Archive for the ‘Boston Red Sox’ Category

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

The World Series is over and the Boston Red Sox are your deserving champions. Maybe deserved isn’t the right word. By having the best record, they weren’t entitled to go all the way and claim the title. The Red Sox earned it. They earned the title of best team in baseball this year, from April to October.

Before the hot stove season kicks off and hot contract takes fill our lives, a few lingering thoughts about the just concluded World Series and its final game.

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

They might not be your World Series champions but the Boston Red Sox will raise another banner at Fenway Park either way. The Red Sox dramatic turnaround from very good team to very bad team and back to very good team is complete as Boston beats St. Louis 6-1 to clinch the 2013 World Series, four games to two.

The Red Sox built a balanced club around an pre-existing core of all stars. They negotiated more than their fair share of injuries and turmoil to 97 wins and an AL East division title. Once into the playoffs, they went right through the teeth of two of the better rotations in baseball, besting the Tampa Bay Rays and then blasting through the tough Detroit Tigers rotation full of studs.

And now they’re the World Series champions, having defeated the St. Louis Cardinals in six games. A testament to smart signings, to organizational depth and total buy-in from the front office all the way down to the players on the field. They put all these organizational pillars into play during the World Series, outpitching the St. Louis Cardinals, outhitting them and, for good measure, outmanaging them, too.

It all adds up to one thing – the Boston Red Sox, your 2013 World Series champions. Congratulations!

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

The St. Louis Cardinals managed four hits against Jon Lester tonight. Koji Uehara pitched tonight so we know the Cardinals four hits and zero walks total. They came to the plate a grand total of 30 times. Rearrange that order any way you like, that isn’t going to get it done.

Despite what the pregame shows and twitter moaners say, the order in which this collection of batters is not the issue. The rotting remains of Allen Craig are an issue. That Craig’s a better option than Matt Adams is an issue. The disappearance of leadoff man and regular season line drive machine Matt Carpenter is an issue. That there is no way to sufficiently shuffle the bottom of their order is a very real issue.

Carlos Beltran shifted to the cleanup spot tonight as Cardinals manager Mike Matheny looked for a spark. Grasping at straws, it also meant Carlos Beltran watched the final out of the game from an agonizing distance, rather than settling matters with his prodigious bat.

Given how good Koji Uehara is and how bad the Cardinals offense looks, does it really matter in the end? You can’t hit a game-winning home run down two runs without anybody on base. These issues have the Cardinals down three games to two in the World Series, needing to win twice at Fenway Park if they want to keep their title hopes alive, after they fell 3-1 to Jon Lester and the Boston Red Sox.

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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.

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

Just about every pundit or World Series preview agreed on the big issues. The Cardinals’ starting rotation was better than the Red Sox starting rotation, given the way Michael Wacha has thrown the ball and taking Clay Buchholz‘s injury concerns into consideration.

Most also conceded the Red Sox defense was better than the Cardinals defense. The Red Sox shift and switch players and devote man-hours and assets and go out of their way to grab extra outs where ever they can while the Cardinals….well they sure score a lot of runs, don’t they?

In a tale-of-the-tape list post, it makes sense to break these factors off into different sections. The need for content is significant, and dispensing binding letter grades or check marks is Serious Business.

When the lights come up and the bunting hangs just so around the venerable grounds of Fenway Park, these two component work in concert to become run prevention – and one side cannot exist without the other. As Adam Wainwright, the postseason warrior and ace of the Cardinals staff who witnessed the power of poor defense up close and personal. The Cardinals defense gave away bases, outs, and runs in undoing an otherwise decent outing by Wainwright as the Red Sox bested the Cardinals 8-1 to take a 1-0 series lead.

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MLB: ALCS-Boston Red Sox at Detroit Tigers

The American League Championship Series ended on a swinging strikeout as Tigers shortstop Jose Iglesias came up empty against another Koji Uehara splitter. The whiff ended Uehara’s sixth scoreless inning of the ALCS. The five-game body of work made Uehara the obvious choice for the American League Championship series, a series defined by close victories for Boston and widespread mistakes in the opposing Tigers bullpen.

To put it simply, Boston won because Boston had The Pitch.

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MLB: ALCS-Detroit Tigers at Boston Red Sox

Sizzling hot take: baseball is a crazy game. Only baseball can deliver the most likely event – the two best teams in baseball in terms of regular season record meeting in the World Series – in the least likely or even remotely predictable manner possible.

The Red Sox seemingly overmatched by the dominant Tigers starters all series long, win four out of six games and move on to face the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series.

It wasn’t simple nor was it easy for Boston. In a (hilarious) post-game interview, Shane Victorino said the Sox “did the little things.” This is partly true. They did the little things – but the little things didn’t matter nearly as much as the enormous things like hitting grand slams late in games.

There is sure to be a lot of focus on Jim Leyland and the way he managed Game Six, pulling Max Scherzer and playing match-ups in a way that seemed…less than ideal ? (Maybe use your best relievers more, not less, Jimbo).

The other side of this very coin is the relative lack of scrutiny over Boston’s John Farrell and his in-game tactics. This is the way things work, you see. Farrell and the Sox won. It doesn’t really matter that he called on a terrible reliever in a huge spot or suggested badly-timed bunts. They’re still headed to the World Series either way.

They’re headed to the World Series thanks to the totality of many little things. A blown call on Scherzer’s 3-2 pitch to Xander Bogaerts. Prince Fielder‘s running his way into permanent infamy. Detroit’s glove-only shortstop Jose Igelsias booting a routine ball up the middle, leading to a batter who should be overmatched, the ice-cold recovering switch hitter Shane Victorino, hitting a grand slam. Victorino’s joyous bound around the base paths was the culmination of a dozen tiny, incremental changes/choices that ends with Koji Uehara striking out two more batters en route to a nearly perfect postseason…so far.

The two best teams in baseball will meet in the World Series. That doesn’t happen often. It doesn’t happen often because so much of playoff baseball is guessing which direction a superball bounces off a brick wall. For the two best teams to successfully run that gauntlet, they need a few unexpected breaks just as the “inferior” teams get when they come from nowhere to win a title.

The Red Sox took advantage of situations as they were presented. They made their own luck, in a way. They earned the right to play for the World Series title. They exchanged both great plays and head-scratching moments with the Tigers but the tried and true combo of timely hits (homers, really) and strong bullpen work won the day.

Just as we all expected when the postseason began – the best teams would also get the most luck on their side. That totally seems fair.