WS Game 2: Down to Earth and out to St. Louis
by Charlie Blasberg on Thursday, October 24th, 2013
“Live by the error, die by the error.” That has been the story of this World Series. Last night it was the Cardinals’ poor defense; tonight the Red Sox’ sloppy defense broke up their nine-game World Series winning streak and killed their hopes of taking a 2-0 series lead to St. Louis.
Talk about changes of momentum. First, the Sox could not buy a hit of the youngster and Texas A&M graduate, Michael Wacha. Then, David Ortiz turned the tides by pushing a sixth-inning fastball over the monster. Finally, the Birds rallied to score three runs the very next inning and kept the momentum for the rest of the ballgame. What a downright awful inning. It looked like Little League. I might as well have thrown my 12-year-old self in a Red Sox uniform and played some defense in the seventh. I would have fit right in. The combined efforts of Lackey and Breslow recorded only one out and gave up one hit and two walks to load the bases for Matt Carpenter, who batted .318 this season. Any Red Sox fan at this point was just waiting for the Cardinals to pound our beloved bearded idiots into the ground. Carpenter’s weak fly ball to left field came as an initial relief to me; Gomes caught it cleanly and had a chance to throw out the tagging Kozma at home. He could have even thrown out Jon Jay at second base (he was halfway to third by the time Gomes caught the ball) to complete an inning-ending, game-saving, and Cardinal-demoralizing double play. Gomes, instead, threw home, and missed catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia by a good seven or eight feet. One run scored and the game was tied. Craig Breslow, the “smartest guy in baseball” and a former Yale Eli, prolonged this nightmare of a play by chucking the ball over third baseman Xander Bogaert’s head and into the third base line bleachers. One more run scored and the Cards took the 3-2 lead. Smart guy, Breslow, but not a smart play. Carlos Beltran, who injured his right ribs last night, completed the onslaught buy slapping an RBI single into right field. 4-2 Cardinals. Game. Set. Match.
Saturday’s game in St. Louis brings about all sorts of new problems for these Red Sox. Firstly, first base. Though his bat was quiet tonight, the defensively sound Mike Napoli deserves credit for his knack for picking throws out of the dirt and for his heads up defense. Napoli, however, has been inconsistent at the plate, as he seems to either whiff (he led the majors this year with 187 strikeouts) or hit homeruns. His replacement at first, however, would be arguably the greatest clutch hitter in the history of the sport, David Ortiz. We flashed back to the David Ortiz of 2004, when we jacked the go-ahead two-run shot in the sixth inning and what should have been his third homer in to two games (two in two games isn’t too shabby though). It is almost impossible to sit Ortiz in game of this worth. Perhaps, John Farrell decides to start Mike Napoli and insert David Ortiz in pinch-hit situations, though I think the spark of Ortiz’s bat is essential to the starting lineup and would opt to insert Napoli in the late innings as a defensive replacement.
Secondly, what will happen in left field? Nava should be playing there, and the only statistic that is keeping him on the bench is the numbers in the Win/Loss column (granted that is the most important statistic). Up until tonight, the Red Sox had been 5-0 since the ALCS, when Johnny Gomes played left and 0-2 when Nava played. However, Gomes has gone 0-7 at the plate over the last two games and started the defensive woes of the top of the seventh tonight. Farrell just needs to put Nava in. He is solid, composed, and fundamentally sound. A strong outfielder and a .303 hitter over the season, Daniel Nava will provide consistency in the middle of the Red Sox’ order, an essential aspect that was missing tonight.
Thirdly… Stephen Drew. Yes, his defense is incredible, indispensible, assuring, [insert your own adjective here]. There is no question about that. He has saved many runs and consequently many games. But at the plate, he is like a pitcher – an automatic out. He, like his brother J.D., has such a pretty swing. HE CAN’T DO ANYTHING WITH IT. Dribbler after dribbler after strikeout has driven me crazy. Imagine Stephen Drew hitting in a National League park. He will bat eighth, and the pitcher will bat ninth. Those are two consecutive outs. Even a high school pitcher could come in the game tomorrow and shut down Drew and Peavy back-to-back and have fun doing it. I say move Bogaerts to shortstop on Saturday and let Will Middlebrooks play third. Especially if the game is close, giving the Cardinals two free outs every time we round the order could be the kiss of death.
On Saturday, the struggling Jake Peavy (remember when the Tigers teed off on him for seven runs in three innings?) will face the Cardinals’ Joe Kelly. The young pitching staff of the Cardinals put down the veteran bats of the Sox with ease tonight. Macha is 22, Martinez is 22, and Rosenthal is 23, so the slightly more seasoned Joe Kelly (25) looks to continue this trend as he takes the mound against a Boston squad that should have several changes. The Birds are armed with the momentum of a hard-earned win and the comfort of their home field. I’m getting nervous.
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