Found October 25, 2013 on Fox Sports Midwest:
Let the rest of the baseball world be surprised to see rookie pitchers dominating for the Cardinals. Around St. Louis, we've been watching it since April. Heck, Michael Wacha, Carlos Martinez and Trevor Rosenthal combined to shut out the Dodgers in the clincher of the NL Championship Series just last Friday. Now what was surprising about the Cardinals' 4-2 victory in Game 2 of the World Series Thursday night was their seventh-inning offense. The manner in which the Cardinals' battled for three runs was no less impressive than the pitching performance turned in by the trio of young 20-somethings. Talk about maximizing opportunities. With the bottom of the order doing most of the damage, the Cardinals used two walks, a double steal, a sacrifice fly, a pair of singles and a botched play by the Red Sox to turn a 2-1 deficit into a 4-2 lead that became a must-have victory for St. Louis. Without those runs, the efforts of the rookie pitchers likely go wasted. Without those runs, the Cardinals likely would have headed home in a 2-0 hole with their top starters having lost both games. Without those runs, the Red Sox's winning streak in the World Series would have reached 10 games. Because of those runs, the World Series is tied 1-1 with the next three games scheduled for Busch Stadium. Those runs are worth a closer look. David Ortiz had just put a charge in Fenway Park by depositing a full-count changeup from Wacha into the front row of the Green Monster seats (I'm doubtful that would have been gone at Busch Stadium). The two-run homer ended Wacha's scoreless streak at 19 innings and, more significantly, gave the Red Sox their first lead of the night. The seventh didn't start well for the Cardinals as John Lackey struck out Allen Craig on three pitches, the last a 92 mph fastball that Craig watched buzz over the outside corner. David Freese, hitting under .200 for the postseason, got the rally started by working an eight-pitch walk off Lackey. With the count full, Freese somehow held off a slider that slipped just outside. Red Sox manager John Farrell then allowed the right-hander Lackey to face the lefty-hitting Jay, who singled sharply to right field to put runners on first and second and, perhaps one batter too late, end Lackey's night. In came lefty specialist Craig Breslow, who had not been scored upon in the postseason, to face lefty-hitting Daniel Descalso. When the Red Sox changed pitchers, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny sent in Pete Kozma to run for Freese. Matheny often has used Kozma in a double switch with Freese but never has the move worked so well. With the count 2-2 on Descalso, Kozma and Jay pulled off a double steal that gave the Cardinals runners on second and third with one out. Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia fumbled the pitch and didn't even make a throw to third as the Red Sox seemed to be caught off guard. They could not be blamed if they were surprised by the aggressive base-running, though. The Cardinals stole fewer bases this season as a team than Red Sox leadoff man Jacoby Ellsbury swiped himself. "We're not a huge base-stealing threat but I believe we're opportunistic and when it presents itself, we have a few guys who can take advantage of it," said Matheny, who refused to say if the double steal was called from the dugout. "They did a great job of keeping their eyes open." Descalso ended up walking, also on a full count and also on a close pitch. "He threw a cutter that didn't cut much and it stayed inside the plate," Descalso said on the Fox Sports Midwest post-game show. "I tried not to swing at it and was hoping he called it a ball." Home plate umpire Mark Wegner did, loading the bases with one out. The Red Sox then proved that, like the Cardinals in Game 1, they also can give away a run. Matt Carpenter hit a fly to medium left that scored Kozma as Jonny Gomes' throw went to the right of the plate. If the throw had been accurate, it probably would have beaten Kozma. If Freese still had been in the game, the throw definitely would have beaten him home. When Kozma slid in with the tying run, the ball squirted just far enough away from Saltalamacchia to allow Jay to make it from second to third. Breslow, backing up on the play, thought he had a play on Jay but his throw sailed over third base and into the seats down the left-field line. Jay trotted home with the go-ahead run. Carlos Beltran followed with a single to right that scored Descalso for the game's final run. The hit was Beltran's second of the game, not bad for a guy who wasn't sure he would be able to play because of a rib injury. But play he did, and reported no ill effects afterward. The rest of the Cardinals were feeling quite good about their situation, too, following their poor performance in Game 1. That would include those responsible for the seventh-inning surge and, of course, the rookie pitchers. You can follow Stan McNeal on Twitter at @stanmcneal or email him at stanmcneal@gmail.com.
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