St. Louis takes the lead in bizarre fashion
Out of the last 18 series that were tied 1-1 after two games, 16 Game 3 winners have went on to win the World Series (including eleven out of the last twelve). That shows you how important last night's Game 3 was.
Knowing this, Red Sox manager John Farrell sent Jake Peavy (who has a very bad postseason track record) to the mound. Peavy only lasted four innings, giving up two runs and miraculously escaping a bases loaded no-out jam. Cardinals starter Joe Kelly did not last much longer allowing two runs on two hits in 5.1 innings, whilst striking out six Red Sox batters.
This game turned into a bullpen game rather quick and both bullpens, very strong in this postseason, ran in to some trouble. Game 2's losing pitcher Craig Breslow gave up two runs without recording an out in the seventh as the Cardinals took a 4-2 lead. Just a half inning later Carlos Martinez loaded the bases with an intentional walk to David Ortiz and left the mound with just one out. Closer Trevor Rosenthal, brought in to get the five-out save, allowed two runs to score on an RBI groundout and an infield single by Xander Bogaerts, who had tripled and scored earlier in the game.
In the bottom of the ninth pinch-hitter Allen Craig hit a one out double to left field to give the Cardinals runners on second and third. The Red Sox brought the infield in and the trustworthy closer Uehara induced a groundball to second base man Pedroia who threw out Yadier Molina at home plate. Catcher Saltalamacchia saw that Craig, still dealing with a foot injury and running gingerly, was trying to get to third. His throw was wide and Craig tried to get to home plate, but tripped over third base man Middlebrooks who had diven for the ball. Umpire Jim Joyce awarded Craig home plate on account of obstruction and the Cards walked off in bizarre fashion.
Must win for Boston
The Red Sox almost have to tie the series tonight. Losing Game 4 would push them in a position where they have to win three in a row against Wainwright, Wacha and Kelly. It will be interesting to see if manager Farrell is willing to sacrifice some defensive quality for offensive power in his lineup.
The Sox only managed to get six base hits in Game 3 and have several options to think about. First off, they could move Xander Bogaerts to short in favor of light hitting Stephen Drew. That would open up third base for either Middlebrooks or Napoli. Napoli has never really played third, but has been rumored to be a candidate. He was on the bench last night as Farrell decided to play David Ortiz at first base in the National League ballpark.
There is something to say for carrying a strong bench however. Tonight's starter Clay Buchholz is battling a tight shoulder and is unlikely to go deep into the game. Napoli and Johnny Gomes could be very valuable as pinch hitters for the pitcher's spot in the lineup.
Game 4 pitching matchup
Lance Lynn (15-10, 3.97 ERA) vs. Clay Buchholz (12-1, 1.74 ERA)
This is the battle of the fresh starter versus the hurt starter. Lance Lynn hasn't pitched in eleven days. He has two wins this postseason (one as a reliever), but has allowed seven runs in 11 innings so far. Clay Buchholz was terrific in the start of the season, but got hurt midway through and is still suffering from that shoulder injury. In the playoffs he has a 5.40 ERA in three starts and has not looked as good as he did earlier in the season.
Once again, neither pitcher has ever faced tonight's opponent before in their career. We can expect both starters to be on short leashes and might see long relievers Shelby Miller and Ryan Dempster in the game as both bullpens were worked hard last night.
Even though Buchholz is not in great shape and the Red Sox will likely miss at least one big bat the bookies still consider them to be the favorites in this one (-106), but they think the Cardinals are extremely close (-104).
This is an absolute must win game for the Red Sox, but they will have to rest their faith in the hands of an injured Buchholz. A lot will depend on how he pitches. Does he go five shutout innings or can he only go three? I think the Cardinals will win this game and that we'll see some more hitting this time around.