BOSTON – It was the Boston Red Sox’s turn to throw away a World Series game – and this one might’ve been even more painful than when the St. Louis Cardinals flubbed their way into a loss a day earlier.
Five seconds of misery unfolded faster than the electric crowd at Fenway Park could process Thursday, and what looked like was going to be a crazy come-from-behind win turned into a harrowing 4-2 loss for the Red Sox, the sort that not only evened the series heading back to St. Louis but proved the Red Sox are equally capable of blowing a ballgame with physical and mental errors.
[Yahoo Sports Shop: Buy World Series gear]
After loading the bases by sandwiching a pair of walks around a hit in the seventh inning, the Cardinals sent leadoff hitter Matt Carpenter to the plate against reliever Craig Breslow. His fly ball to left field drew a throw from Jonny Gomes that was too late to nab pinch runner Pete Kozma, and it kicked away from catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia for error No. 1. Cardinals outfielder Jon Jay broke to third base, and Breslow, who had picked up the remnants of the busted play, wound up and fired the ball to third.
Well, sort of toward third, like Maine is sort of near Massachusetts. It flew over third baseman Xander Bogaerts’ glove and into the stands for another error that pushed Jay across with the go-ahead run. Carlos Beltran followed with an RBI single to right field, and just like that, the Red Sox’s thoughts of a 2-0 series lead vanished into the cool October night.
Minutes earlier, it seemed as though it would be one to remember for Boston. Like everyone else who had faced Cardinals starter Michael Wacha this postseason, the Red Sox looked flummoxed by his fastball-changeup combination. Over the first five innings, Wacha struck out five and allowed just one hit. With two outs in the sixth inning, Dustin Pedroia drew a walk, bringing up David Ortiz, the hero of Octobers past and present.
After his previous two at-bats, Ortiz knew Wacha’s M.O.: fastballs early in the count, changeups late. And so it went: two fastballs, then three changeups, which Ortiz worked into a full count. Wacha went to the changeup one too many times, and Ortiz stalked it to the outside corner before unleashing his Herculean swing.
As the ball soared toward the 37-foot-tall Green Monster in left field, Ortiz sprinted, unsure whether it had the requisite carry to scale the wall. It scraped over, and the Fenway Park crowd ruptured with joy, much as it had in his game-tying grand slam in ALCS Game 2. What had been a 1-0 deficit morphed into a 2-1 lead with starter John Lackey cruising and what had been a near-impermeable Boston bullpen behind him.
In 7 1/3 innings this postseason, Breslow had danced around iffy control and held opponents scoreless. He inherited runners on first and second from Lackey and proceeded to walk Daniel Descalso to load the bases. All three runners would score.
And any concern that the Cardinals would revert to the misery of their 8-1 loss in Game 1, highlighted by a menagerie of errors, dissipated through the first seven innings. Carpenter rekindled the fears by booting a ground ball to start the eighth, and Ortiz singled to bring the winning run to the plate. Rookie Carlos Martinez, showcasing a 97-mph fastball and the nastiest slider this postseason, goaded Mike Napoli into a weak popout, and closer Trevor Rosenthal finished the Red Sox off in the ninth.
Game 1, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said, was “a wakeup call.” They were lucid as ever during Game 2. For five seconds, the Red Sox went narcoleptic, and that was all St. Louis needed.