drawing on his own experience facing past masters like Phil and Joe Niekro, Wilbur Wood and Charlie Hough. "We really need to go in there with good focus and almost an aggressive [batting practice-] type mentality. Aggressive pepper. Just square the ball up and hit it hard where it's pitched, nothing more than that. With a knuckleball, you got to wait as long as you can to fire and hope he hangs something."

As challenging as it is to wait out Wakefield's pitches, floating erratically toward the plate with mind-numbing mid-60s velocity, the Rockies will need to adapt in a hurry for the following pair of games against two of the game's top flight fastballers.

"You start off with a knuckleballer and back that up with [Curt] Schilling and [Josh] Beckett," mused Hurdle. "There's some challenges there."

The Rockies catch Schilling in his first start since shutting out the A's on Thursday, taking a no-hitter through 8 2/3 innings before finally yielding a single. The Rockies have seen plenty of him from his days with the D-backs out west.

"I've seen Schilling throw games where he's squared up a little bit, and then I've seen him throw games where he's just lights out again," Hurdle said. "His M.O. has usually been the same. He gets ahead away, he throws that backdoor cutter, he throws the fastball away, he'll throw the split, he'll spin the ball, he will work that hip shot."

If that's not enough, Boston closes the series by throwing Beckett at the Rox, riding high on a nine-game winning streak that's put him at the top of the Majors in wins. His 2.88 ERA drops to 2.79 at night, when the Rockies will face him, and his .211 opponents average against is second in the league to Oakland's Dan Haren.

"All these guys, with the exception of Wakefield, we need to be ready to hit the fastball," Hurdle said. "After that, just battle. But be ready to hit the fastball, because they're power guys. Beckett will throw you some fastballs."

The Rox and Sox are even after playing six games against each other in 2002 and 2004. Each team has taken two-of-three in its home park, and though Boston gets the home-field advantage this year, the Rockies can look at the series as a "rubber match."

The Rockies have won five of their last six series, splitting the sixth. They are on a rubber roll, having won four rubber games in a row. Taking two-of-three from the Red Sox would put the Rockies at an even .500 for the season at the end of the AL road trip.

Pitching matchup
COL: RHP Aaron Cook (4-2, 4.54 ERA)
Cook has typically pitched six innings, while giving up three or four runs, in the majority of his 13 starts this season. But he's been winning -- he's 4-1 in his past seven starts. He allowed five runs on seven hits in six innings against Houston in his last outing, but the Rockies came back to win. Three starts ago, Cook hurled a five-hit complete game in a win over the Giants.

BOS: RHP Tim Wakefield (5-7, 4.22 ERA)
Wakefield was able to corral his knuckleball enough to strike out a season-high eight hitters and walked just two against the Oakland A's on Wednesday night. The three runs he allowed were his fewest in a start since May 10. He still took the loss, though.

Player to watch
Todd Helton is the only active Rockie with an at-bat against Wakefield, going 0-for-1, but he is a .500 hitter (6-for-12) at Fenway.

Tickets
 Buy tickets now to catch the game in person.

On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• FSN Rocky Mountain

On radio
• KOA 850

Up next
• Wednesday: Rockies (Josh Fogg, 1-5, 5.06) at Red Sox (Curt Schilling, 6-2, 3.49), 5:05 p.m. MT
• Thursday: Rockies (Jeff Francis, 5-5, 3.81) at Red Sox (Josh Beckett, 9-0, 2.88), 5:05 p.m. MT
• Friday: Rockies (Rodrigo Lopez, 2-0, 2.88) vs. Devil Rays (James Shields, 6-0, 3.04), 7:05 p.m. MT

Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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