MLB: World Series-St. Louis Cardinals at Boston Red Sox

The Cardinals weren’t going to play worse than they did in Game One and, for betterment of us all, they did not. As it turns out, the Red Sox were also unlikely to play as well as they did in Game One. It wasn’t as ugly as the Cardinals defensive performance in the first game of the series but the Red Sox picked the least opportune moment to get wild and loose in the field.

Both managers really starting yanking levers and pushing buttons but, in the end, it was Mike Matheny‘s dominant bullpen that bested Farrell’s friends 4-2 to even the World Series at one game apiece.

It says a lot about the power of the hot hand when Craig Breslow is the man who decides a World Series game but, in his defense, the Yale product earned the trust of Red Sox manager John Farrell and earned the right to enter a game in a big situation. It wasn’t that Breslow pitched especially poorly, it was that he had no margin for error.

After starter John Lackey put two runners on base (after a great performance up to that point), the Cardinals’ running game made matters even worse on the Sox lefty. A double steal (that Pete Kozma might have telegraphed, nearly caught leaning as he was) and another walk set up the biggest play of the night.

The throw from Jonny Gomes was fine, if we’re being honest. It was up the line and all but if Jarrod Saltalamacchia catches it cleanly, Jon Jay doesn’t break for third and Breslow himself doesn’t attempt a throw to third base that ends up in the left field seats.

This is why they call them high leverage situations – the entire game hinges on these crucial plays. The Red Sox didn’t make the crucial plays. John Farrell stuck with Breslow when bringing in a better reliever might have saved him – unconventional as it might seem.

There were certainly moments that bucked convention in this game. Perhaps burned by the one-pitch confrontation between Kevin Siegrist and David Ortiz last night, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny stuck with relief whiz Carlos Martinez in the eighth inning, ignoring platoon advantages in favor of pure, unadulterated filth.

And it worked, so Matheny is hailed as a genius. Meanwhile, John Farrell didn’t make the decisive substitution, instead bringing in his best reliever down two runs in the ninth inning (when his team was already behind) and leaving Jonny Gomes to flail at Trever Rosenthal’s upper nineties cheese in the final frame. That’s the nature of the game at this stage of the season – results are all that matter and results enhance the validity of every move. It worked? Great idea, skip.

Filth does not adequately describe what Carlos Martinez threw at the Red Sox in Game Two. After some questioned Mike Matheny’s decision to use some of his top relievers in last night’s blowout (instead believing keeping his flame throwers hidden from view would benefit the team later in the series), I wrote the following this morning:

Has anyone actually watched Carlos Martinez pitch? It isn’t subtle and, in an one-inning outing, I think the Cardinals will take their chances with his stuff versus a mop up appearance against the bottom of the order. He remains an unknown commodity to Shane Victorino, Dustin Pedroia and Mike Napoli – the most important bats he’ll face in high leverage situations.

As it turns out, when you throw 98 and possess a knee-buckling slider, it doesn’t matter how many looks a hitter gets, they probably aren’t going to hit it when it’s thrown where it needs to be.

Ortiz reached on an infield single but Mike Napoli hit a looping liner that ended the eighth inning mini-rally for Boston. Martinez went two strong innings, allowing only the bleeder through the shift to Ortiz after Jacoby Ellsbury reached on an error.

Turns out the diminutive rookie is a stud after all. The Red Sox hopeless, speculative swing swings and the befuddled looks on their faces said as much, speaking just as loudly as any post-game praise ever could.

Martinez is a stud just as all pitchers for St. Louis seem to be right now. Between Carlos Martinez, Michael Wacha, and Trevor Rosenthal, the Red Sox saw some great young pitching tonight and couldn’t do much of a thing with it. 12 strikeouts, just four walks and four hits were all the Red Sox managed against three pitchers who top out at 99 miles per hour and 23 years of age.

Hardly a condemnation of the Red Sox on this night. But scoring runs will only get tougher as they travel to St. Louis and lose the services of Mike Napoli for Game Three and possibly David Ortiz beyond that. That question and the ongoing utility of Jonny Gomes will keep Sox manager sleeping restlessly between now and the start of Game Three on Saturday. The quest for results in October cares not for your indecision. Think hard, John. Think really hard.