St. Louis Cardinals right fielder Carlos Beltran hits a single against the Boston Red Sox in the first inning during game two of the MLB baseball World Series at Fenway Park. Photo: Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports
Jorge L. Ortiz
USA TODAY Sports
BOSTON -- Now, these are more like the St. Louis Cardinals that had been advertised: tough starting pitching, fireballing relievers and opportunistic play.
Throw in some contributions from a hurting postseason hero and you have a tied World Series.
St. Louis manager Mike Matheny decried his team's uncharacteristically sloppy performance in Wednesday's opener, and on Thursday he got much more of what he's used to as the Cardinals took advantage of critical errors by the Boston Red Sox to come from behind for a 4-2 victory.
Right fielder Carlos Beltran, whose participation was in doubt after he bruised his ribs making a catch in Game 1, went 2-for-4 with an RBI in the Cardinals' game-turning three-run rally in the seventh.
"Honestly, when I left the ball park (Wednesday) I was having little hope to be in the lineup," he said. "I came, got a lot of treatment, met with the doctors, they gave me a bunch of painkillers.
"I just wanted to be in the lineup. I worked so hard to get to this point."
Asked how badly he wanted to be in the game, Beltran replied, "Somebody would have to kill me in order for me to out of the lineup."
His manager was not surprised by his approach.
"Carlos is such a pro,'' Matheny said. "He knows how to handle it when he doesn't feel completely 100 percent, which he probably hasn't since February. But he's the kind of guy who knows how to make the most of what he has.''
The Cardinals' uprising was fueled by their aggressive baserunning and the Red Sox's suddenly flawed defense. St. Louis trailed 2-1 in the seventh when David Freese and Jon Jay reached base with one out, prompting Boston manager John Farrell to replace starter John Lackey with Craig Breslow, who had thrown 18 consecutive scoreless innings going back to the regular season.
He would not extend the streak to 19.
Pinch-runner Pete Kozma and Jay advanced on a double steal before Daniel Descalso, who replaced Kozma as the starting shortstop, drew a bases-loading walk.
Matt Carpenter's sacrifice fly to left tied the game, and that's when things go wacky. Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia failed to hold on to Jonny Gomes' throw home for an error, and when Breslow tried to nab Jay scampering for third, he threw the ball over third baseman Xander Bogaerts and into the left-field seats to allow St. Louis to go ahead.
Descalso made it to third and scored the game's final run on Beltran's single to right.
Just like that, the Cardinals had responded to a David Ortiz two-run homer in the sixth that had given Boston its first lead of the night against the previously unassailable Michael Wacha.
The rookie right-hander was sharp again, tying Bob Gibson's franchise record by stretching his streak of postseason scoreless innings to 19.
But it ended moments later in the sixth, as Dustin Pedroia worked Wacha for a walk and, with his pitch count mounting,
Ortiz pounded a high changeup over the left-field fence for his fifth homer of this postseason and the 17th of his career.
Wacha closed out the inning, and the bullpen took over from there.
Beltran seemed as relieved as he was excited after the game.
"Yesterday was a very scarey moment for me," he said. "I felt for a second I did something major to my ribs."
He was quite aware of the discomfort, though he said, "Once you are in the game, you try not to think about it. ... I had very little hope I'd be back in the lineup. What can I say man, God is unbelievable."