Thursday, October 24, 2013
Quick thoughts: Hail the Cardinals rookies
By David Schoenfield
Thoughts on a Game 2 of the World Series that was a thousand times more interesting than Game 1, that ended with the Cardinals beating the Red Sox 4-2.
Hero: Cardinals rookie sensation Michael Wacha was nearly sensational once again, taking a shutout into the sixth inning. Facing David Ortiz with a runner on and one out, he threw one changeup up too many to Big Papi -- four in a row, with Ortiz depositing the 3-2 changeup just over the Green Monster in left-center. But Wacha recovered to strike out Mike Napoli and retire Jonny Gomes to get through six innings. The Red Sox ran up his pitch count -- 114 pitches -- and he walked four batters, but he gave up just three hits, got a big double play on Napoli with two on and no outs in the fourth and improved to 4-0 in the postseason when the Cardinals took the lead in the top of the seventh.
Goat: Red Sox reliever Craig Breslow replaced starter John Lackey with two runners on in the seventh. Breslow isn't exactly a lefty killer (.238 average allowed, including the postseason) but it made sense for manager John Farrell to bring him in to face lefties Daniel Descalso (.183 versus southpaws) and Matt Carpenter. But Breslow allowed a double steal and then walked Descalso on a 3-2 slider to load the bases, setting up the play of the game.
Turning point: So bases loaded, Carpenter lifts a fly ball to shallow left, setting in motion four awful plays that are basically unacceptable in any major league game, let alone a World Series game: (1) Gomes' throw was offline even though he wasn't that far beyond the infield cutoff; (2) catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia didn't catch the ball; (3) Jon Jay, on second base, for some reason headed back to second base as the throw went home, and got a late break for third; (4) which drew a throw from Breslow (at least he was backing up the throw home), which went wildly into the third-base stands, allowing Jay to score. Final tally: two runs, and when Carlos Beltran followed with an RBI single, it was 4-2.
At-bat of the night: How about the walk by David Freese to start that rally? He fouled off two pitches with two strikes, eventually taking a 3-2 cutter outside. Lackey threw 71 of 95 pitches for strikes, his season-high percentage of strikes, so terrific job by Freese to work a walk.
The Jonny Gomes Hunch: All season, John Farrell platooned Daniel Nava and Gomes in left field. Suddenly in the postseason he's gotten the itch to play Gomes against all pitchers, even though Nava had a .411 on-base percentage against right-handers. The Red Sox like Gomes' energy, and Boston had been 7-0 with Gomes starting in the postseason, but Farrell's lucky charm hurt the team in this game. Gomes went 0-for-4, had the bad throw and is 0-for-7 in the two World Series games. Unless there's something going on with Nava we don't know about, he should be out there in Game 3. Yes, Gomes may be more likely to pop one out (especially at Fenway), but Nava gets on base against righties and is a little better in the field.
Hey, it worked, but ... Eighth inning, 22-year-old rookie Carlos Martinez protecting the 4-2 lead in his second inning of work, Ortiz up with a runner on and two outs. Matheny had three options: (1) Bring in lefty killer Randy Choate (.161 against left-handers including the playoffs with no home runs allowed); (2) bring in closer Trevor Rosenthal for a four-out save; (3) leave in Martinez. Choate seemed like the obvious choice, considering Ortiz's production falls way off against lefties. The cameras panned to a nervous-looking Matheny on the dugout steps. He chose to keep Martinez in there, perhaps preferring to battle Ortiz with the 100 mph fastball instead of Choate's junk. I think Choate was the right call, but while Ortiz reached on an infield single, Martinez did get Napoli to pop out.
Revealing statistic: Rosenthal struck out the side in the ninth. Eleven pitches, all fastballs, average speed of 97.2 mph, 99 on the final pitch to Nava (pinch-hitting for Drew). And, yes, all 27 outs recorded by rookie pitchers for the Cardinals.