The Red Sox raced out to a 5-0 lead after the first two innings of the World Series. The Cardinals couldn't catch simple throws from teammates. Their infielders couldn't field groundballs. They couldn't catch easy pop-ups in the infield. The Cardinals lost their biggest offensive threat, and one of the best playoff performers in history, when Carlos Beltran crashed into the right field wall at Fenway.
Red Sox fans, in typical fashion, flocked to the airwaves the day after the Red Sox 8-1 victory mocking the Cardinals.
"Typical National League team. American League rules!"
"This is the best the National League has to offer?"
"I thought the Cardinals were supposed to have good pitching."
"Told ya St. Louis was overrated."
"Sweeeeeeeep!! Game Two will be the last game at Fenway this year. When is the parade?"
Many local pundits predicted 22-year-old phenom Michael Wacha would melt under the pressure of pitching in a critical swing game. It is widely believed that Game Two and Game Five are the critical games in any seven game series.
It didn't take long into Game Two for the Cardinals to wipe the smirk off Red Sox fans. Wacha is for real. Beltran was back in the lineup and producing. Ken Rosenthal came on the TV screen to report that Clay Buchholz would not be able to make his Game Three start.
After an hour or two of trepidation, all seemed right in Red Sox Nation again when David Ortiz crushed a go-ahead two-run home run over the Green Monster off a tiring Wacha in the sixth inning. Ortiz's grand slam in Game Two was the turning point in the ALCS against Detroit. It looked like he had swung the tide of a series yet again.
Alas, St. Louis would get three runs their next time to the plate, thanks to some smart base running on their part and poor fielding by the Red Sox. Base running and defense, or lack thereof, has played a huge role in all of the Red Sox postseason series. No one will soon forget Wil Myers and his "I got it! I got it! I don't got it!" misplay in right field at Fenway in the ALDS for Tampa. We all remember the pathetic sight of Prince Fielder belly-flopping at third base, not being able to block an errant throw from shortstop, and being unable to snatch a foul pop up away from a 10-year-old in the stands. Game One of the World Series saw St. Louis' shortstop Peter Kozma forget how to catch a baseball. Pitcher Adam Wainwright also did his best Wil Myers impersonation an inning later.
Once the Cardinals took the lead, it was time to introduce Boston fans, unfamiliar with the National League, to Carlos Martinez and Trevor Rosenthal. I did my part before the series in an article entitled "The Battle for Team of the Century" warning Boston fans to familiarize themselves with Wacha, Martinex, and Rosenthal. Martinez and Rosenthal combined to throw 28 of their 35 pitches for strikes while striking out six in closing out the game in their three innings of relief work.
Good night. Thank you for coming.
Here's what we've learned from the first two games:
-- St. Louis isn't going anywhere. All Boston did in the first game was do what they had to do-- win at home and protect their home field advantage. It was just one game. It counted as one win. Now the advantage switches to the Cardinals with three games in St. Louis. Maybe callers were right in saying this past Thursday night's game may have been the last at Fenway this year, but not for the reason they were thinking.
-- This Cardinals bullpen is better and deeper than Detroit's or Tampa's. The Red Sox were able to punish those previous bullpens and I suspect many fans were expecting the same in this series. Fans were anxiously monitoring Wacha's pitch count anticipating the Red Sox offense would produce against the Cardinals bullpen. Boy, were they wrong.
Rosenthal, while inexperienced, is a better shut-down closer than Joaquin Benoit or Fernando Rodney. The Cardinals have two reliable lefty specialists, a long reliever who was a Cy Young caliber starter in the first half of the season, and three right-handed relievers who can tickle 100 mph on the radar gun.
-- It is time to sit Jonny Gomes. Actually, it is long overdue. Daniel Nava is, simply, better against right-handed pitchers. I don't want to hear about intangibles and the Red Sox being 7-0 (prior to Thursday's defeat) in the postseason with Gomes in the starting lineup.
-- The Clay Buchholz injury may be a difference-maker in this series. I predicted the Red Sox to win the series in seven. If the Red Sox need to replace Buchholz with Felix Doubront, I reserve the right to change my mind. I have no faith in Doubront in this spot. In a series this tightly matched, Buchholz not being to able to take the mound is huge. Farrell was adamant on Friday that Buchholz is a "go" for Game Four, but my guess is the next time we see Buchholz on the mound is 2014.
-- David Ortiz is El Hombre. Enough said.
-- Jarrod Saltalamacchia has struggled defensively and offensively for a couple of weeks now. He has struck out in five of his last seven at-bats. A switch to David Ross couldn't be worse.
-- Stephen Drew has been equally inept at the plate. He is 4-for-42 (.095) in October. The Red Sox offense seems to be limping towards the finish line. I stick with him, though.
-- Jake Peavy's significance in this series has sky-rocketed. He has gone from a Game 4 starter and possible piggy-back, long reliever in Game 7 to now being the Game 3 starter and, very possibly, the deciding Game 7 starter as well.
So the series switches to St. Louis and National League rules. That means no Mike Napoli in the lineup. David Ortiz should play all three games at first base. Daniel Nava should play at least two out of the three in left field. I'd sit Xander Bogaerts (0-for-6 in the series) one of the games and give Wil Middlebrooks a start at third base. Drew starts every game the rest of the way. Look for manager John Farrell to be seriously second-guessed on more than one decision in the next three games.
So put all your parade plans on hold. I'd also not make any big plans for Halloween night.