Cardinals rebound from Game 1 miscues, injuries to even World Series

Friday October 25th, 2013

Pete Kozma (38) scores a run to begin the Cardinals' game-winning rally in the seventh inning.
Winslow Townson/SI


BOSTON -- A clear bottle of brown liquid, labeled "Pain Relieving Liniment," sat in the center of the shelf of Carlos Beltran's locker in the visitors' clubhouse at Fenway Park. That was not the only elixir Beltran tried in an attempt to play in Game 2 of the World Series, after leaving Game 1 early due to the contused ribs he suffered when he crashed into the wall while robbing David Ortiz of a second inning grand slam. He also received a shot of Toradol, a pain-killer, and three hours before the first pitch neither he nor Cardinals manager Mike Matheny knew if either the tonic or the injection would work. "We're going to find out when he gets in the cage and gets some swings," Matheny said.

"I felt like I was swinging the bat okay," Beltran said, when he got into the cage for batting practice. "Not good, but good enough to be able to go out there and be with the guys." Beltran proved to be more than simply with his teammates on the field during what turned out to be a 4-2 Cardinals win, which leveled the World Series at one game apiece. He went 2-for-4 -- he was the only member of the St. Louis lineup to produce more than one hit -- and drove in the run that would give the Cardinals their winning margin. "Tomorrow I know for sure I'm going to wake up feeling sore," he said.

The Cardinals will arise on Friday feeling anything but, psychologically anyway, thanks to Beltran; thanks to starter Michael Wacha, who pitched six more strong innings, allowing just three hits and damage only on a two-run home run by David Ortiz in the sixth, which came when the rookie was clearly tiring; and thanks also to the man who had the worst night of anyone in Game 1's 8-1 drubbing, worse than even Beltran.

"Not singling anyone out," Matheny said when asked for the greatest culprit in the Game 1 loss, but Pete Kozma felt that he knew his identity, and that it was he. "I felt it was more my fault than anybody's," he said. "If I make those plays, we might have a chance to win that game."

"Those plays" were the two errors the normally sure-handed shortstop committed: a missed catch on a potential double play in the Red Sox' three-run first, and a muffed grounder in Boston's two-run second. Kozma was replaced in Thursday night's lineup by Daniel Descalso, a decision Matheny didn't even have a chance to address before the game, so great was the focus on Beltran's ribs. By the end of Game 2, though, Kozma would have his chance at redemption.

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After Red Sox starter John Lackey, protecting a 2-1 lead in the top of the 7th due to Ortiz's home run, allowed a one-out walk to David Freese and then a single to Jon Jay, Matheny pulled Freese off of second and called upon Kozma to pinch run. Kozma stole just three bases during the regular season, but he watched closely as reliever Craig Breslow, who had replaced Lackey, threw his warmup pitches. He thought he had detected something he might exploit -- "that leg kick," he said -- and he had been given the green light to go. As Breslow prepared to throw his second pitch to Descalso, Kozma took off for third, and then had to retreat when he realized Breslow had yet to begin his delivery. "Thought he had me for a second," Kozma said, "but I got back."

On Breslow's fifth pitch, Kozma took off in earnest. He made it to third, without a throw, with Jay taking second behind him for a double steal. After Descalso's walk loaded the bases, leadoff hitter Matt Carpenter, who almost never swings at a first pitch, did, and he produced a shallow fly ball to left field. Kozma timed his jump from third perfectly, and slid safely into home, tying the game 2-2. Jonny Gomes' throw trickled wide of catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and Breslow, backing up the play, picked it up and tried to gun down the advancing Jay at third. Breslow's throw sailed high, allowing Jay to score the go-ahead run. Then Beltran, the next batter, stroked his RBI single, and the Cardinals had all the runs they would need -- catalyzed, in large measure, by Kozma. "We're not a huge base-stealing threat, as you look at our numbers, but I believe we're opportunistic and when it presents itself, we have a few guys that can take advantage of it," Matheny said -- the central guy being Kozma.

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The next inning, Kozma would have his redemption on defense, too. He made a spectacular play with one out, picking up a deflected grounder by Stephen Drew with his bare hand and firing on-target to first, and merely a very good play on a grounder by the next batter, Xander Bogaerts.

It was tempting to write off the Cardinals, with an injured Beltran and a shaky Kozma, after Game 1, but Game 2 showed how quickly things can change over the course of even 24 hours in a World Series. "I don't know what's going to happen at home," Kozma said -- Games 3, 4 and 5 will be played in St. Louis, starting on Saturday -- "but in here we all feel pretty good." It was a reminder that in a World Series, past performance is not always indicative of future results.

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