A World Series–indeed, an entire postseason that has been marked by tense pitching battles–had a finish on Wednesday night that for baseball fans was anticlimactic, but for the city of Boston was one long night of letting off steam, tension and ultimately celebrating its third championship in ten years. The Boston Red Sox used three-run outbursts in both the third and fourth innings to easily dispatch the St. Louis Cardinals 6-1 in Game 6 and win the 2013 World Series.
The scoreboard says the 6-1 final was easy and the fact the runs came early and quickly for Boston told everyone early on where this night was headed. But the Cardinal bats had a better night than the scoreboard indicated. There were loud outs early, and runners left on base–nine, to be precise.
St. Louis made its last desperate rally in the seventh, when they got their only run and loaded the bases with two outs. Allen Craig was at the plate and if he could simply get on base, they would bring the tying run to the plate in the person of Yadier Molina. Craig hit the ball hard–a red-hot grounder to first that almost always ends up a single to right.
This time, first baseman Mike Napoli made a kick save that Boston Bruins goalie Tuuka Raask would have been proud of, the ball stayed on the infield and the out was recorded. The play was a microcosm of the St. Louis night at the plate–over the course of the season, these types of games happen with frequency. When it’s Game 6 of the World Series and you’re facing elimination, those hard-hit outs stand out a little more clearly.
What was more surprising was that the Cardinals seemed a little undone defensively. It wasn’t as bad as Game 1, but it was similar. Matt Carpenter booted an easy ground ball that would have finished an inning and instead allowed David Ortiz to come to the plate. The Cardinals had Jacoby Ellsbury picked off first base and inexplicably blew the rundown, throwing the ball back and forth more frequently than Leslie Nielsen did in The Naked Gun, and then pitcher Kevin Siegrest ultimately leaving first base uncovered.
Ultimately though, it didn’t matter, and it’s because the Boston offense finally cracked the code that is Michael Wacha. The Red Sox got two runners aboard in the second inning, but didn’t score. They loaded the bases in the third with two outs and Shane Victorino came to the plate. The man who has hit two postseason grand slams–including one to win the American League pennant less than two weeks ago–ripped a double off the Green Monster that cleared the bases.
One inning later, Stephen Drew hit a long home run into the right field bullpen. With two on and two out in the same inning, Wacha was finally removed. Mike Napoli greeted Lance Lynn with an RBI base hit and after a walk, Victorino did the same thing.
John Lackey took over from there, working into the seventh inning and winning a World Series clincher for the second time in his career, including Game 7 in 2002 when he was with the Angels.
St. Louis manager Mike Matheny has come under some heat for intentionally walking Ortiz during both big Red Sox innings. Both times, Ortiz came around to score. Sabermetricians hate the intentional walk, and for the most part, I agree. The normal logic is that the math of baseball means even a really good hitter-including one who’s hot–is still more likely to make an out. But every rule has exceptions. Ortiz is more than hot right now, he’s positively scorching–he hit .688 for the Series.
Furthermore, the second walk took place when the score was 4-0 and there was a runner on second. Even though it was early in the game, I’m okay with Matheny treating it like it was a one-run situation where you have to completely sell out to keep the runner on second (Jacoby Ellsbury) from scoring. St. Louis had no margin for error left.
Speaking of Ellsbury, after five games of non-existent offense and uncharacteristically shaky defense, he got rolling last night. He went 2-for-4 with a walk and was back in his customary role of igniting the offense.
In the end, it was just Boston’s night. Wacha is a great talent, but he wasn’t going to be perfect forever. The Red Sox offense, save Ortiz had been struggling, but their track record told you that wasn’t going to last forever. Fortunately for the Fenway Faithful, everything came together in 2013 World Series Game 6.