Ready or not, the Cardinals are back. They are ready to play. The Red Sox, however, aren’t ready to play. Anyone expected Boston to lose 4-2 in Game 2 of the World Series? This wasn’t a night when the Red Sox swung those bats and unleashed on the Cardinals, like in the early innings of Game 1 Wednesday night.
Thursday night, the Red Sox mostly played like they were competing in the Little League World Series. It really is too bad that John Lackey was throwing strikes, and finished with 6⅓ innings having allowed three runs on five hits and two walks with six strikeouts. It really is too bad that David Ortiz sent a towering two-run homer over the Green Monster. For that reason, it looked as though they’d hold on to win and take a 2-0 lead in the series, but the Red Sox came apart after a crucial mistake changed everything.
As the crowd sat in those seats on a frigid night, miscues doomed the sloppy Red Sox — and after one bad play — there was no chance Boston was rallying for a comeback. This was beyond saving, and the Red Sox couldn’t ever recover after falling into a 4-2 hole. This was after Boston manager John Farrell inserted lefty reliever Craig Breslow with two on and one out in the seventh. By now, Breslow is getting an earful of criticism from the folks in Boston, and he is culpable for the Red Sox collapse on Thursday. By now, they are feeling the sting of errors that have undermined the team’s chances of presumably capturing a championship in which mistakes can come back to bite the Red Sox if they go on to lose this series against the Cardinals.
It ought to have been hard to see it unfold, when the Red Sox fell apart on defense soon after they took a 2-1 lead. It wasn’t a huge risk, to be sure, by giving the ball to Breslow when he’s been solid this season. So with that in mind, it was wise to bring Breslow in the game and count on him to get the last two outs of the inning, but he committed a maddening error. He wasn’t particularly as effective out of the bullpen and allowed a decisive run to score for St. Louis. He had trouble locating his pitches, and he should not have relieved Lackey. They had the lead, and Lackey was having another dominant outing before it turned out to be a waste. Breslow had looked as though he wasn’t comfortable throwing off the mound.
He looked as though he was flustered as the Cardinals pulled off a double steal during Daniel Descalso’s at-bat, with pinch-runner Pete Kozma taking third base and Jay taking second. It was a high 2-2 fastball that Jarrod Saltalamacchia couldn’t handle and didn’t even throw. Breslow, on a full count, walked Descalso to load the bases. The next batter, the leadoff man Matt Carpenter, sent a sacrifice fly ball to shallow left, which caused a disaster for the Red Sox. From a distance, Jonny Gomes caught the ball and quickly fired to home as it trickled away from the plate. What’s more, Saltalamacchia let a ball get by him and couldn’t make the tag at the plate. He’s one of the best catchers in baseball, but he blew it on that play and a ball club that knows how to manufacture victories blew a big chance.
What was more demoralizing, though, was Breslow’s error. He backed up the play at home plate, retrieving the loose ball when Gomes’ throw was off the mark. Breslow’s wild throw to third that changed the game and perhaps the series came when Jon Jay took off for third. Unwisely, he tried to throw him out even though he was almost at third. The throw was so wild, that the ball sailed over Stephen Drew and bounced into the stands. That allowed Jay to score the go-ahead run, which gave the Cardinals a 3-2 lead. Breslow, who graduated from Yale with a degree in molecular biophysics and biochemistry, wasn’t thinking smart. The 33-year-old pitcher, who struggled to escape the seventh-inning chaos, is much smarter than that as he held on to the ball before he threw it wildly to third.
It was almost like watching a horror movie, and solely because, two errors were committed and three runs scored in the seventh. When Carlos Beltran stepped to the plate, he drove in a run on an RBI single to right field that gave St. Louis a 4-2 lead. The departure of Lackey just as easily revealed the bullpen woes on this particular night, which is very rare for the Red Sox reliable relievers. It was nearly impossible to watch painfully in the dugout. Lackey’s night was awesome, and he had an excellent outing that resulted in a loss. It turned out to be a rough night, and when Lackey departed to a warm standing ovation, Boston went downhill from there.
It was clear early that the 22-year-old emerging ace, Michael Wacha, was forced to throw strikes and work the count. This is perhaps why it was a grueling task for a fireballer who was studying trigonometry and how to become the next Bill Gates or something of that nature a year ago. Wacha was pitching at Texas A&M, and now he is pitching in the World Series, on the verge of becoming the winningest pitcher in postseason history. Believe me, he was perfect through five innings against the Red Sox. Ortiz, meanwhile, connected with a 3-2 fastball and crushed a two-run shot into the Monster Seats in the sixth off Wacha. It still wasn’t good enough to pull it out in the end.
The truth is, Carlos Martinez, the flame-throwing reliever, struck out the batters he faced, using fastballs to get it done. The 23-year-old rookie, Trevor Rosenthal, the Cardinals fireballer, entered the game in the ninth, throwing up to 90 mph fastballs to strike out the side. It was the scenario that no one expected in Red Sox Nation and, quite frankly, it’s hard to understand what had gone wrong for Boston. This was the definition of a crazy night, and suddenly in the seventh the Cardinals were finding ways to score. The Red Sox were beating themselves up, and the Cardinals were benefiting from it.
The fact is, very simply, that the Red Sox will fly to St. Louis tied 1-1 instead of up 2-o. The pressure is going to be largely on the Red Sox in Game 3, and particularly on Jake Peavy, the right-handed pitcher who is getting the ball on Saturday. The truth is, the Red Sox put themselves in a pretty tough position by blowing a lead in Game 2. It’s not a good thing necessarily, because the series shifts to St. Louis and the Cardinals are going with Joe Kelly, who only has yielded a 1.97 ERA since June 1. The Cardinals enjoy playing at home and were 54-27 at Busch Stadium this season.
If there’s one thing the Red Sox wish they can do over again and perhaps better, it would be to avoid silly mistakes. Now that the game is over, the Red Sox know they could have done a lot of things better had they not made bad throws. There will be chances in Game 3 for the Red Sox to redeem themselves. There’s still a chance, but the worst that could happen to this team is that Boston fails to win it all.
If they don’t win it all, this game right here will come back to haunt them, maybe longer than the Curse of the Bambino.