2013 World Series: A Clutch Seventh Inning Saves St. Louis In Game 2

Michael Wacha again came up big and even though David Ortiz added to his amazing postseason resume, the St. Louis Cardinals scored three runs in the seventh inning to lead the way to a 4-2 victory over the Boston Red Sox and evened up the World Series at a game apiece.

If St. Louis did all the little things wrong in Game 1, they did them right–or at least enough of them, especially in the seventh–to get themselves a victory. Let’s start in that crucial frame…

*With runners on first and second, Pete Kozma is sent in to pinch-run. The man who was responsible for the worst of the Cardinal mishaps in the opener, led up a double steal that got the lead run into scoring position and with one out, got himself in position to score on a productive out.

*Daniel Descalco then comes up with a very good at-bat against Boston reliever Craig Breslow. I always hate to say I agree with Fox analyst Tim McCarver, but when McCarver said that Descalco’s hold on a 3-2 pitch just a hair inside was outstanding, I had to agree. Now the bases were loaded.

*What it all meant was that Kozma was in position to score on a sacrifice fly to left. And since John Jay was on second base, rather than first, his going to third drew a throw from Breslow that produced a souvenir for a fan on the third base side, and brought the lead run home. The fact Descalco had drawn a walk meant he could go to third and be in position to score some crucial insurance when Carlos Beltran singled to right with two outs.

Now let’s come to Beltran. Even though I’m a Boston fan, I was glad to see the veteran rightfielder in the lineup, and not out of some noble desire to see both teams at their best. I have no aversion to watching the team I pull for win because of injuries (so long as they’re not serious). It’s a part of the sport. But in this case, the part of me that simply loves baseball trumped the part of me that loves the Red Sox. Beltran has been a great player and a true professional for a long time, and to have him not get to play a full World Series game on his first opportunity was just a little unfair.

Michael Wacha went six solid innings and gave up only a two-run home run to Ortiz in the sixth. I know at some point, hitters will start to figure out Wacha–and by “figure out”, I mean actually score three runs a game when he’s pitching. I’m getting concerned that the point this happens won’t be until sometime in 2014. I do love watching this kid pitch–years of watching countless Red Sox games, with all their pitchers–notably Clay Bucholz, Josh Beckett and Jonathan Papelbon–pace the mound like they’re trying to bleed ten seconds off the shot clock before throwing a pitch, has given me a great appreciation for someone who just gets the ball and pitches like Wacha does.

The Ortiz home run just over the Monster, was the 17th in his postseason career, and looked poised to give Boston a 2-0 series lead. When the ball left the park, I was shouting aloud to an empty living room–“How many times can he do it?!” It’s possible–though admittedly not likely–that Ortiz just played his final World Series game in Fenway Park, and even though it wasn’t a Sox win, it was certainly fitting, if this proves to be the Fall Classic Fenway Finale for the great DH.

The results of Game 2 were also frustratingly fitting for John Lackey, who has been a hard-luck loser all year, with a 10-13 record in spite of consistent outings. He’s charged with the loss, as he left with runners on first and second in the decisive seventh. This is an area where I have a problem with how wins and losses are computed for a pitcher. It’s one thing to say Lackey is responsible for the man on second base, but quite another to bill the man on first base to the starting pitcher’s account. The man on first can’t score on productive outs, and it would take two singles to bring him around. How is this not the fault of the reliever?

The “wins” statistic has been around for over a century, and it’s prominence in baseball lore means you really can’t change it. Most sabermetrics people go to the other extreme and dismiss it completely because of how much of it depends on the offense. I won’t go there–you do pitch differently in different game situations. But someone should look at developing a new stat that might measure that in a better way. Because we all know that what the baseball world needs is yet another new stat.

We do know the baseball world needs more games like last night, and now the World Series shifts to St. Louis for games on Saturday, Sunday and Monday, all on Fox and all in prime-time. Each team has every right to feel like they got what they came for.

If you’re St. Louis, you picked up a win on enemy turf and can potentially clinch the Series at home, or at least work your way to a 3-2 edge and then Wacha the ball in Game 6 back in Fenway. If you’re Boston, you got a split against the Wainwright-Wacha duo, and can now hope that your midseason acquisition of Jake Peavy pays dividends, while going after more vulnerable St. Louis starters in Joe Kelly and Lance Lynn in Games 3 & 4.

Boston has Clay Bucholz in Game 4, and that’s now another X-factor in this series. We’ve known that Bucholz is struggling with fatigue issues, having made six starts since returning from the disabled list, including the postseason. Based on the way McCarver and broadcast mate Joe Buck were talking last night, it’s possible that Bucholz’ physical condition is worse than just running out of gas in the sixth inning.

If that happens, it significantly alters the dynamic of this series. It’s already altered the Boston rotation, as John Farrell has flipped Peavy and Bucholz–the Game 4 starter won’t pitch again, while the Game 3 starter would be lined for a Game 7. Bucholz was sharp in his last outing, shutting Detroit out for five innings in the ALCS Game 6 clincher, and until I see otherwise, I’m going to assume he can give five innings at a Cy Young-caliber level. But this is now a variable to keep an eye on.