BOSTON -- Over course of the Red Sox’ postseason run the main factors in their success have been their sound defense, exceptional relief pitching and clutch hitting in the late innings. Unfortunately for Boston Thursday night, it didn’t get any of the three in a 4-2 loss to the Cardinals in Game 2 of the World Series, knotting the best-of-seven series at one.
Things were looking up for the Red Sox in the sixth inning as they finally got to Cardinals starter Michael Wacha when David Ortiz hit a two-run homer into the Monster seats, putting the Sox ahead 2-1 at the time going into the seventh inning.
“Yeah, it was a good feeling getting the lead late in the game,” first baseman Mike Napoli said. “The bullpen has been so great, so we had all the confidence in the world.”
There was no reason not to have all the confidence in the world considering how well the Red Sox bullpen had been, allowing just four runs in 33 1/3 innings over the entire postseason, and how solid the defense has been. But both things did not hold true in the seventh inning.
Red Sox starter John Lackey started the inning by getting a strikeout, but then following a single to Jon Jay and a walk to David Freese, manager John Farrell went to his bullpen and called upon Craig Breslow. With Pete Kozma pinch-running for Freese, he and Jay executed a perfect double-steal, setting up second and third with one out. Breslow then walked Daniel Descalso, loading the bases for Matt Carpenter.
Carpenter flew out to shallow left, which allowed Jay to tag and score from third base, but left fielder Jonny Gomes’ throw to the plate got past catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia where Breslow, backing up the play, bounced the ball into the stands when trying to get Kozma at third base. Kozma was awarded home and Descalso advanced to third. Saltalamacchia was charged with an error by letting the ball get by him and then Breslow an error for his poor throw.
“I think I definitely had a play there,” Breslow said of his poor throw. “Looking up I felt like it was definitely worth making the throw, but it wasn’t a good throw.”
With the Cardinals now leading 3-2 Carlos Beltran singled to score Descalso, ending Breslow’s night and making it a 4-2 Cardinal lead. Junichi Tazawa came on to retire Matt Holliday and end the inning.
“Uncharacteristic of the way I think we’ve taken care of the baseball this year and it contributed to the three runs,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said of the inning.
Entering the game the Red Sox defense had been phenomenal, only committing four errors over 11 games in the postseason and was seemingly able to get a key double play on cue. The team’s two errors Thursday, all on one play, certainly played a major role in the outcome.
The game was certainly not out of reach following the inning as the Red Sox had three more at-bats and they’ve had come-from-behind wins in the late innings all year long, but Thursday night they couldn’t find a way. As a team they went 0-for-3 with runners in scoring position on the night, leaving six men on base.
After going down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the seventh, they seemed to have something going with the top of the order as Jacoby Ellsbury reached on an error to start the eighth, but Shane Victorino and Dustin Pedroia recorded back-to-back strikeouts before Ortiz singled to center setting up first and second with two outs for Napoli, but the slugger popped to shortstop to end the threat. The Sox then went down 1-2-3 in the ninth to allow the Cardinals to knot the series, 1-1.
In another tough luck game for John Lackey, he suffered the loss as he allowed three runs on five hits while striking out six and walking two. Two of the three runs he allowed were inherited runs when Breslow came into the game. Lackey isn't blaming anyone.
“Yeah, unfortunately I’ve had it happen a few times this year, so, yeah,” Lackey said. “(Breslow) has been awesome for us this year. I can’t wait to see him get back out there because he’s been so good for us and you can’t go wrong with putting that guy on the mound.”
The series now shifts to St. Louis beginning Saturday night for three games in the 2-3-2 format where the Red Sox will need to put Thursday night behind them and get back to doing the things that have gotten them this far.
Follow Metro Red Sox beat writer Ryan Hannable on Twitter @Hannable84.