Saltalamacchia, Breslow commit errors that help Cardinals take lead
BOSTON -- Matt Carpenter did not quite barrel up the first-pitch fastball he was looking for, instead punching Craig Breslow's sinker into left. There, Red Sox outfielder Jonny Gomes settled under it, caught it and fired home to catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
"I don't know if I had a shot," Gomes said, replaying the sequence in his head. "Ball going to my left, I really had to swing my body around to get it to the plate. I was hoping for a strong throw and I think I had a strong throw. It just kind of hopped away from Salty a little bit, and then ... and then ... uh, yeah ..."
What Gomes struggled to describe was the seventh-inning chaos that ensued -- chaos that ultimately led to a two-run play, a three-run rally and a 4-2 Red Sox loss to the Cardinals in Game 2 of the World Series on Thursday.
"Nobody wants things to unravel like that," Breslow said. "It changes everything."
It all started with men on first and second base and one out, the Sox clinging to a one-run lead. With left-handed infielder Daniel Descalso batting, Red Sox manager John Farrell turned to Breslow, his lefty relief ace.
Knowing Pete Kozma and Jon Jay were both speed threats on the bases, Breslow did his best "to vary my looks, vary my holds, do what I could to disrupt their timing." Kozma took off anyway, and when Breslow saw it out of the corner of his eye, he audibled to a high fastball to give Saltalamacchia a chance.
The double steal was successful regardless, which "changed the whole inning" in Breslow's eyes. Rather than attempt to induce a double-play ball from Descalso, Breslow tried to whiff him.
He actually walked him.
"In its simplest form, in black and white, I did not make pitches tonight," Breslow said. "Given the same situation, I like to think the outcome could be better if I execute."
The one offering Breslow did feel he executed properly was his first-pitch sinker to the next batter, Carpenter. Trying to jam the Cardinals' leadoff man and induce weak contact, Breslow was pleased to watch Gomes settle under a relatively shallow fly ball to left.
He was not pleased to see -- and take part in -- the chaos that ensued.
Gomes' throw sailed wide of home, skipping off Saltalamacchia's glove for an error on the catcher. Backing up the plate, Breslow scooped up the ball and immediately fired to third in an attempt to nab Jay. His throw sailed well beyond the bag, allowing Jay to score the go-ahead run and Descalso to move all the way to third, where he scored easily on Carlos Beltran's two-out single.
"I felt like I had a play at third," Breslow said. "Looking back at it, I still feel like it was the right play. I just didn't make it."
Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak called the seventh inning an example of "aggressive" and "very smart" play from his team, which is not necessarily known for its speed on the bases. Manager Mike Matheny called the Cardinals "opportunistic."
But the Red Sox, to a man, felt they could have avoided falling victim to all that. Breslow certainly regretted his error and the walk to Descalso (a .183 hitter this season against left-handed pitchers), but was most miffed about allowing the double steal. Saltalamacchia bemoaned his missed catch behind the plate, saying he "might have gotten big-eyed" in his attempt to prevent Kozma from scoring.
Any one improvement could have prevented the Cardinals from constructing their three-run inning and ultimately evening this World Series at one game apiece.
Instead, chaos unfolded in a seventh inning that the Red Sox would prefer to forget.
"There are a lot of things that could have happened," Saltalamacchia said. "There are a lot of things you can look back on and try and change. But it's happened, and it's time to move on."