10/25/2013 1:03 A.M. ET
Matheny's little moves lead to big rally in seventh
Skipper lets Descalso bat vs. a lefty, pinch-runs Kozma, calls for double steal
By Adam McCalvy / MLB.com
BOSTON -- Sometimes the little moves make the biggest difference, like they did for Cardinals manager Mike Matheny in Game 2 of the World Series on Thursday.
St. Louis evened the Series at a game apiece after Matheny went on the offensive during a decisive seventh inning, pushing all of the right buttons amid the three-run rally that silenced Fenway Park and sent the Cardinals to a 4-2 victory.
"That was definitely where the game changed for us tonight," said Cards infielder Daniel Descalso, who was right in the middle of it. "It's a new series. Now it's a five-game series."
Here's how the game-changing seventh inning unfolded:
The Cardinals trailed, 2-1, but found a spark when David Freese worked a one-out walk and Jon Jay followed with a single. The hit convinced Red Sox manager John Farrell to lift a starter who had been effective -- John Lackey -- for reliever Craig Breslow, preferring a lefty-lefty matchup against Descalso.
The development presented some decisions for Matheny, who had a right-handed-hitting middle infielder on the bench in Pete Kozma.
Instead of pinch-hitting Kozma for Descalso, a .183 hitter (11-for-60) against lefties during the regular season, Matheny opted to pinch-run Kozma for Freese at second base, and let Descalso bat. Career numbers were in play -- Descalso has actually hit lefties better in his career (.247) than righties (.242).
Moments later, that decision paid off two-fold. On a 2-2 pitch from Breslow, Kozma and Jay executed a double steal -- something rare for a Cards club that was last in the National League during the regular season with 45 stolen bases. Only Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and the Tigers swiped fewer bags (35). For comparison's sake, the Red Sox were fourth in the Majors with 123 steals.
Meanwhile, Descalso was in the middle of a tough seven-pitch walk, during which he fouled off one two-strike slider from Breslow, then took another that was just inside for ball four. In the regular season, Breslow walked only six of the 102 left-handed batters he faced.
"Obviously, you want to be the guy who drives in the run, you want to be aggressive," Descalso said. "But at the same time, you have to know he has a base open and he might try to get you to swing at something that you don't want to swing at. You just have to do your best to take a deep breath and 'zone up' and not come out of it."
So the double steal set up the walk.
"We're not a huge basestealing threat, as you look at our numbers, but I believe we're opportunistic, and when it presents itself, we have a few guys that can take advantage of it," Matheny said. "They did a great job keeping their eyes open."
The call came from the dugout after the Cardinals noticed Breslow was slow to the plate. The double steal was executed without a throw because Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia bobbled the baseball.
"In my mind, I thought they were going to run," Boston shortstop Stephen Drew said. "I didn't think [Kozma] got the greatest jump in the world. It's just unfortunate Salty couldn't get a grip on it right there. If he gets a grip on it, I think it's a different situation."
"It's on Pete there," said Jay, the trailing basestealer. "He did a great job of getting a good jump. I was anticipating it there and it worked out for us. That's one of those situations where I know he might take a chance, and he did."
Matt Carpenter followed Descalso's walk with the fly ball that really changed the game. His sacrifice fly to left fielder Jonny Gomes scored Kozma when Gomes' throw was up the first-base line and bounced away from Saltalamacchia for one error. Breslow contributed another when, trying to catch Jay sneaking to third base, his throw sailed down the line and bounced into the seats. The mistake gave St. Louis a 3-2 lead.
When Carlos Beltran added an RBI single, Matheny and the Cards had suddenly turned their deficit into a 4-2 lead.
"It was aggressive," general manager John Mozeliak said of Matheny's moves, "and it ended up being very smart. It's nice to see when you can get things working that way. When you think about that situation, momentum was still on their side, and for it to flip over and us to put up a few marks was important."
From afar, was Mozeliak managing along with Matheny?
"Not really. I think it's their job to do that [in the dugout]," he said. "But it's human nature to sort of go along with how you would play it out. ... Knowing that, my faith is in these guys in uniform to do their job, and I was just happy with how it all unfolded."