BOSTON — Don’t ring the bell. We’re just getting started.
The Cardinals’ sloppy 8-1 loss in Game 1 evoked some doubt over whether St. Louis could truly hang with Boston. And now that the Red Sox have thrown away Game 2, there’s a sense that St. Louis may have seized control of the series. The one thing that we can safely say amid all of the flip-flopping, however, is that this series is going to be a brawl.
“Just in terms of the series, we fully expected this to be a hard‑fought series,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said shortly after his team fell 4-2 in Game 2 on Thursday. “Not surprising that we’re in this position we are. In the seventh inning, we kind of contributed to the three runs allowed.”
The best fights involve two combatants who trade blows until one man — or team — stands, and both the Red Sox and Cardinals have landed punches in the first two rounds of what has the potential to be a seven-round heavyweight bout. Boston struck first in Game 1, but St. Louis fought its way out of the corner in Game 2 to even up the Fall Classic.
The Cardinals produced the first run of Game 2 when Matt Holliday led off the fourth inning with a triple and Yadier Molina knocked him in with a chopper over the mound. David Ortiz lifted a two-run home run into the Monster seats in the bottom of the sixth inning, though, and the Red Sox were back to playing the role of aggressor.
“With this lineup that Boston has, you can’t make mistakes or they’ll let you pay,” Cardinals starter Michael Wacha said after the game. “A good hitter like Ortiz, I made a mistake — 3‑2 changeup up in the zone — and he made me pay. I was pretty mad coming in, but Yadi (Yadier Molina) 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 big three spot.”
The Cardinals’ offense came to life in the seventh inning against John Lackey, who had matched Wacha pitch-for-pitch through the first six innings. David Freese worked an eight-pitch walk, and Jon Jay followed with a single into right field, prompting Farrell to turn to Craig Breslow with one out and runners at first and second.
Pete Kozma, who made two costly errors in Game 1, pinch-ran for Freese after Breslow entered the game. It proved to be a big move, as Kozma and Jay successfully executed a double steal with Daniel Descalso at the plate.
“We’re not a huge base‑stealing threat, as you look at our numbers,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. “But I believe we’re opportunistic and 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.”
Descalso somehow managed to lay off a 3-2 slider just off the inside corner after Kozma and Jay each advanced a station. That loaded the bases for Matt Carpenter, who lifted the first pitch he saw into left field. Jonny Gomes made the catch and fired home as Kozma tagged up from third base, but it wasn’t in time to cut down the tying run.
The play evolved into much more than a game-tying sacrifice fly. Gomes’ throw kicked off the mitt of Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who attempted to stretch at the plate rather than come off it to make the catch. That enabled Jay to take off for third base, at which point Breslow picked up the ball and fired an errant throw that allowed Jay to cross the plate with the go-ahead run. Carlos Beltran added the Cardinals’ fourth run with an RBI single.
“That’s the one in looking back, I’m sure Craig would like to have that ball back and hold it with a chance to shut down the inning right there,” Farrell said. “We give them the run, and then Beltran, which we wanted to hit from the right side of the plate with a 3‑1 pitch, adds an insurance run to it. Uncharacteristic of the way I think we’ve taken care of the baseball this year, and it contributed to the three runs.”
The three runs were enough for the Cardinals, as the flame-throwing combination of Carlos Martinez and Trevor Rosenthal closed out St. Louis’ win. The Cardinals, a team victimized by poor defense in Game 1, were the beneficiary of some shoddy play by the Red Sox in the seventh inning of Game 2.
The series now shifts to St. Louis, where the Cardinals will have the benefit of playing three straight games in front of their hometown fans. But while that seemingly gives the Cards an edge, these two teams have done enough throughout the course of the year to prove that a change in venue shouldn’t alter this October rumble too much.
The Red Sox and Cardinals are standing toe-to-toe in the middle of the ring, and neither fighter is backing down any time soon.