If you were hoping to get another boring World Series and a third straight sweep of the Fall Classic by the Boston Red Sox, sorry to disappoint you.
The St. Louis Cardinals evened their series at one game apiece on Thursday night with a come-from-behind 4-2 victory at Fenway Park.
You need to know more than that, though. Anyone can tell you what the series looks like heading back to St. Louis for the next three games, but the juicy stuff is how we got to this point and what it means moving forward.
Since we are here to serve your baseball-loving needs, here are the notable stats and facts to take away from Game 2, along with the combined stats from the first two games of this World Series.
Errors Are the Name of the Game
If there were two things we could have said with absolute certainty going into the World Series, it was that the Cardinals were a woeful defensive team and the Red Sox were very good with the glove.
Even though the Cardinals tied for the NL lead in fielding with a .988 percentage, they don't get to a lot of balls because their defense is filled with a lot of slow-footed players. They finished 22nd in defensive runs saved and 27th in ultimate zone rating, per FanGraphs.
Of course, the one Cardinals starter not named Yadier Molina who rated highly this season with the glove, shortstop Pete Kozma, made two critical errors in the first two innings of Game 1 that helped the Red Sox score five runs after he had saved eight runs from scoring during the season, per FanGraphs.
Kozma made up for those blunders in the seventh inning of Game 2 with a nice bare-handed play to throw out Stephen Drew at first base.
David Freese also got in on the Cardinals' Game 1 error parade with an errant throw in the bottom of the seventh that allowed Dustin Pedroia to reach base and set the stage for David Ortiz's two-run homer.
In Game 2, it was the Red Sox who created an opportunity for the Cardinals to get back in the series.
After St. Louis had loaded the bases in the seventh inning on Thursday night, Boston reliever Craig Breslow gave up a sacrifice fly to Matt Carpenter, with catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia mishandling the throw home from left fielder Jonny Gomes. After the ball trickled away, Breslow tried to throw out Daniel Descalso at third base, only to have the ball sail over the head of everyone into left field, allowing Descalso to score.
Carlos Beltran followed with an RBI single to put the Cardinals up 4-2 and give St. Louis new life in the World Series.
The error parade wasn't finished there, however. Cardinals second baseman Matt Carpenter misplayed a ball off the bat of Jacoby Ellsbury in the bottom of the eighth inning, but—thankfully for everyone in St. Louis—that one didn't come back to bite them.
Through the first two games of the World Series, we have seen five errors lead to 10 runs, and there have only been a total of 15 runs scored in the series. It figured that with two teams that appear to be so evenly matched on paper as Boston and St. Louis, the one that made the fewest mistakes was going to come out on top.
The Red Sox Solve Wacha's Changeup
It isn't enough to say that Michael Wacha's changeup has been a difference-maker in this postseason. Wacha's changeup has been the most dominant pitch in baseball for the last month. It was his best pitch coming out of college, and it just keeps getting better.
How good has it been? Glad you asked.
Dustin Pedroia doubled off Wacha's changeup in the bottom of the fourth inning of Game 2. Jayson Stark of ESPN noted that was the first time in the postseason that anyone in the heart of a lineup got a hit off that particular pitch.
Pittsburgh's Andrew McCutchen, along with the Dodgers' Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez and Andre Ethier were all baffled by the majesty of Wacha's changeup in both the NLDS and NLCS, respectively.
Pedroia's double wasn't the only hit off Wacha's changeup by the middle of the order for Boston. David Ortiz gave Boston a brief 2-1 lead with a two-run home run to left field in the bottom of the sixth inning off another Wacha changeup.
Even though Wacha wasn't commanding the pitch as well as he did in those past series against Pittsburgh and Los Angeles, his changeup belongs in the category of elite pitches, right alongside Clayton Kershaw's curveball and Max Scherzer's slider.
Hitting With Runners in Scoring Position
You will never learn more about a pitching staff than by watching the way they perform when an opposing team gets runners in scoring position. Those high-pressure, high-leverage moments are when games are either won or lost.
So far in this World Series, neither team is hitting great with runners in scoring position.
|2013 World Series BA W/RISP|
|St. Louis Cardinals||.333 (2-for-6)|
|Boston Red Sox||.182 (2-for-11)|
Even more amazing is that Boston put up eight runs in Game 1 despite going just 2-for-8 with runners in scoring position. The Red Sox can wear out a team if they have enough opportunities, but the Cardinals have done a masterful job of holding them back so far.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals haven't had nearly as many scoring chances as the Red Sox, but they have made the most of their opportunities. Carpenter's sacrifice fly in Game 2 tied the game before Boston's defensive breakdown opened the game for St. Louis.
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny addressed the difference he saw in his offense in Game 2, via Zach Schonbrun of the New York Times: "The guys stayed aggressive. That’s the difference between yesterday and today. You saw the aggressiveness offensively."
Carlos Beltran remains a madman with runners in scoring position. His RBI single in Game 2 raised his average with runners in scoring position to a robust .778 (7-for-9) in the 2013 postseason. It's a small sample size, but it still adds to his October legend.
Boston knows it missed a golden opportunity in Game 2. Taking a 2-0 lead in the World Series has been a guaranteed championship, with 15 of the last 16 teams going on to win the Fall Classic.
The last team to win a World Series after losing the first two games was the 1996 New York Yankees, who defeated the Atlanta Braves in six games.
On the flip side, having a series tied at one-all has traditionally favored teams with home-field advantage. It is not a decided advantage, though. There have been 51 cases when a World Series was tied after two games, with the team owning home-field advantage for the series winning it 28 times.
That scenario has happened six times since 2002, with teams owning home-field advantage winning the World Series half of the time. The last time it happened was 2011, when the Cardinals defeated the Rangers in seven games.
The Red Sox are slightly favored in this scenario, although the Cardinals certainly have a lot of recent history of their own to give them confidence heading back home for the next three games.
Going off what happened this season, the Red Sox tied with Oakland for the second-best road record in the AL at 44-37. St. Louis finished with the second-best home record in the NL, behind only Atlanta.
Once again, just another case where the Red Sox and Cardinals match each other on the stat sheet.
Youth is Served
Our final stat/fact from Game 2 happens to be my personal favorite. The Cardinals won Game 2 with every pitch being thrown by a rookie, which should illustrate just how great this franchise has been at developing young arms.
The 22-year-old Wacha started the game and went six innings, only making the one mistake to Ortiz. Carlos Martinez, 22, came on in the seventh inning, throwing two innings and allowing just one hit with three strikeouts, including two sliders—one to Shane Victorino and one to Pedroia—that have been deemed illegal in 48 states because they are going to tear knee ligaments.
Finally, 23-year-old Trevor Rosenthal became a postseason folk hero last year for the Cardinals. He pitched the ninth inning of Game 2 and struck out the side on just 11 pitches. Oh yeah, he didn't throw one pitch below 95 miles per hour and ended the night with a 99 mph fastball to Daniel Nava.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, via ESPN, Game 2 was the second time in MLB history that a team had a starting pitcher and a relief pitcher both aged 23 or younger record a win and a save in the same World Series game.
If you have gotten tired of hearing about how great the Cardinals are at drafting and developing talent, it might be time to stop watching this World Series because it is going to keep coming up.
The arms for St. Louis are special. Anyone who tells you that experience is what matters in October never met a triumvirate like that of Wacha, Martinez and Rosenthal. Even with Wacha being less than his best in Game 2, he was still really effective and gave his team a chance to win.
Once the Cardinals took the lead, Martinez and Rosenthal made Boston, which owned the best lineup in baseball this season, look like the Houston Astros.
The Final Word
More than any other sport, baseball embraces numbers and stats. They can paint a picture for you that will tell you everything necessary to determine who won and lost.
So far, even though it is only two games, this World Series has followed that pattern. Everything you could hope to learn about the Cardinals and Red Sox can be found in a box score or with a little research online.
Buckle up, because this series is just getting started.
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