World Series: Is Game 2 must-win for the St. Louis Cardinals? Maybe. (+video)
The St. Louis Cardinals lost to the Boston Red Sox, 8-1, in Game 1 of the 2013 World Series Wednesday. It was just one game, but Game 2 Thursday could be huge.
Well, that officially qualified as a complete dumpster fire for the St. Louis Cardinals.
In the first two innings of Game 1 of the 2013 World Series, Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright gave up five runs – and it could have been more. The Cardinals' best fielder, shortstop Pete Kozma, looked as though he'd dipped his glove in concrete, making two key errors on simple plays. Meanwhile, the team's best play of the night – Carlos Beltran robbing Red Sox slugger David Ortiz of a grand slam – might have seriously damaged their World Series hopes. (Slamming into the wall, Beltran had to leave with a rib injury.)
Of course, the Cardinals' 8-1 loss at Fenway Park in Boston Wednesday night was just one game.
Then again, maybe it wasn't.
Maybe, Game 2 Thursday night is now as close to a must-win game for the Cardinals as a Game 2 can possibly be.
Of course, Game 2s are not typically seen as make-or-break affairs. It is Game 2, after all. There could be five more. And for the visiting team, especially, losing the first two games of a seven-game series is not usually seen as a reason for outright panic.
But what if the Red Sox do win Thursday? What if the Cardinals trot out their two best pitchers – Wainwright and Game 2 starter Michael Wacha – and don't win either? What if it's up to Lance Lynn and Joe Kelly – the presumed Game 3 and 4 starters, who are talented but unlikely to strike fear in Boston hitters – to pull the Cardinals back into the series?
Of course, they could do it, but it is not something the Cardinals want to contemplate. They want (need?) Wacha to win Thursday and even the series.
The good news is that he's well up to the job. So far in the postseason, he's been Tom Cruise, the Iceman, and Goose all rolled into one. His earned-run average is so microscopic (0.43) that scientists from across the river at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have been called in to find it.
The bad news is that, by the reckoning of Major League Baseball, he's still wearing diapers. At age 22, Wacha has started a grand total of nine regular season games. Most of them were pretty good, mind, but the rest of this young Cardinals team pretty well wet the bed in their first taste of World Series action Wednesday.
There was Kozma completely whiffing on a double-play relay in the first inning – a call the umpires at first got wrong but then corrected. And then there was Shane Robinson misplaying Mike Napoli's first-inning double, ensuring that all three runners on base could score easily. Or Kozma dropping a fairly routine chopper in the second. Or Wainwright and all-world catcher Yadier Molina staring at each other as a popup landed harmlessly between them, also in the second.
The Cardinals' first two innings were so abjectly awful that they made the techs behind the Obamacare website look competent by comparison.
And while it didn't get worse thereafter, it didn't get a whole lot better, either. Lefthanded Cardinals reliever Kevin Siegrist, brought in specifically to neutralize the lefthanded-hitting Ortiz, gave up a home run on his first pitch in the seventh. And the Sox didn't seem overmatched by another of the Cardinals' young flame-throwing relievers, Carlos Martinez, scoring another run in the eighth on two scorching line drives. Meanwhile, Cardinals hitters continued to be baffled by lefthanded pitching, in this case, Sox starter Jon Lester.
Then there's the Beltran situation.
The Cardinals held the Sox to only five runs in the first two innings largely because of Beltran's grand-slam-saving catch in the second. But Beltran later left the game to go to the hospital for X-rays. He's listed as merely having bruised ribs, but during the playoffs, an amputation would be listed as a "lower body injury," so that doesn't mean much.
The fact that Beltran, who finally made it to his first World Series after 16 years of trying, left after only two innings is perhaps more telling. We'll have to see.
But the Cardinals lineup looked a bit declawed without him. So far this postseason, he's batted in almost one-third of the Cardinals' runs (12 of 38). Designated hitter Allen Craig, who played his first game since Sept. 4 Wednesday, should help. But he looked rusty. He'll surely get better as the series progresses. But someone will need to step up to make sure the series does progress.
That person could well be Wacha. And Cardinals' hitters are not likely to be frightened of Red Sox Game 2 starter John Lackey. He's a righty.
But the stakes are perhaps higher than they might normally be for a visiting team in Game 2.
On Thursday, someone will need to bring the fire extinguisher.