Red Sox vs. Cardinals could come down to the last blunder

October 28, 2013

Red Sox closer Koji Uehara pumps his fist after picking off Kolten Wong to end Game 4. (Tannen Maury/European Pressphoto Agency)

After playing outstanding baseball in their identical 97-65 regular seasons and in their leagues’ playoffs, Boston and St. Louis have been comparable again as they’ve each won two games in the World Series. Or perhaps more accurately, they’ve each lost two games.

Last night’s Game 4, a 4-2 Red Sox win at Busch Stadium, ended on a major blunder when rookie second baseman Kolten Wong was picked off first base — and he wasn’t even the tying run. The overanxious lead, which Boston closer Koji Uehara and first baseman Mike Napoli read perfectly, prevented Carlos Beltran, who has 16 career postseason home runs, from having a chance to tie the game.

“We had meetings early on, we talked very clearly about [Uehara’s] very good pickoff move,” Cardinals Manager Mike Matheny told reporters after the game. “We told him to shorten up, but he got a little extra and slipped. That’s what got him, the slip.”

Wong, in the game as a pinch runner for the hobbling Allen Craig, stole 20 bases in 21 tries this season at Class AAA Memphis. A first-round pick in 2011 out of the University of Hawaii, he’s normally an excellent base runner. The 23-year-old is 4 for 4 as a base stealer with the Cardinals, including 1 for 1 in the World Series.

It has just been that kind of Fall Classic, where a player known for his smarts commits a key gaffe at the end of a game. In this season’s Best Tools survey of league managers by Baseball America, Wong was named the best defensive second baseman and the hitter with the best strike-zone judgment in the far-flung Pacific Coast League.

Boston did a lot to earn its big road win. Jonny Gomes hit a three-run homer and the pitching staff had a strong all-hands-on-deck performance, but even the Red Sox made two errors that could have swung the game and the series. The Cardinals scored an unearned run in the third inning after center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury missed a bounding ball and allowed Matt Carpenter to take an extra base. In the eighth, Xander Bogaerts made a throwing error on a play in which Napoli could have left first base earlier to catch. It was the continuation of a theme for Boston, which lost two games after errant throws from the plate to third base, the second of which led to the wild Game 3 ending on an obstruction call.

A series that began with second base umpire Dana DeMuth having to get an obvious call overruled has brought a continuation of flubs. Shortstop Pete Kozma made two of the Cardinals’ three errors in their 8-1 loss in Game 1, an off night for St. Louis that included a popup dropping between pitcher Adam Wainwright and catcher Yadier Molina. The play hasn’t become much prettier in the World Series spotlight, but if either team can play two or three sound games, it just might result in a championship.

TONIGHT’S GAME

World Series Game 5, Boston at St. Louis, 8:07 p.m., Fox, WTEM (980 AM)

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