Expect the unexpected.
That appears to be the theme of this World Series, which has so far been an epic battle between the Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals, one of the best title bouts in recent Major League Baseball history. But damn, how odd have the last two nights been?
Obstruction. Cardinals win. Pickoff play at first. Red Sox win.
I don’t even need to delve into any sort of archives to conclude that those scenarios have never happened in consecutive evenings. Spring training, regular season, or postseason.
Which brings us to tonight, with the series tied at 2-2, and the final game of 2013 being played in a National League park. The World Series will return to Fenway Park Wednesday night for Game 6, when we can get rid of the silly, yet, “cerebral” National League rules, and get the Red Sox as a whole back on the field.
OK, look, while it can be argued that watching NL baseball provides a more couch-managing game than it does in the AL, complete with enough second-guesses of the manager to fill a landfill, playing under different rules truly undermines a big piece of what got the Red Sox here in the first place. In an anemic offense, which the Sox have truly displayed in St. Louis (hello, Stephen Drew and Jacoby Ellsbury), the absence of a guy like Mike Napoli is solar-glaring. No, he can’t catch. No, he won’t play third. No, he can’t play center, and no, he won’t pitch. Trying to find a place for him in the lineup is a moot point, which makes the Sox presence in a NL city all the more frustrating, and it’s not like you’re removing David Ortiz, who is only hitting over 1.000, or something close to that nature, from the lineup.
You define yourself as a team over 162 games, two playoff series, and then have to risk the World Series based on the No. 9 spot in the lineup? It’s akin to having the three-point line in the NBA’s Western Conference and not in the East. Ridiculous.
And spare me the argument of the “pace of the game” when Sunday night’s game went ‘til midnight.
In any regard, the Sox have one more chance in St. Louis to take a 3-2 lead heading home, and have to feel good about sending Jon Lester to the mound based on his Game 1 performance. Of course, the Cardinals have to feel ecstatic about Adam Wainwright, considering there’s a general feeling he’ll bounce back from his early hiccups in the initial frames of this series.
Of course, that start wasn’t all Wainright’s fault, as Pete Kozma and David Freese played the part of wide-eyed athletes on the game’s biggest stage. Drew still owes Wainwright a thank-you card for his only hit of the series, an infield pop-up that the Cardinals hurler apparently feared like fruit dropping on Johnny Appleseed’s head.
The Sox won, 8-1, and the offense –other than Ortiz, of course - has been out of commission ever since.
It’s a best-of-three now, and Boston has to love the fact that playoff stars Lester and John Lackey – who added bullpen maven to his resume Sunday night – are going in the next two. But the Cardinals are no slouches in that department either, with Wainwright and Michael Wacha, respectively, taking the hill.
It’s going seven. You know it is.
If Monday night is anything like Saturday’s heartbreak or Sunday’s intensity and aggravation (I think it's safe to say we've seen the last of Craig Breslow), we won’t need defibrillators throughout New England, but professional counselors on a needed basis. We love baseball because, like any other sport, anything can happen. It’s not your typical back-and-forth nature of our other major sports, which is why it drives us insane at this time of year. Sometimes there’s no rhyme, no reason to what happens. Game 5 could end on a triple play, a ground-rule double, a pass-ball strikeout, or an alien invasion and we probably won’t be as shocked as the last two nights.
The unexpected is in the waiting, which probably means Drew goes 4-4 with six RBIs in Game 5.
And if the third base line could just not come into play for one game, we’ll take that too.