BOSTON - Even as they were waltzing to a one-sided victory in Game 1 of the World Series, the Red Sox knew this wouldn't be easy.
What they couldn't forsee was how difficult they would make things for themselves.
As expected, the St. Louis Cardinals were far better in Game 2 than they had been in the series opener, if only because they couldn't possibly have been any worse.
The Cardinals got a terrific outing from their rookie phenom Michael Wacha, who made one mistake over seven innings -- allowing an opposite-field full count homer to David Ortiz.
But Game 2 was in the Red Sox clutches after that. With nine outs to go, the Red Sox held a one-run lead, and the way the Boston bullpen had performed in the post-season, there was reason for cautious optimism.
How many times had the Red Sox relievers bailed them out of precarious situations in the first two rounds? How many times had a starter trudged off the mound reluctantly in the sixth or seventh, only to watch from the dugout as the bullpen got the game to the finish line.
But not long after starter John Lackey was lifted in the top of the seventh, the night came unglued for the Sox.
A leadoff walk of John Jay by lefty Craig Breslow didn't help. Next came a flyout to left that Jonny Gomes gloved, but then a lollipop throw to the plate gave pinch-runner Pete Kozma extra time.
It didn't help that the throw was up the line some, and was mishandled by catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. And worst of all, Breslow picked up the ball and threw it to....who?
Well, in theory. But in reality, the throw sailed high and wide, enabling Jay to score and Daniel Descalso to advanced to third, from where he scored on a single by Carlos Beltran.
In the span of three batters, the Red Sox went from being on the doorstep of going to St. Louis up 2-0 to trailing by two runs, on their way to an unsatisfying split at home.
"We fully expected to be a hard-fought series,'' said John Farrell. "It's not surprising that we're in the position that we are.''
No, it isn't the where that's a surprise. It's the how.
If the Sox had simply been shutdown by Wacha, well, there would be no shame in that. Wacha had twice outdueled Clayton Kershaw and the powerful Dodgers lineup in the NLCS, after no-hitting the Pirates into the eighth inning of an elimination game in the Division Series.
But the Red Sox contributed to their own delinquency Thursday night. As Breslow entered, he allowed a doubles steal which put both runners in scoring position.
Next came the horrible sequence which began with the sacrifice fly: poor throw from Gomes, poor non-catch by Saltalamacchia, ending in the disastrous throw from Breslow.
"Uncharacteristic of the way I think we've taken care of the baseball this year,'' said Farrell of his team's unraveling.
And a previously airtight bullpen suddenly sprung a leak. The pen overall had compiled a 1.08 ERA over 33 1/3 innings and Breslow, in particular, had been unscored upon in seven previous outings.
These things happen. It's just that they don't usually happen to the Red Sox.
"You know,'' shrugged Stephen Drew, "that's baseball. It's unfortunate but it was the same thing [in Game 1] -- we capitalized on it [Wednesday] and they capitalized on it tonight.''
In that sense, the series couldn't be more even. After the Cardinals stumbled and bumbled through the first two innings in Game 1, the Red Sox repaid the favor with their own bit of self-defeating play in the seventh in Game 2.
The first two games were so much won as they were lost -- the first by the cardinals and the second by the Red Sox.
It's not as if the Red Sox haven't been here before. They split the first two games with Detroit in the ALCS, too. But the key difference was the Red Sox rallied in dramatic fashion to win Game 2, taking the momentum with them to Detroit.
In the World Series, the Red Sox know how the Tigers feel. They know how close they were to being ahead two games to none.
But they're not.
"Credit to them,'' said Dustin Pedroia. "They put the pressure on us. They made things happen. You saw in the first game, we put pressure on them and it went our way. They put pressure on us and it went their way.''
So, off the Red Sox go to St. Louis, tied. It's not what they wanted, but it's what they have.
This time, Sox make the mistakes
October 25, 2013, 1:45 am