After Game Three ended on an obstruction call, Game Four was concluded by Cardinals pinch-runner Kolten Wong being picked off from first base.
Apologising for the pun, Wong committed a cardinal sin, like a batsman in cricket being run out for failing to ground his bat.
Being picked off in any situation is a mistake; having it happen with two outs in the ninth inning of a World Series game makes it infinitely worse and considering the game situation it was a shocking error.
The Cardinals trailed 4-2, so there was not a significant amount to be gained in Wong inching out a good lead at first base to either steal a base or get around to third base on a single. That was particularly the case considering Carlos Beltran was at the plate, arguably St. Louis’s best hitter. The look of disbelief on Beltran’s face as he slowly walked back to the dugout said it all.
Wong’s mistake created the opportunity, but we shouldn’t overlook the lightning-quick work of pitcher Koji Uehara and first baseman Mike Napoli in taking advantage. Based on Boston’s luck throwing the ball around so far this series, it wouldn’t have been a surprise to see Uehara’s throw skip off down the right-field line, allowing Wong to sprint around to third base with the St. Louis crowd suddenly sensing a Boston meltdown.
There was no hesitation on Uehara’s part, no thought that errant throws had cost his team recently and it might be safer not to risk anything. He had the confidence that he would make a good throw and got his reward.
The pick-off allowed Jonny Gomes to be the hairy hero for the Red Sox. The bearded-wonder was a late addition to the Boston lineup following an injury to Shane Victorino and he took his chance by clouting a three-run homer in the sixth inning.
It was a poor pitch by reliever Seth Maness, the sort that probably had him shouting ‘oh no’ (or words to that effect) to himself as soon as it left his hand, but a mistake pitch only counts for the offence if the man at the plate takes full advantage.
Gomes certainly did that and in doing so gave a pumped-up Red Sox team a decisive advantage in the game and potentially a decisive advantage in the series.
There’s a big difference between the series being tied 2-2 and the Cardinals holding a 3-1 lead with a potential series-clinching Game Five at Busch Stadium. You would perhaps make the Red Sox marginal favourites with two of the potential three remaining games taking place in Boston; however there is little to choose between the two teams and it’s not mere fence-sitting to conclude that the series could still go either way.
The only thing we should expect is the unexpected. ESPN’s report of Game Four states that prior to these last two games, none of the previous 1,404 postseason games in MLB history had ended on either an obstruction call or a pick-off.
I can’t wait to see what new ending the Cardinals and Red Sox will conjure up for Game Five.