The World Series is going to be tight. Both the Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals are talented but flawed teams. They match up well at nearly every position, which means things like execution and fundamentals could be key.
In Game 2, one play appeared more Little League than major league, allowing a couple of runs that could have been the difference in the game.
In tight matchups such as this one, injuries can be amplified and one to a star like Carlos Beltran can be a game-changer.
However, Beltran's injury doesn't appear to be affecting him on the field. The treatment he's received, his own struggles with previous injuries and a secret weapon might just make Beltran a game-changer in the positive sense.
Beltran injured his ribs running into the outfield wall at Fenway. That wall is iconic, once known as Williamsburg due to how many balls Ted Williams put into it. With that said, the odd angle, short warning track and height make it a unique challenge for right fielders.
In the ALCS, we saw Torii Hunter go up and over. The difference? While their heights are only one inch apart, Hunter has longer legs and was more extended, raising his center of gravity. The difference does explain why Beltran was injured while Hunter was only a bit bruised.
Looking at those pictures would make one think there's much more than a one-inch height differential between the two.
The momentum of their runs manifested themselves differently.
Hunter's head of steam took him over the wall, with some of it dissipated by the pinwheel action and some by catching himself on the other side. Almost all of the force went directly into Beltran's ribs. The total force isn't known, but it's reasonable to assume they were moving at similar speeds.
The ribs are a complex structure. It's not as simple as a bone issue, even in the case of a fracture, like with Hanley Ramirez in the NLCS. The ribs are interconnected, with both cartilage and muscles in between each and a unique movement that allows for breathing—breathing is good.
It's exceptionally efficient at protecting the internal organs, as evidenced by both Ramirez and Beltran. Neither has injuries to his spleen or liver, which would be worse than a painful rib issue.
Pain management is difficult because of the function and nature of baseball.
A painkilling injection is difficult because of the complexity of the structure and the enervation. A general painkiller is unthinkable. It's difficult enough to turn on a 90 mph fastball. Forget it after someone's popped a couple of Vicodins, let alone the worries about reaction time if one of those fastballs come at his head.
Beltran has experience playing through pain and dealing with limitations. His well-chronicled struggles with a damaged and deteriorating knee have given him experience with this kind of situation. He understands the difference between soreness and pain.
He also clearly has a high pain tolerance, given the damage inside his knee that almost necessitated career-threatening surgery.
Beltran will have the most issues with rotational activities. The problem there is that almost everything in baseball is rotational. Swinging a bat or throwing a ball, two things the Cards need from Beltran, are precisely the kind of activities that will tax him and test his pain tolerance.
The benefit for him might be the gap between these activities. A long at-bat with several fouls or swing-and-miss attempts will likely be the biggest test for Beltran.
During Game 2, it was apparent that Beltran was wearing some sort of flak jacket under his uniform. Fox Sports' Tim McCarver noted that it was "kevlar" early in the telecast.
I was able to confirm with multiple sources that Beltran is wearing a garment from Unequal Technologies. Beltran has a high level of protection from another collision or a ball to the ribs. If you're wondering how effective this type of material is, check the video to the right.
Beltran showed with his Game 2 performance that he can be productive through the injury.
While he does have his limitations, adjustments and accommodations are easy. Getting back to St. Louis will help as well. Beltran is much more comfortable with that park, where the walls are not likely to induce issues and the Cardinals' medical staff has all of its equipment and facilities.
The toughest game for Beltran was always going to be Game 2. Getting through that without any apparent issue makes it much likelier that he will make it through subsequent games. The bruising and inflammation should subside as well, with both time and treatment, making it possible that he won't need the kevlar later in the series.
Look for Beltran to continue on with no major difficulties as the Cardinals fight to gain another World Series title.