At the plate was Todd Helton, the signature player in Rockies history. But he never saw a pitch in the eighth, as Papelbon whirled and picked off Holliday.
"Probably will go down as one of the biggest outs of my career," Papelbon said.
It was not happenstance. Holliday was intending to steal – he confirmed so after the game – and the Sox had a strong suspicion he was going.
Gordon Edes deconstructs the Sox’ pickoff of Matt Holliday in his game story this morning, and it’s a fantastic piece of sports journalism. Edes digs into the background scouting that led to Jonathan Papelbon’s dramatic eighth inning outfoxing of the Rockies’ MVP candidate. The article shows just how little we fans know about what goes on in the manager’s and coaches’ offices, about how much work, mostly unseen, goes into every single game, into understanding the idiosyncracies of any given team’s opponents. It even exposes a little tactical self-awareness on the Sox’ part, showing their anticipation of how the Rockies might play this specific, late-game situation was based on an understanding of their own prior performance against the Angels. That late pickoff, a potential game-changer, was the product of coaching, scouting, managing, and player execution. In other words, a true team effort.