After a quite easy Game 1, in which the Boston Red Sox jumped out early to a commanding lead and never looked back, the events of Game 2 show that this World Series should be anything but a rout. While the Boston Red Sox might be the best team in the major leagues over the long haul, the St. Louis Cardinals, when they are not fumbling the ball away and letting infield fly balls drop unmolested, are capable of hanging with, and beating, the Boston Red Sox on any given night. Beating the Red Sox on any given night is exactly what the Cardinals did in defeating the Red Sox 4-2 in Thursday's Game 2.
The biggest change between Game 1 and Game 2 for the Red Sox was the lack of run-scoring opportunities in the latter compared to how many chances they found to push runs across in the former. Gone was the concentration of positive offensive plays due either to the proficiency of the Red Sox offense or the inefficiency of the Cardinals offense, in large part because of the pitching of Cardinals starter Michael Wacha and Cardinals relievers Carlos Martinez and Trevor Rosenthal. The three pitchers combined to limit the Red Sox's run expectancy throughout the contest, keeping the Red Sox run expectancy below 1.00 for all but two of the Red Sox's 35 plate appearances; the Red Sox failed to drive in any runs during those two plate appearances.
Wacha's ability to prevent the Red Sox from scoring more than the two earned runs that they did manage against him in 6.0 innings was less the result of any brilliance in the strike zone and more about the Cardinals defense backing him up. Walking four batters and giving up a two-run home run to David Ortiz (occurring immediately after Wacha's fourth issued walk) as Wacha did during his time on the mound, pretty much negated the six strikeouts he recorded; Wacha ended the contest with a fielding-independent ERA of 5.21 and an expected fielding-independent ERA of 5.10, both below-average marks.
However, for the Cardinals, Wacha's fielding-independent numbers matter little since the fielding behind him was so superb, only allowing two hits on the 13 balls the Red Sox put into play against Wacha for a .154 BABIP. Had Wacha been a little less fortunate on where the Red Sox's in-play balls went, the game might have turned out differently, but the Red Sox simply could not drive Wacha's pitches with enough authority to break down the stalwart fielding of the Cardinals.
Wacha's successors, Martinez and Rosenthal, tasked with protecting the Cardinals' 4-2 lead over the final three innings of the contest relied far less on luck with balls in play and more on imposing their will on the Red Sox hitters through strikeouts. Martinez, in his 2.0 innings of work, struck out three of the eight batters he faced and kept the Red Sox from getting past second base in the seventh and eighth innings. Rosenthal dispensed with balls being put in play altogether and struck out all three of the Red Sox batters he faced in the ninth inning, preserving victory for the Cardinals.
Where the Cardinals bullpen was able to shut the door on any more Red Sox scoring in Game 2, the Red Sox bullpen, in the name of Craig Breslow, failed to do so, which gave the Cardinals their 4-2 lead that needed protecting.
After Ortiz's two-run home run in the bottom of the six inning that gave the Red Sox a 2-1 lead, the Red Sox laid claim to a win expectancy of 71.9 percent; it was a win expectancy the Red Sox would not enjoy for long. In the very next frame, starting pitcher John Lackey, who had been in such control over the first six innings as he had allowed just one run, began to display increased levels of ineffectiveness; Lackey allowed two of the three batters he faced in the seventh inning to reach base before giving way to reliever Craig Breslow.
Breslow was then on the mound when the Cardinals pulled off a double steal. The inning continued to get worse for the Red Sox as Breslow walked the very first batter he faced, Daniel Descalso, which loaded the bases for the Cardinals with only one out. What was already looking ominous for the Red Sox soon became a calamity as Matt Carpenter hit a sacrifice fly to score one run for the Cardinals; the Cardinals scored a second run after the play after Breslow, who had been backing up catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, scooped up the throw from left field that got by Saltalmacchia and promptly airmailed it over the third baseman's head. As if those events were not already horrendous enough, Breslow then gave up an RBI single to Carlos Beltran in the next at-bat.
From the time Breslow entered the game to the moment when he finally exited the contest, the Red Sox lost 41.5 percent in win expectancy, which they never regained.
The Cardinals were able to match, and exceed, the Red Sox at every turn in Game 2. If they can continue to do so for the rest of the World Series, the outcome looks a lot cloudier for the Red Sox than it did after Game 1.