The Red Sox didn't do themselves any favors in their 4-2 Game 2 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals. A misplay at the plate by Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Craig Breslow firing a ball essentially onto Landsdown Street cost Boston in a messy 7th inning.
Pitching dominated Game 2 as John Lackey and rookie Michael Wacha went pitch for pitch through the first five innings.
St. Louis broke a scoreless tie in the 4th after Matt Holliday tripled and scored on a ground out by Yadier Molina to grab a 1-0 lead. It was the first time the Cardinals had a lead against the Red Sox in a World Series game since 1967.
Boston struggled against Michael Wacha, but that is nothing new for opponents against the 22-year-old righty. With only one hit in the first three innings (a broken bat single by Ellsbury in the 3rd), Dustin Pedroia led off the 4th with a double and after a walk to David Ortiz, the Sox had two runners on with no outs. But, Wacha got a huge double play off the bat of Mike Napoli and popped up Jonny Gomes to end the threat.
Momentum turned on a dime in the 6th as Wacha's pitch count rose over 100 pitches. After issuing a one out walk to Pedroia, Wacha locked into a battle with Ortiz. A couple of rockets foul and a few chase pitches took the count to 3-2. Pedroia took off with the delivery home as Ortiz blasted a high change-up over the Green Monster for a go-ahead two-run homer, his 17th career postseason homer. Fenway exploded in cheers and Boston led 2-1.
Lackey, who had retired 10 of 11 batters after the Holliday triple, issued a one-out walk to David Freese in the 7th. He would get ahead of Jon Jay 0-2 before he beat Lackey on a slider down and in for a single to right field. That was the last pitch thrown by Lackey on what was a very, very strong start.
The normally very reliable lefty Craig Breslow came in out of the Boston bullpen to face a pair of left handed hitters in the number nine batter, Daniel Descalso, and lead-off man, Matt Carpenter. With Descalso at the plate down in the count, the normally "stationary on the base paths" Cardinals executed a double-steal to take away a possible double play AND put the go-ahead run in scoring position. Sadly, Salty had a great pitch to throw on, (clear lane to third with a lefty at the plate and a pitch high and away) but he fumbled the exchange. Runners at second and third with one out. Descalso would draw a walk to load the bases after Breslow tap-danced around the strike zone.
Carpenter followed with a shallow fly ball to left field. The runner at third tagged up. Gomes' throw home was up the first base line. Instead of getting off the plate to make a play, Salty stayed at home and stretched for the ball, almost as if the play was a force at home. The ball hit off the edge of Salty's mitt and trickled behind the plate allowing the tying run to score.
To make matters worse, Jay, the go-ahead run who was at second, looked to move up to third after the ball got away from the plate. He got a late break and Breslow was in the right position backing up the play at home. His mistake, however, was chucking the ball over third and into the stands allowing Jay to score and put Descalso at third. If Breslow simply holds onto the ball, the game is still tied and runners are on the corners with two out. Instead, St. Louis re-gained the lead 3-2 and Descalso stood 90 feet from home plate. He'd later score on an RBI single by Carlos Beltran to make it a 4-2 game.
That one play and the error in judgement not only by Breslow, but by Saltalamacchia as well, single-handedly cost the Red Sox Game 2.
Lackey was charged with three earned runs over his 6.1 innings of work. Only one scored while he was physically on the mound. He struck out six and walked two. It really was a much better outing than the final numbers indicated.
Wacha was done after six and he was as advertised; very strong. Six innings, two runs on just three hits. He walked four and struck out six. The St. Louis bullpen was outstanding with Carlos Martinez firing his 97 MPH fastball and nasty slider for two, one-hit innings and Trevor Rosenthal threw 11 fastballs, nothing lower than 97 MPH, to strike out the side in the 9th. Wacha is now 4-0 in the playoffs and has allowed just three earned runs over 27 innings of work.
Boston had just four hits in the loss. Ortiz had two, Pedroia added a double and Jacoby Ellsbury singled. They had just three at-bats with runners in scoring position and went 0-for-3. St. Louis was 1-for-3. Both teams stranded six.
Former PawSox starter Brandon Workman fired a scoreless inning in the 8th allowing just a single and Koji Uehara threw a scoreless 9th.
The game lasted just three hours and five minutes. The shortest playoff game played by the Red Sox this year!
The series shifts to St. Louis for games three through five. Jake Peavy will get moved up in the rotation and start Game 3 Saturday night at Busch Stadium against Joe Kelly.
It's a brand new series, now locked in a 1-1 tie. Boston will lose a lot more with the pitchers having to hit as John Farrell will have to lose either David Ortiz or Mike Napoli in each of the next three games. Either one will have to come off the bench instead of hitting back to back in the starting lineup. That's a large disadvantage for the Sox. Who will step up in the late innings with a key pinch hit? We'll find out over the next few days.
A night off tonight to travel to the Gateway City before the series resumes Saturday.