Boston Red Sox vs. St. Louis Cardinals: Keys to Each Team Winning WS Game 4
A wild Game 3 saw both teams mount rallies late, with five of the game's nine total runs crossing home plate from the seventh inning on. After a controversial call to end the contest, the St. Louis Cardinals sit with a 2-1 series lead as the Fall Classic heads into Game 4 on Sunday night.
Of the 13 World Series that have been played to completion since 2000, the team that emerged victorious in Game 3 has gone on to hoist the Commissioner's Trophy nine times, a number that includes a pair of championships for the Cardinals, who won in five games back in 2006 and seven games in 2011.
But all is not lost for the Boston Red Sox, a team that can also claim a pair of championships during that time and one that is more than capable of tying the series up.
Let's take a look at the keys for both teams heading into a pivotal Game 4 that pits Boston's Clay Buchholz against St. Louis' Lance Lynn in the second of three games at Busch Stadium.
*Unless otherwise noted, all statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.
Boston: Get on the Board Early
Of the 853 runs that Boston put on the scoreboard during the regular season, 431 of them—just over 50 percent—crossed home plate over the first four innings of the game.
Yet in eight of their last 10 playoff games, the Red Sox have gone scoreless over the first four innings eight times, a trend that has produced mediocre results:
|Game||Inning of Boston's First Run||Win/Loss|
|Game 4 ALDS||7||W|
|Game 1 ALCS||Shutout||L|
|Game 2 ALCS||6||W|
|Game 3 ALCS||7||W|
|Game 4 ALCS||6||L|
|Game 6 ALCS||5||W|
|Game 2 WS||6||L|
|Game 3 WS||5||L|
That's a 4-4 record in games when Boston doesn't score before the fifth inning—and playing .500 baseball isn't going to get the Red Sox to where they want to be when it's all said and done.
But there's good news on the horizon, as Lance Lynn, who will be on the hill for St. Louis in Game 4, has a habit of getting hit hard early:
If Boston is going to even the series up, the Red Sox must get on the board early against Lynn.
St. Louis: Middle of the Order Must Stay Hot
According to the Elias Sports Bureau (via ESPN Stats and Information), Game 3 was only the second time in franchise history that St. Louis saw its 3-4-5 hitters each have multiple hits in a World Series game.
Matt Holliday (2-for-5), Matt Adams (2-for-5) and Yadier Molina (3-for-4) went a combined 7-for-14 with four RBI and a run scored.
You have to go back to Game 4 of the 1987 World Series to find a trio that was equally as productive, when Tom Herr (2-for-3), Jim Lindeman (2-for-4) and Willie McGee (2-for-4) went a combined 6-for-11 with four RBI and two runs scored to lead the Cardinals to a 7-2 victory.
Through three games against Boston, Holliday, Adams and Molina are hitting a combined .342 with four extra-base hits, six RBI and 20 total bases, accounting for half of the team's 26 hits in the series and more than 50 percent of the Cardinals' 34 total bases.
St. Louis needs that trio to remain hot, especially Adams, as Allen Craig's status for Game 4 remains in flux after he re-injured his foot at the end of Game 3, as reported by CBS Sports' Mike Axisa.
Boston: Forget About It
To find success in Game 4, the Red Sox must put Game 3's controversial—but ultimately correct—game-ending call (as detailed by B/R's Zach Rymer) behind them.
That won't be easy for some, like Jake Peavy, who vented to Jackie MacMullan of ESPN after the game:
I cannot believe you make that call tonight from home plate. I'm beat. I'm out of words. I don't know what to say. I think it's a crying shame a call like that is going to decide a World Series game. It's a joke. Two teams are pouring their hearts out on the field and that's the call you make.
It's a joke. I don't know how [DeMuth] is going to lay his head down tonight. When you watch how hard these two teams are playing, and what it takes to get to the World Series and what it took for us to climb back into this game, it's just is amazing to me that it would end on a call like that, that's not black and white. I don't know what else to say.
Peavy wasn't done, making sure to get an extra dig in at home plate umpire Dana DeMuth, believing that a conference between umpires should have taken place:
Sure. [DeMuth] has already proven that he cannot see things correctly in Game 1. [He missed] a pretty obvious [call] 4 feet in front of him. It would have been nice to have a meeting of the minds.
Third baseman Will Middlebrooks, who was called for obstruction, made it sound as if it was Craig who obstructed him, not the other way around:
I tried to get up. His hands were on top of me. I felt something [pushing] on top of me, when I saw the replay, I saw it was his hands. What am I supposed to do?
I was just trying to push myself up. The first thing I thought was [the ball] hit the baserunner, and it was somewhere around close. I was just going to get up and pick it up, as I'm trying to get back up, I get pushed back down, because he was going over me.
While both Peavy and Middlebrooks make valid points, nothing is going to change the end result, which is a Game 3 loss and a 2-1 deficit in the series.
Peavy certainly won't have an impact in Game 4, and Middlebrooks may or may not see action, depending on how manager John Farrell decides to handle the left side of Boston's infield. But you'd have to imagine that others in Boston's clubhouse feel the same way, and feeling sorry for oneself isn't going to accomplish anything.
If anything, the Red Sox need to use this as a rallying cry—to decide that they will not leave the game in the hands of the umpires and build a big enough lead where a controversial or missed call simply won't matter.
St. Louis: Make Clay Buchholz Work
The shoulder that kept Clay Buchholz out of action for nearly three months of the regular season is still not close to being 100 percent, and everyone knows it.
He's pitched to a 5.40 ERA and 1.44 WHIP in three postseason starts, able to give Boston six innings of work in only one of them. While those numbers are a bit inflated due to the five runs and eight hits that Detroit put on the board against him in Game 2 of the ALCS, Buchholz clearly isn't the same pitcher that he was early in the regular season.
Despite Buchholz's struggles, Boston manager John Farrell expects his Game 4 starter to give his team a strong outing, as he told NESN's Ricky Doyle before Game 3:
We go into [Game 4] thinking that he’s going to give us what he’s been in the postseason. That might be a little bit shorter of an outing than maybe we’ve seen back in April and May, but he’s also been very effective, and we’re fully anticipating that to be the case tomorrow.
St. Louis needs to take advantage of the fact that Buchholz isn't right and make him throw a lot of pitches early. He's gone over 85 pitches only once in the playoffs, tossing 104 pitches in Game 3 of the ALDS against Tampa Bay, and Farrell is certainly going to be watching his pitch count carefully.
If the Cardinals can get Buchholz to throw an average of 20 pitches per inning early, they could find themselves going up against less formidable talent in Felix Doubront or Ryan Dempster before the fifth inning rolls around.
Allowing Buchholz to work quickly is only going to make him feel more confident on the mound—and increase St. Louis' chances of Buchholz handing the ball off to Junichi Tazawa and Craig Breslow, who, despite his poor outing in Game 3, is someone the Cardinals would rather not see.
Boston: John Farrell's Decision-Making Must Improve
John Farrell is the likely Manager of the Year in the American League, but his decision-making in the late innings of Game 3 left plenty to be desired.
Why would he let a pitcher, Brandon Workman, step to the plate for his first major league at-bat in the top of the ninth inning of a tied game—especially when he still had three bats available on the bench, including Mike Napoli, who has come through in the clutch for Boston in the postseason already?
Yes, Game 4 starter Clay Buchholz is battling an injured shoulder, and the Red Sox are likely going to need their bullpen on Sunday night. But Farrell acted as if it was the bottom of the inning—not the top—and that if Boston failed to score in the ninth, Workman would simply trot out to the mound in the 10th.
That was the reasoning behind his flawed decision-making, via USA Today's John Perrotto:
I felt like if we get into an extended situation, which that game was looking like it was going to, we needed to hold Nap back in the event that spot came up again. In hindsight having Workman hit against (Trevor) Rosenthal is a mismatch, I recognize it, but we needed more than one inning out of Workman.
Wrong, Skip. What your team needed was a run—and you didn't put it in the best possible position to pick one up.
If Farrell doesn't learn from his mistakes—and quickly—coming back in the series is going to be near impossible for his team, regardless of how talented it may be.