Well, Game 2 was a first- and second-guesser's dream. After the Serious turned in the seventh inning, I spent a few minutes ruminating about the nature of baseball narratives and how quickly they can change ... and then I realized I could spend six hours writing that column, and decided to do this instead:
- Before the game, I jumped once more on John Farrell for starting Jonny Gomes instead of Daniel Nava against a right-handed starting pitcher. Well, Gomes now has three hits -- three singles, and two of them infield singles -- in 24 at-bats against right-handed pitchers in the postseason tournament. While Nava, one of the Red Sox' very best hitters against right-handed pitchers, sits on the bench and rots. I'm going to guess that upper management steps in here, and suggests to Farrell that Nava should start Game 3 against Joe Kelly.
- Before the seventh inning? Part of the narrative was about the Cardinals playing like Little Leaguers early in Game 1. Shoot, they might even have been nervous ... which is a nice way of saying they choked. Well, maybe. Or maybe sometimes bad things just happen to good, non-choking teams. Sort of like what happened to the Red Sox in the top of the seventh when they made three mistakes on one play. Here, see if you can spot them!
Gomes set up decently enough, but his his throw was seven feet off the plate. For some reason, Jarrod Saltalamacchia insisted on keeping his left foot on the plate, long after it was apparent that he wouldn't have a play. And because he was reaching for the baseball, he didn't catch it cleanly ... which led to Breslow's wild throw into the left-field stands. Three Red Sox, two errors and a poor throw. So tell me again, who are the nervous Little Leaguers?
Would you like to see the pitch sequence that might have turned the entire World Series around? This is lefty-pitching Craig Breslow against lefty-hitting Daniel Descalso, a few moments before the above display:
That first pitch (a ball) probably wasn't as close as it looks there, and that seventh pitch (ball four) probably did not clip the edge of the strike zone. All I'm saying is that Descalso's plate appearance was a close-run thing. He's a lousy hitter, and especially against lefties; in his career, he's drawn 15 walks in 244 plate apppearances against southpaws. Breslow is a really good pitcher, against both left- and right-handed hitters. I'm not smart enough to figure the odds against Descalso reaching base in that situation, but I'm smart enough to know they were long.
But he did reach base, and on such things championship are often won. It's worth pointing out that after walking Descalso, Breslow retired the excellent Matt Carpenter on a broken-bat fly ball ... which was just deep enough to result in -- depending on your counting method -- two or three runs. Carlos Beltrán followed Carpenter's sacrifice fly with an RBI single, but Beltrán doesn't even come up if Breslow gets Descalso. Which could have happened. In which case, we would be looking at a completely different narrative. Most of it nonsensical crap about which team's got more GRIT.
- Watching the game, my most visceral reaction came when David Ortíz hit his go-ahead homer against Michael Wacha in the sixth inning. True, no manager in the majors would have removed Wacha at that point; he'd just been pitching too well. But the numbers would argue for doing just that, considering how many pitches Wacha had thrown, and how good Ortíz is against righties (and isn't against lefties). So I thought Matheny was too slow to yank Wacha ... and I thought John Farrell yanked John Lackey-- also protecting a one-run lead, but having thrown even fewer pitches than Wacha -- at exactly the right time. Farrell seemed appropriately aggressive, and Matheny not ... and I might have been wrong, or the baseball gods might have spent the sixth and seventh innings throwing dice around in a cardboard box.
What did we learn about these two teams in Game 2 that we didn't already know? Nothing. So I'm right back where I began the World Series, two games ago: Matheny's not aggressive enough with his bullpen, and Daniel Nava should be starting against right-handed pitchers. Maybe after six or seven games, I'll look like a genius.
But probably not.