World Series: Cards even series as it's Red Sox turn to give game away: Griffin
BOSTON-As a followup to the Cardinals booting the ball around like Little Leaguers in Game 1 of the World Series, by Game 2, the Sox were clearly on the other foot as a huge part of a 4-2 win for the NL champs. Entering the seventh inning on Thursday, trailing by a run, the Cards took advantage of a Keystone Cops defensive sequence by the confident Red Sox to score three and, in relative terms, break the game wide open to even the series at a game apiece heading to St. Louis for Games 3-4-5.
“I believe it is a momentum sport,” Cards manager Mike Matheny said. “I don't think there are statistics to back it, but these guys feed off each other. And the guys stayed aggressive today. That's the difference between yesterday and today. You saw guys taking charge and the same thing with at-bats. We are not a tentative team and it was good to see them turn the page on that.”
The Sox loss at Fenway Park broke a nine-game World Series win streak dating back to Game 7 of the 1986 World Series the days after Billy Buckner. They swept the Cards in '04 and then the Rockies in '07 under Terry Francona.
“We fully expected this to be a hard-fought series,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “Not surprising we're in the position we are. In the seventh inning, we kind of contributed to the three-runs allowed. This team has responded well to challenges on the road or at home.”
The Cardinals needed that sort of a break in the series, but, in truth, created some of their own luck. Start with a one-out double steal led by pinch-runner Pete Kozma and trailed by centre fielder Jon Jay. After Daniel Descalso walked to load the bases, Matt Carpenter lifted a short flyball to left-centre that was hauled in by a charging Jonny Gomes. But he was forced to adjust slightly back to his right for a strong throw home and it cost him.
Kozma tagged and charged down the line as Gomes's throw drifted up the first base line, eluding Jarrod Saltalamacchia for an error. Reliever Craig Breslow retrieved the ball and attempted to throw out Jay advancing towards third. But Breslow's throw sailed over third and one hopped into the seats in foul territory. Jay also came around to score. The Cards' third and final run of the inning came when Carlos Beltran, a late addition to the lineup because of his rib injury, singled to right cashing Descalso.
“Regardless of what may have happened yesterday, (Kozma's) a plus defender and we have a lot of confidence in him,” Matheny explained of why he pinch-ran him. “So we want to get him in the game. We're not a huge base-stealing threat when you look at our numbers, but we're opportunistic when it presents itself. We have a few guys that can take advantage of it and they did a great job keeping their eyes open.”
The Cards will never know how lucky they were in that seventh inning. It appeared as if Kozma may have left third base early on the flyball. The Red Sox seemed ready to appeal. However, when Breslow threw the ball into the seats, the ball was dead and no appeal was possible. The play stood. The Cards dodged a bullet.
Kozma had been the goat the night before with two errors, but on this night was part hero, chipping in with a couple of solid defensive playes in the seventh while helping Carlos Martinez and the talented bullpen nurse the lead. Shane Victorino's walk-up song is “Three Little Birds” by Bob Marley. Kozma's this night could have been “Redemption Song.”
Meanwhile, David Ortiz remains amazing. In the sixth inning, trailing by a run with Dustin Pedroia on first base, Ortiz worked the count full against sensational rookie righthander Michael Wacha and crushed a high changeup just over the Green Monster to give the home side a 2-1 lead. Fenway Park was rocking.
“With this lineup, you can't make mistakes or they'll make you pay,” Wacha said. “A good hitter like Ortiz, I made a mistake, a 3-2 changeup up in the zone and he made me pay. I was pretty mad coming in, but Yadi came up and was like, 'Don't worry, just hold them here. We're going to score in the top of the seventh.' Sure enough we put up a three-spot.”
The Ortiz homer came on the 22-year-old righthander's 103rd pitch of the night. Wacha had walked Ortiz semi-intentionally the time before with Pedroia on second base. This time he challenged him and the result was Big Papi's fifth post-season homer of the year and the 17th of his playoff career. The homer also snapped a streak of 18.2 consecutive shutout innings for the Cards' rookie sensation, who ran hos playoff record to 4-0.
“I didn't have my best stuff tonight, definitely a little bit more wild,” Wacha admitted. “Didn't have the command. I tried to use my defence and pitch to contact and they made some great plays.”
The Cardinals had taken their first series lead in the third inning. Matt Holliday launched a long drive to right-centre field that bounced off the short wall in Fenway Park's unique centre field triangle and caromed back past Jacoby Ellsbury towards left field. By the time he retrieved it, Holliday was standing on third. With one out and the infield drawn in, Molina chopped one over the mound that Pedroia had thoughts of coming to the plate with, but threw to first with the first run scoring.
The Cardinals now return home for the next three games of the series, following a workout day on Friday. Matheny's club has been especially hot at Busch Stadium. Their 54 home wins in the regular season was second only to the Braves in all of MLB.
It's not that easy to sweep the middle three games of a World Series. The last two teams to win all three of the middle games of a Fall Classic were the '08 Phillies against the Rays and the '06 Cardinals against the Tigers. Both series were done in five games.
Each team has lost a game thanks in large part to defence. It's not the way they planned it, but the teams are tied and it's become anybody's series.
“Excited to get home, I know everybody is,” Matheny said. “These last couple of days, the guys, it meant a lot to be able to play here in Fenway. It's a pretty unique experience for a lot of guys that have never played here before to be able to do it on this stage. But there's no place like home.”