Monday, October 28, 2013

World Series, Game Five: Boston 3, St. Louis 1 (Boston leads 3-2)

Last year, the Cardinals were up three games to one in the National League Championship Series, seemingly on their way to a second consecutive pennant, when this happened:

San Francisco 5, St. Louis 0
San Francisco 6, St. Louis 1
San Francisco 9, St. Louis 0

One run in 27 innings.  So long, thanks for playing.

This year, the Cardinals were up two games to one in the World Series -- with the next two games at home.  In one of those games, Boston would be forced to rely on a pitcher -- Clay Buchholz -- who is not at all healthy.  Here is what happened:

Boston 4, St. Louis 2
Boston 3, St. Louis 1

Three runs in 18 innings.

Once again, it appears that the Cardinals' season is likely to end with a whimper instead of a bang.  They are batting .218 in this World Series, and in the last two games they have batted .161.  That's just not good enough to win the Championship -- not against a tough, canny team like the Red Sox.

Don't get me wrong:  St. Louis is a great, great baseball team.  The Cardinals play with verve and panache; they are smart; they have great espirit d'corps; and they have a bevy of excellent young pitchers.  They have been the best team in the National League all year, and no one would be surprised if they kept that title for several years to come.  It is also to the credit of the Cardinal organization that they have had two great seasons in a row without Tony LaRussa or Albert Pujols.  I know how happy Cardinal fans are to see that they have succeeded while Pujols and his Angels have failed.  And I am certain that St. Louis would have made a mistake to have given Pujols the enormous contract that the Angels are currently carrying.  But in each of the last two years, it has been clear that St. Louis lacks the Hall of Fame bat that can make such a difference in a close-fought series like this one.

On the other side of the field, let's give a lot of credit to the Red Sox, who haven't just flailed at the ball inning after inning, seeking a home run that's not available.  The BoSox are the greatest of all the Moneyball franchises; no one wears out a pitcher the way they can.  And even when they are striking out in bunches (as they have done in this post-season), they will usually rise up in the late innings to bite you.  For years in the 1930's, 1940's, and 1950's, the great Yankee teams were famous for this sort of thing -- the sportswriters used to call it "5 o'clock lightning," because games back then started at 3 P.M., and the late innings would start around 5 P.M.  This year the Red Sox are pulling some 11 o'clock lightning on St. Louis.  Boston has outscored the Cardinals 21-13 so far in this Series, and the BoSox have scored 13 of those 21 runs in the sixth, seventh, and eighth innings.  That is championship baseball.

We now take a day off to allow the teams to travel back to Boston for what will likely be a well-deserved coronation for the Beantowners.  But if any team in the National League could beat Boston in Fenway on back-to-back nights, St. Louis is that team.

1 comment:

  1. These reports have been fantastic. For all sorts of reasons, I've watched very little of these games, so the HP has been my go-to source for World Series coverage. I did this morning hear Mike Shannon's recoreded post-game wrapup on Madisonville 720 AM WTTL--official donut provider of the HP--and he sounded beleaguered. Also, I attend a Tuesday-morning prayer circle with three other guys, two of whom are huge (and normally talkative) Cardinals fans. Neither brought up Game 5 this morning.