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Sunday, October 27, 2013

2013 World Series: Game 4 Thoughts and Observations

Aside from New York Yankees great Babe Ruth being thrown out attempting to steal second base as the final out in the deciding Game 7 of the 1926 World Series (thus giving the St. Louis Cardinals the championship), it’s hard to think of another postseason game with an ending so strange as this year’s Game 3.

The Cardinals walked off last night against the Boston Red Sox thanks to a bizarre defensive interference call in the bottom of the ninth against third baseman Will Middlebrooks. The victory gives the Cards a 2-1 series edge, and only ratchets up the intensity of the remaining games.

Here are some notes and observations in preparation of tonight’s Game 4:

***A lot of fans are still crying foul on last night’s call. There are those (including myself initially) who thought that St. Louis base runner Allen Craig may have committed interference himself or perhaps been outside of the base path. However, now that the dust has settled, it’s obvious that the officiating crew got the call exactly right.

The umpires may have looked less than confident when explaining their reasoning after the game, but they called it to the letter of the law as outlined in the official rule book.

Some, like Boston pitcher Jake Peavy, believe such an important game shouldn’t end on a bang-bang obscure rule violation. However, if you aren’t going to observe the rules from the first pitch of the game until the players are walking off the field at the end, there is no need to ever use them.

***The playing time Boston shortstop Stephen Drew has continued to get despite a mighty slump at the plate has caused many to call for his benching. But where is that same level of concern for catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia?

Salty is not only just six-for-32 with 19 strikeouts this postseason, but his poor throwing has directly led to the Cardinals winning the past two games.

Backup David Ross isn’t much of a hitter himself, but is a solid glove man. With stupid mistakes sinking the Red Sox, it’s time to bench Saltalamacchia, who has been hurting the team more than helping it of late.

***Much has been made of the Cardinals vaunted young bullpen and their ability to shut down the opposition. While they are certainly talented, the Red Sox have scored five runs against them in 9.2 innings this series.

*** Switch-hitting outfielder Daniel Nava should start every remaining game for the Red Sox. A .322 hitter with a .894 OPS in the regular season against right-handed pitching, he is too big of a weapon to keep on the bench against the Cardinals, who have no lefties in their rotation.

***There’s not nearly enough of a backlash against Boston’s Game 4 starter Clay Buchholz for his recent wishy-washy comments to the press. He has repeatedly referred to feeling run-down and being unsure of how effective he can be.

In a recent press conference, he indicated he would be happy if he could replicate his last start, which was a five inning/two-run effort against the Detroit Tigers in the ALCS. That kind of apathy and willingness to settle for mediocrity is not what you want to see from a pitcher who is about to pitch the biggest game of his career.

Buchholz may be tired or hurt but he needs to keep that to himself. All he needs to say is how much he wants to go out and kick butt—then behind the scenes the team will determine if he can and should go.

Pedro Martinez and Curt Schilling gave huge pitching efforts in playoff games in the past couple of decades, despite working with major injuries. They didn’t complain; they just went out and competed.

At this point, I’d be more concerned about Buchholz’s attitude and lack of fire than any physical ailment.

***After stealing 123 bases in just 142 attempts during the regular season, the Red Sox have ceased running in the World Series. Sure, Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina is an all-time great in keeping the running game in check, but he can be had.

Including the playoffs, runners have been successful in five of their last six attempts against the Gold Glove catcher. In addition, the 42 percent of runners he caught during the regular season represented the fourth-lowest mark of his 10-year career.

Running on Molina can be a risky proposition but the Red Sox are pretty darned good on the base paths in their own right. The 86.6 percent success rate they had in stolen bases this season is the best mark a team has ever had since the statistic started being recorded in 1914. Taking a chance or two could really pay off and help Boston even the series.

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