ST. LOUIS — Troublesome shoulder or not, Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz turned in a brief but effective start Sunday night, maybe just enough to turn around the World Series.
Buchholz used guile, not velocity, to keep St. Louis hitters off-stride and mostly in check in Game 4. He lasted just four innings but allowed only one run, and it was unearned, giving up three hits, striking out two and walking three, one intentional.
He didn’t get the decision, but his gutsy performance was crucial in the Red Sox’s 4-2 win to even the series 2-2 and ensure it will be decided in Boston.
Buchholz missed three months of the regular season with an injury to his right shoulder. Pitching in the AL championship series, he said the shoulder didn’t feel quite right, like it was weak or fatigued. There was speculation about whether he could make the World Series start, his first.
He did, and he’s a big reason the Red Sox have regained home-field advantage.
Not that it was easy. The Cardinals put two men on base in every inning but the 1-2-3 first against Buchholz. The only run they could push across against the 29-year-old right-hander came in the third when Matt Carpenter singled and hustled to second when center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury misplayed the ball, then scored on Carlos Beltran’s single.
Buchholz, 12-1 with a 1.74 ERA in his abbreviated regular season, survived by mixing speeds and hitting the corners. His fastest pitch was clocked at 90 mph.
The Boston relievers were strong over the final five innings, except for one big scare.
Felix Doubront, who started 27 games in the regular season and was pitching on consecutive days for just the fourth time in his four-year career and the first time since Sept. 19-20, 2011, was perfect through 2 2-3 innings but gave up a two-out seventh-inning double to pinch-hitter Shane Robinson.
Craig Breslow came in and allowed a single to Matt Carpenter that made it 4-2. When Carlos Beltran walked, Matt Holliday came up as the potential go-ahead run.
But Junichi Tazawa came in and got Holliday on a ground-out.
When the Cardinals and Red Sox met in the 1967 World Series, the average length of the seven games was 2 hours, 22 minutes.
My, how things have changed.
The Cardinals’ 5-4 victory in Game 3 lasted 3:54. Game 1 was 3:17, Game 2, 3:05.
Long games have been the norm in the postseason for several years now. The Red Sox needed nearly four hours to beat the Tigers 1-0 in Game 1 of the ALCS.
Sure, there are more commercials during the postseason, making the wait between innings longer. But it’s not just TV.
Watch a baseball clip from the 1970s or earlier and hitters generally stay in the batter’s box. Pitcher’s get the ball and toe the rubber. Today, 20- to 30-second breaks between pitches are common as hitters step out to adjust their batting gloves or pitchers stalk around the mound.
Red Sox games tend to be slower than most because their hitters work deep into the count. MLB figures show the average Red Sox game in the regular season was 3 hours, 10 minutes, longest in baseball.
Jon Lester, Boston’s starter in Game 5, doesn’t see any reason to fuss over an extra hour or so.
“I don’t know what you can do to speed it up but it’s something we’ve been dealing with for a long time,” Lester said, “so I’m not too concerned about it.”
“This time of year it’s going to be two heavyweights going at it and it’s going to take some time,” Lester said.
SEEING RED: When Hall of Famer Red Schoendienst played and managed, the World Series was contested during the day.
The 90-year-old Schoendienst, who still suits up for pregame activities, doesn’t mind that the Fall Classic has turned into a late-night affair.
“The shadows were a lot of trouble back then,” he said. “I’d much rather do it the way it is now. No shadows, no nothing. It’s fair to everyone.”
Schoendienst was properly bundled up on the field prior to Game 4 on Sunday, wearing a World Series hooded sweatshirt. He had total recall about the ’67 Series.
“We had Lou Brock as a leadoff man and Bob Gibson as a pitcher,” he said. “That was the biggest thing. We had a good ballclub, but so did Boston. We were just fortunate to come out on top. It was tough, but it was a lot of fun, too.”
St. Louis won 7-2 in Game 7 behind Gibson, who also homered in along with Julian Javier. Brock hit .414 in the series.
Schoendienst managed the Cardinals for 12 seasons and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1989. A second baseman, he hit .289 with 84 homers and 773 RBIs in 2,216 games.
Now, in his role as special assistant, he advises both players and management.
“He’s great to have around,” pitcher Adam Wainwright said. “It’s fun to pick his brain and listen to his stories.”
Schoendienst has spent 45 seasons in the Cardinals organization and has seen plenty of odd situations. The obstruction call that ended Game 3 was a first for the Germantown, Illinois, native.
“I’ve seen that called a couple times in rundown plays, but never in a World Series,” he said. “It was something different. But the umpire called it right off the bat.”
HOLD UP: Media heading for the postgame news conferences after Game 3 were held up by what was announced as an elevator breakdown.
Actually, the elevator was working just fine. It stopped on level 3 for several minutes, waiting for Commissioner Bud Selig.
Another VIP created a logjam in Game 4. The elevator was put in park again, waiting for broadcaster Tim McCarver so he’d make it to a pregame ceremony honoring the 1967 Cardinals title team.
Hall of Famer Bob Gibson, the ace of that team, threw the ceremonial first pitch.
BIG STICKS: Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers and Paul Goldschmidt of the Diamondbacks are this year’s recipients of the Hank Aaron Award presented prior to Game 4, honoring the most outstanding offensive player in each league.
Cabrera won for the second straight year, following up his 2012 Triple Crown with a third consecutive batting title. He hit .348 with 44 homers and 137 RBIs.
Goldschmidt was a first-time All-Star in 2013 and batted .302 with 36 homers, 36 doubles, 125 RBIs, 99 walks and 103 runs in his second full season with Arizona.
MY STUFF: Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright expects to be a much different pitcher in Game 5. The last few days he’s bemoaned out-of-synch mechanics that dragged him down in the Series opener.
“I threw maybe four or five quality pitches the whole time,” Wainwright said. “Lucky to come away with just a few runs. It could have been 10 instead of five.”
Wainwright was one of the best pitchers in the majors this year, tying for the NL lead with 19 victories. He led the majors with 241 2-3 innings, and was third in the NL in strikeouts. When he comes up short and even when he’s been dominant, Wainwright keeps it light-hearted.
Told he was about to get a golf question, Wainwright fired back “3.7 handicap.”
ORTIZ’S GLOVE: David Ortiz’s production at the plate was too good for Red Sox manager John Farrell to bench his designated hitter when the World Series shifted to St. Louis.
Even though he started just six games at first base during the regular season, Big Papi took over for Mike Napoli in Games 3 and 4.
“Not just this year, but in years past, he is more than adequate at first base,” Farrell said. “And there’s no reluctance on our part to put him in the lineup, to keep him in the lineup and on the field at critical junctures of the game.”
Chances for Ortiz at first base in Game 3 were mostly ordinary, with one exception. When Matt Carpenter led off with a slow grounder in the St. Louis seventh, shortstop Xander Bogaerts hurried a throw to first that was slightly offline. Ortiz couldn’t come up with the low, wide throw cleanly. It was ruled a hit, and the play at first would have been close.
SINGING CARDINAL: Rascal Flatts performed the national anthem, the trio all clad in power blue World Series pullovers. Then lead singer Gary LeVox watched his favorite team.
LeVox has friends on both teams but has more connections with the Cardinals and counts pitcher Adam Wainwright among his best friends.
“For me, it’s ‘Go Cards,'” LeVox said. “Those guys, I have a lot in common with.”
LeVox says getting the Game 4 honor is the thrill of a lifetime.
“I can check this off my bucket list now,” he noted.