We have a Series now. But we almost didn’t.
Funny how the game can turn in a single inning or on a single play. In Game 1, that was the first inning, and Pete Kozma‘s muff at second. Game 2 was a lot more tense, with a potential turning point coming in the bottom of the sixth. David Ortiz‘s 2-Run body blow finally scratched phenom Michael Wacha. Some of the air left the ballon. On to the seventh.
Seven is a special number. Sure, one is lonely and six is serious, but 7 shows up a lot in a good way. Throwing seven at the craps table coming out is a winner. The Creation Myth depicts God building the world in seven days. And so on. Seven is the numerical symbol of fullness, completion and perfection. In that spirit, let’s look at seven key plays in the seventh inning.
The frame starts off innocently enough, with Allen Craig striking out. David Freese works an 8-pitch walk. John Jay takes a 1-2 cutter and lines it to right, moving the tying run into position. Boston lifts starter John Lackey for lefty Craig Breslow. Mike Matheny counters by replacing Freese with Kozma. Let the intrigue begin.
- Kozma wants to steal third base, but leaves too early on the first pitch and should have been picked off. His dancing around the bag seemed to bother Breslow, who fell behind Daniel Descalso 2-1.
- With the count 2-2, Kozma finally took off for third. He had a terrible jump. Fortunately for the Cardinals, Jason Saltalamacchia could not grip the ball to throw it, because Kozma is a dead duck at third. Jay moves up to second on the double steal.
- Descalso battled. Breslow had been unhittable in the post-season to this point, striking out six in his seven appearances. Daniel worked the count full, fouled off a fastball, then took a 3-2 slider that was inside. Barely. Ball four loads the bases and sets the table for the rest of the inning.
- Matt Carpenter, with the bases loaded, hits the first pitch to shallow left field. Jonny Gomes is not a very good defensive outfielder, posting a minus-11 in LF, over 634 innings, in 2013, according to Dewan plus/minus. He makes a strong throw on this play, however, but it is slightly up the first-base line and Kozma slides in safely.
- John Jay what are you doing? He was 2/3 of the way to third when Gomes caught the ball. Had Gomes thrown to second he doubles off Jay and the inning is over. That’s kind of unfair; in that game situation NO outfielder will check second before trying to throw out the go-ahead run at the plate. Jay dives back into second should Gomes choose to go there.
- When the Gomes’ throw gets behind Saltalamacchia, Jay – who is back vertical at this point – decides to take off for third. Breslow picks up the ball and has Jay dead to rights at third. Except Craig throws the ball into the LF stands, allowing Jay to score and Descalso to take third. Daniel had moved to second as Jay was trying to take third.
- Breslow falls behind Carlos Beltran 3-1, then throws a two-seam fastball that Carlos ropes into RF to score Descalso. A badly needed insurance run.
From that point on the Cardinal bullpen dominated. Carlos Martinez‘s eighth inning got a little more complicated when Jacob Ellsbury reached thanks to an in-between hop on a slow roller, but Martinez worked out of it, and Trevor Rosenthal blew away the Red Sox in the ninth.
It was vitally important for St Louis to win Game 2. Sure, they could still have won the World Series even going home down 2-0; but it would have been infinitely harder. Now the series really sets up well for the Cardinals. St Louis has manhandled young, dominating Peavy in two previous post-season contests. This team should have similar success. Joe Kelly‘s erratic-ness is a concern, especially against the patient Red Sox. Joe might not last through the fourth on Saturday night. Shelby Miller, the dugout is calling; please pick up the white courtesy phone. Clay Buchholz, the prospective Game 4 starter for Boston, is diminished and very hittable.
If the best-possible scenario plays out, St Louis is up 3-1 with Adam Wainwright taking the mound in a potentially clinching Game 5. Adam will be very mindful of his tough outing in Game 1 and will pitch angry. Gotta love the bulldog in action.
All that’s a long way away. St Louis needs to win Game 3 first. But, they’ve wrested home field away from Boston; all because of lucky number seven.