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Even-keeled Kozma rebounds to play key role

After rough Game 1, shortstop leads double steal, turns in defensive gem

BOSTON -- The tight corner of the cramped Fenway Park clubhouse where Pete Kozma dressed during the first two games of the World Series curiously was not the happening place Thursday night, unlike the way it was 24 hours earlier.

Kozma entered as a pinch-runner in the seventh inning Thursday in Game 2 and led a one-out double steal that helped key a three-run rally in the Cardinals' 4-2 victory over the Red Sox. Kozma followed up his offensive contribution with a deft barehanded play in the bottom of the inning to retire Stephen Drew.

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It was a nice rebound from Game 1, when Kozma committed two errors in St. Louis' 8-1 loss.

On Wednesday, Kozma spent the entire postgame interview period in front of his locker, answering questions about his miscues matter of factly. This time, Kozma waited in the shower area while other victorious Cardstalked. By the time he arrived to put on the suit he would wear on the flight back to St. Louis, he was conversing -- in the same even-keeled manner -- with about a half-dozen reporters. A night earlier, twice as many surrounded Kozma, and when some left, others took their place.

"It's a game where you've got to stay even," Kozma said. "You can't get too high or too low. We've got a lot ahead of us -- three more games to win before they win three."

It wasn't as if Kozma lost sleep over Game 1. In fact, he says he slept well, and even took a nap Thursday afternoon. Then Kozma looked at the mistakes and dreamed of making a difference in Game 2, although he began on the bench while Daniel Descalso started at short.

David Ortiz's two-run homer in the bottom of the sixth gave the Red Sox a 2-1 lead, but when David Freese drew a walk and Jon Jay singled to chase Sox starter John Lackey, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny tabbed Kozma to run for Freese, who suffered right calf tightness during Game 3 of the National League Championship Series and has been bothered by it since.

For Matheny, inserting Kozma to play short, with Descalso moving to third, served two purposes.

"Regardless of what may have happened [Wednesday], he is a plus defender and we have a lot of confidence in him," Matheny said of Kozma. "So we want to get him in the game. Also you're looking at an opportunity to increase our baserunning speed, and it ended up playing in."

The double steal was un-Cardinal-like. They were 42 of 65 in stolen bases during the season, so attempts were rare. But Kozma and Jay are two of the team's best runners. Sox reliever Craig Breslow kept a close eye on Kozma, but the Cards cpulled off the play on a 2-2 pitch. Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia was beaten so cleanly he didn't even offer a throw.

Kozma would beat Boston left fielder Jonny Gomes' throw after Matt Carpenter's sac fly into left-center to tie the game at 2. Saltalamacchia missed the throw for one error, and Breslow, backing up the plate, threw wildly to third trying to catch Jay, which plated the go-ahead run. Carlos Beltran drove in another run on a single for a 4-2 advantage.

"We're in the National League," Kozma said. "We've got to look for anything and everything. You've got to look for any opportunity, whether it comes on defense, whether it comes on bases, whether it comes in a pinch-hit. You've got to be ready for anything."

With one out in the seventh, Drew's bouncer ticked off reliever Carlos Martinez's glove, but Kozma made a barehanded grab and fired to first with no hesitation and no celebration or acknowledgement that he was putting a bad game behind him.

"It was not really a boost or anything," Kozma said. "[Wednesday], I thought it was a fluke. I put it behind us. Look at your mistakes and learn from them."

Thomas Harding is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb.

St. Louis Cardinals, Pete Kozma