Saturday, October 26, 2013

World Series Game 2, 7th inning: What happened to the Red Sox?

By Steve Kallas (posted by Rick Morris)

In Game 2 of the 2013 World Series, the Red Sox took a page out of the Cardinals defensive Game 1 nightmare and allowed the Cardinals to get out of Boston with a split.


Well, John Lackey was cruising along but, after striking out Allen Craig, he walked David Freese on a 3-2 pitch and Jon Jay singled to right.  John Farrell decided to take Lackey out and brought in lefty Craig Breslow.  The Cardinals sent Pete Kozma in to pinch run for Freese at second.

With Daniel Descalso up, it was pretty clear that Kozma was trying to steal third but Breslow stepped off and Kozma quickly retreated to second.  Later in the Descalso at bat, Kozma and Jay pulled a double steal, with Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia fumbling the ball while trying to take it out of his glove.

On the actual steal, Saltalamacchia might have had some World Series jitters (his first appearance ever) and, of course, as sometimes happens, certainly rushed too quickly to try and throw Kozma out at third (a distinct possibility given Kozma’s so-so jump).  Descalso then walks to load the bases.

Bases loaded, one out, 2-1 Sox and Matt Carpenter comes to the plate.  He hits a fly ball to not-very-deep leftfield (Jonny Gomes comes in a little in the short left field that is Fenway) but the Cardinals, aggressive on the bases, go for broke by sending Kozma.

A good throw gets Kozma, but this throw is off target and a bit up the first base line.  Saltalamacchia, still either too nervous and/or too quick for himself, decides to try and catch the ball (without stepping to it) and lunge back and tag Kozma (it certainly did not look, on replay, that, even if Saltalamacchia had caught the ball cleanly, he could have tagged Kozma out).  

The ball bounces off his glove and is picked up by Breslow, intelligently backing up home.  But then Breslow unintelligently tries to throw Jay out at third (he had no chance to get Jay) and the ball winds up in the stands in left field.

3-2 Cardinals.  Game 2, for all intents and purposes (the gutty Beltran would single in Jay with an insurance run to make the final 4-2), over.

Saltalamacchia is given an error for allowing Jay to go from second to third and Breslow is given an error for allowing (what proved to be) the winning run to score.


Fascinating stuff.  On Baseball Tonight, the “experts” said that Gomes should have thrown to second to double off Jay, who had gone about halfway between second and third and was scurrying back as Gomes was about to catch the ball.

But it certainly was not clear (we will never know) if Gomes would have gotten the inning-ending double play at second.

It says here that it is absurd to say Gomes should have thrown to second.  It’s not like Jay was in a full sprint towards third when Gomes caught the ball.  It wasn’t a sure thing that Gomes would get the double play.

And, frankly, a good throw from Gomes to home from short left would have beaten Kozma home.

Look at it this way:  if Gomes, with a clear chance to throw out the potential tying run in a World Series game, throws to second and doesn’t double Jay up, those same “experts” would have given him the Idiot of the Year award.

And it simply wasn’t crystal clear that Jay would have been out at second.  At best (or worst), it would have been a bang-bang play.


Well, former catcher Tim McCarver said that Saltalamacchia should have come off the plate (moved his feet), caught the ball and then try to tag Kozma.  In addition, McCarver told us that, had Saltalamacchia come off the plate, Breslow would never have been in a position to throw the ball away and allow the go-ahead run to score.

Saltalamacchia, in this writer’s opinion (watch the replay), had no chance to get Kozma whether he came off the plate or not.  While that’s a split-second decision, he had even less of a chance (if such a thing is possible) to get Kozma if he left home, took a step, caught the ball and then took a step back towards home.

Hopefully, you get the point.

As for the comment that Saltalamacchi, if he had left home and caught the ball, would have prevented Breslow from making a poor throw to third, well, that’s true.  But major league baseball players can’t leave the base (even if they misjudge whether they can get a runner at home) on the notion that, “I’d better catch this ball or the pitcher behind me might throw the ball away.”  It’s ridiculous.

While McCarver is totally right that, in the modern era, pitchers seem to have a lot of trouble throwing to bases, that can’t be a reason for a catcher to leave home, especially when he (mistakenly, it says here) is trying to tag out the tying run in the 7th inning of a World Series game.

Hopefully, you get that point as well. 

The World Series resumes on Saturday in St. Louis.   


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