They did it! The Cardinals proved that they are worthy of the World Series and last night’s sloppy defense show was a fluke. So they are going back to St. Louis for 3 games, starting Saturday, with the Series tied 1-1 with Boston. It’s still anyone’s game, folks.
After what seemed to be a rather odd-duck night, and fall-out controversy (more on that later), it was rather nice to see a pretty good game and decent score. The Cardinals sent their outstanding 22-year-old rookie to the mound. Wacha is proving to be a rather viable commodity for them as a starting pitcher, going 114 pitches through just 6 innings (the Red Sox know how to work a pitch count), allowing just 3 hits and a 2-run home run in the 6th. It would be the only chance the Red Sox would score tonight. Two pitchers from their bullpen kept the Red Sox scoreless through the rest of the game, allowing only one more hit between them. The Red Sox were just not hitting off the Cardinal bullpen tonight.
I’ve said for a while now that the biggest thing the Cardinals have going for them is their strong pitching staff, which is great because the Red Sox can really hit this year, but seem to be easily stifled by really fantastic pitching. To me, this is why these two make a rather interesting World Series match-up. (And if you can’t have the Yankees take their next title, it’s always better to watch a good game than something that, well, just isn’t.)
On Boston’s side of things, well, they didn’t go as pretty, though not nearly as bad as the Cardinals’ night last night. Boston’s starter gave up 5 hits and 3 runs over his 6.1 innings. They called in 2 pitchers to finish the 7th (one gave up another run) and then two more earned the 8th and 9th, but they couldn’t make up for what was already allowed in the game. The Cardinals scored on a sacrifice groundout in the 4th, giving them an early lead.
Then down 2-1 going into the 7th, things got interesting. One out, bases loaded (and a pitching change in the middle of that), a sacrifice fly allows one run to come in, a standard play, to tie up the game. But then that fielder throws the ball to the catcher to try to get the base runner who’s coming home (from 3rd), but the catcher doesn’t catch it right and it gets away from him. So the pitcher (who always covers home on plays like this) grabs the ball and throws wide of 3rd base so that runner (who is already clearly safe taking 3rd) can now run home to pump the score up to 3-2, with the guy who started at 1st base on the play ending up at 3rd on the throw. And if you’re scoring at home, that is a sacrifice fly (RBI) and an E-2 and E-1 (errors on both catcher and pitcher) for another run scored. The next batter singles and scores the runner from 3rd. The score is 4-2 Cardinals and will stay planted there for the game.
Before the game, Mariano Rivera was honored with the Commissioner’s Historic Achievement Award (as discussed yesterday), personally presented by MLB Commissioner Bud Selig. Then before the game, Rivera was honored before the entire crowd at Fenway, who cheered and applauded for the what will probably be the last time. Rivera certainly made his legacy trouncing teams, especially Boston (with some minor exceptions, like the 2004 ALCS, that one still stings Yankee fans), but his love and passion for the game is quite universal, and it is his grace and class that transcend loyalties and rivalries. I think every player secretly wishes to be a little bit more like Rivera, and perhaps hopes to be by the end of the their career — honored, respected, and cherished for his personal integrity and his excellence on the field.
This alone is why the idea of cheating, however minor, isn’t condoned or even taken a bit lightly anymore in baseball. There has been some reports published today that call into question the legality of the substance clearly visible in the glove of last night’s Boston starter. MLB rules do prohibit any kind of “doctoring” of the baseball by the pitcher. In fact, to prevent such a thing, umpires regularly change out “dirty balls” (like balls hitting the dirt, foul tips, overused balls, etc.). And they did so regularly last night. But in the age of public everything, it’s hard to fight and question something that has no clear answer.
So here’s my opinion on the matter (again, I don’t speculate or engage in gossip on here, but opine, I do daily): if the pitcher was cheating, that’s on him; he needs to answer for that himself, own up, be a man, and take whatever consequences may come. If he wasn’t cheating, then it doesn’t change the outcome of the game, but rather took up a few lines of print and couple of minutes of conversation and GIFs. Cheating isn’t good for baseball because it removes competition from the sport, and competition is what drives players and athletes to work hard, play harder, and challenge each other (and themselves) to the next level of excellence. Yes, I do believe there’s someone on every team that is willing to compromise, to cheat, to do whatever to win (except actually earn it), but I do believe that cheaters always get caught eventually.
Instead, I’m rooting for competition and good games and a title for the Yankees next year when everyone least expects it. Because… why not?