Monday, October 28, 2013
Strategy changes and mysteries
By Buster Olney
David Ortiz delivered a speech in Game 4; he's been delivering hits in every game.
ST. LOUIS -- It was just after midnight Monday morning, and the only folks left on the field at Busch Stadium were the camera crews and a other few stragglers, including colleague Tim Kurkjian, producer Shawn Fitzgerald and me.
“Do you have any idea who is going to win Game 5?” I asked Tim.
“I haven’t had any idea who is going to win this whole time,” Tim replied.
Nope. Because who knew that Game 3 would end with an obstruction call, for the first time ever in the postseason, and that Game 4 would end with a pickoff, for the first time ever in the World Series?
Because you can’t predict that in the middle of the World Series, Felix Doubront is suddenly going to become the second-most important reliever in the Red Sox bullpen behind Koji Uehara. And we know the Boston staff couldn’t predict that, because they used Doubront twice in the first 25 days of October.
You can’t predict that by the end of October these two lineups, which dominated their respective leagues throughout the long summer, would suddenly become barren, with chasms developing in each. Stephen Drew has four hits in 47 at-bats, with 17 strikeouts, offensive numbers that are impossibly bad -- and yet he has played a brilliant shortstop. Before Jarrod Saltalamacchia was benched for Game 5, he had 19 strikeouts in 32 postseason at-bats.
In fact, the Red Sox hitters likely set an all-time postseason record last night for strikeouts; they’ve got 142 strikeouts in October, with 101 hits, which means they’ve collectively become Adam Dunn.
Without Allen Craig, the Cardinals lineup seems completely transformed into something different, and not in a good way: David Freese, the St. Louis shortstops, Matt Adams and Jon Jay are a combined 6-for-56 in this World Series.
Who knew, when October began, that Carlos Martinez would become a 2013 version of what Francisco Rodriguez was to the Angels in 2002? Who knew that Lance Lynn would throw well in Game 4, after Adam Wainwright completely lost his delivery in Game 1? Who knew that Clay Buchholz, arguably the best pitcher in baseball for the first three months of the season, would pass on the chance to start a Game 7 of the World Series because of his arm discomfort -- and then give Boston four solid innings at the outset of Game 4?
Mike Matheny might have his pitchers stay away from the strike zone against David Ortiz.
Who knew that David Ortiz would develop into a combination of Babe Ruth, Ted Williams and Hank Aaron, an unstoppable force. He’s batting .727 with four walks and two homers and an OPS of 2.115, and those numbers would be even better if Carlos Beltran hadn’t robbed him of a Game 1 grand slam.
Who knew that Ortiz would pick the dugout, in the middle of Game 4 of the World Series, to call an impromptu meeting with his teammates. “It was like something you see in football,” Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo said.
Amid the profanities, the Red Sox’s version of Ray Lewis told them it was their time, that they should be themselves and have fun and grind it. As David Ross said after the game, Ortiz must have seen some need in the eyes of his teammates and stepped in to provide help.
Who knew when October began that one of the most reliable offensive performers, as November approached, would be 21-year-old Xander Bogaerts, who looks as comfortable on the postseason stage as Beltran.
So we can safely say: We don’t know what’s going to happen next, although there are some strategic developments in play the rest of the World Series.
1. Ortiz may not be pitched to the rest of this postseason. Mike Matheny indicated the Cardinals are going back to the drawing board against Ortiz. “We've got to figure out a new game plan and execute our pitches. But good hitters are going to get hits sometimes, even on good pitches. So we've just got to be careful and make sure we're making our adjustments. We've got guys that can get in him or any hitter out. But there's definitely times where it's a little more difficult and he's locked in.”
2. The Red Sox may have to rely on the right-handers in their bullpen in Game 5, because left-hander Craig Breslow seems to have hit a wall, and Doubront might not be available tonight, after throwing two innings in Game 3 and 2 2/3 innings in Game 4.
3. Craig probably is limited to getting a chance to pinch hit in a high-leverage situation Monday night -- although he spoke with hope that perhaps he could play first base in Game 5. When Craig hit a ball that skipped off the right-field wall as a pinch hitter in Game 4, he barely limped to first base. Matheny has indicated that the Cardinals’ priority is making sure that Craig can get some at-bats, so it figures that Matt Adams will start at first base.
4. Ross looks like a lock to catch the rest of the postseason. He is regarded by the Boston pitchers as the stronger defensive option, and given Saltalamacchia’s problems at the plate, Red Sox manager John Farrell -- who has demonstrated repeatedly with his decisions that he is a pitching-and-defense guy, first and foremost -- could just take the defense.
If you want to know what’s going to happen next, writes Joel Sherman, just watch.
0: Home runs in 41 postseason at-bats for Gomes before his three-run shot in the sixth inning.
1: Game 4 was the first postseason game to end on a pickoff, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
8: Hits by David Ortiz in this World Series, the second fastest to eight hits in a World Series.
26: Teams to win Game 5 in a best-of-seven World Series tied 2-2 have won 26 of 40 series.
From Elias: Ortiz is the third Red Sox first baseman with three hits in a World Series game. The others are Dick Hoblitzell (1915) and Carl Yastrzemski (1975). Ortiz now has five multihit games in the World Series, one shy of the most by a Red Sox. Duffy Lewis has six. Ortiz has 17 hits in 39 career World Series at-bats. If he gets a hit in his first at-bat Monday, he will tie Hal McRae for the highest batting average in his first 40 World Series at-bats. He's sporting a line of .727/.750/1.364/2.114 in this Series.
• Craig now has four hits has a pinch hitter in the World Series, the most in World Series history.
• Buchholz is the second starting pitcher in the past 25 seasons to allow zero earned runs and pitch four innings or fewer in a World Series game. The other was David Wells in 2003 Game 5. The Red Sox also are the first team to make at least two errors in three straight World Series games in a single Series since the Marlins in Games 3-5 of the 1997 World Series.