Pete Kozma's quick redemption
Players have to turn the page daily, but not all get to in a World Series win
BOSTON -- The beauty of baseball is there is no waiting around for a week after a loss. Every day there is a new game. Every day brings a new opportunity to redeem yourself.
Yes, I mean you, Pete Kozma.
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In his World Series debut Wednesday, Kozma played about as poorly as possible for a player without having "Chico's Bail Bonds" sewn onto the back of his jersey. With a .217 average and one home run this season, Kozma is in the St. Louis Cardinals' lineup primarily for his defense, but in the first inning, on his first fielding chance in a World Series game, he dropped a routine toss from second baseman Matt Carpenter. So what should have been an inning-ending double play instead was a game-deciding error that led to three runs.
Kozma botched the next ball that came his way in the second inning as well, an error that led to another two runs. Oh, and he also went hitless in three at-bats in the 9-1 loss to the Boston Red Sox.
He was like Tanner Boyle, but with a much nicer vocabulary.
Think about how you would feel after such a game, especially when the clubhouse door swings open into the cramped visitors' clubhouse at Fenway Park and wave after wave of the national media literally backs you into the corner with questions. Kozma, however, is about as low-key as a person can get without needing a defibrillator to jump-start his heart.
"This is a game where you have to stay even," Kozma said Thursday. "You can't get too high or too low."
So he calmly answered all the questions, waited patiently just in case someone else wanted to know why he had messed up so badly, took a shower and went back to the team hotel. He went to bed and says he slept great. Asked what he did Thursday, Kozma said he took a nap -- he is about as descriptive of his day's routine as a teenager asked how school was that day. When he arrived at Fenway he saw his name was not in the Game 2 lineup. Daniel Descalso was playing shortstop in his place.
No matter. Baseball is a long game (and even longer when the Red Sox are playing). Kozma took batting practice, prepared as usual and waited for his chance. It would come. Just be persistent and baseball will always give you a second chance. Kozma's opportunity came in the seventh inning. With the Cardinals trailing 2-1, one out and runners at first and second, manager Mike Matheny sent Kozma out to second to pinch-run for David Freese.
Five pitches later, Kozma raced to third base on a double-steal. After a walk that loaded the bases, he scored on a sacrifice fly, sliding in safely with the tying run in what would be a three-run inning. One night after being the goat, he helped the Cardinals rally to a 4-2 victory over Boston.
"When you're in the National League, you have to look for anything and everything," Kozma said. "You have to look for every opportunity, whether it comes on defense or on the bases or coming in to pinch-hit."
The opportunities came on defense as well. With Descalso moving to third for Freese, Kozma took his position at short. On the first play to him, he sprinted in and barehanded a ball that was deflected off reliever Carlos Martinez, then threw to first base in time for a nifty little 1-6-3 groundout. He threw out another batter and caught a blooper into short left-center.
"He made some great plays," St. Louis pitcher Adam Wainwright said. "That's what I told people yesterday. Our team has the ability to turn the page the next day and that's what great teams do. We played an uncharacteristic game yesterday and we showed up today ready to play."
Yes, indeed. Kozma was the embodiment of the Cardinals' rebound from their embarrassing Game 1 loss. You don't get far in baseball -- and certainly not to the World Series -- unless you are able to turn the page and embrace each new day's opportunities.
"The game is about today. Yesterday doesn't matter," injured reliever Jason Motte said. "After the game last night it was, 'That sucked. But you know what? We're going to come into tomorrow and be ready to play.' That's why it's a seven-game series."
Of course, the flip side is that every day is another opportunity to lose. Baseball is a game of failure so every day presents ample opportunities to smash the water cooler in frustration.
"Like I said, we have a lot left to go," Kozma said. "We have to win three games before they win three games. We're starting from zero right now."
The World Series is tied. The Cardinals and Red Sox have both made errors they need to forget and that they will forget. Saturday is a new day, and they will all start fresh.
It's just as Kozma said: "It's baseball."
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