10/28/2013 12:32 A.M. ET
Wong makes most of first World Series experience
By Jenifer Langosch, Adam McCalvy and Chad Thornburg / MLB.com
ST. LOUIS -- Never mind that this is his first season in the Major Leagues and his first exposure to postseason baseball. This October has introduced a foreign element of the game to Kolten Wong -- cold weather.
While playing in fall's cooler climate may not be something the 23-year-old Hawaiian is accustomed to, the excitement of his first World Series appearance kept him plenty warm.
"Once you get in there, the adrenaline kicks in and it just heats you up," Wong said. "Once I got out there, I kind of forgot about the cold and just got after it."
Wong entered the Cardinals' 5-4 win over the Red Sox in Game 3 with one out and the bases loaded in the top of the eighth inning Saturday, and the ball immediately found him. Daniel Nava knocked a ground ball toward right field, but Wong made an impressive diving stop and threw out David Ortiz at second from his knees, allowing a run to score but preventing any further damage on the play.
"That was a tough play," Wong said. "It was one of those sinking line drives. I just wanted to make sure I stayed in front of it. I didn't want that to go to the outfield, where they could score a couple runs. So I basically just tried to block it, caught it and just tried to turn a double play."
The rookie second baseman then made his presence felt on offense in the bottom half of the eighth, knocking a one-out single into right field. With Carlos Beltran at the plate, Wong pushed himself into scoring position by stealing second.
Wong had been hitless in five pinch-hit at-bats in the playoffs and was just 9-for-59 in the regular season. But his World Series contributions weren't a surprise to him.
"You've got to have a little bit of confidence to play in the big leagues," Wong said. "It means everything just to be a part of the World Series and get a chance to go see the atmosphere and do something. It was awesome."
Wong experienced the other end of the spectrum in Game 4, however. Entering as a pinch-runner for Allen Craig in the ninth inning, with the Cards trailing by two and Carlos Beltran at the plate, he was picked off of first base for the final out of St. Louis' 4-2 loss.
Sore Craig tallies fourth World Series hit in pinch
ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals' concerns that Allen Craig's trip around the bases in Game 3 could limit his availability for the rest of the World Series had calmed by Sunday, after an X-ray on Craig's left foot came back negative.
Craig, who just resumed playing after suffering a Lisfranc sprain to that foot on Sept. 4, was slow to get off the field after scoring the game-winning run on an obstruction call for a 5-4 walk-off victory over the Red Sox. He had doubled on the first pitch he saw from Koji Uehara. Craig's foot remains sore, but manager Mike Matheny said on Sunday that he would "absolutely" feel comfortable sending Craig out to pinch-hit in Game 4.
The manager did indeed call on Craig in the ninth inning Sunday, and he lined a single to right field to notch his fourth hit in nine World Series at-bats after a seven-week layoff. He was replaced by pinch-runner Kolten Wong, who was picked off first base -- with Carlos Beltran at the plate -- for the final out of the Cards' 4-2 Game 4 loss.
"That was an intensity and a duration that he hadn't been pushed to," Matheny said on Craig's Game 3 heroics. "As far as [running] home to second [on a double], he had to turn it up, which I thought he looked pretty good. Then you're pretty much a dead sprint going to third and obviously everything he had left going on home. It's something he hadn't been doing.
"[You] absolutely admire a guy who's giving everything he's got when maybe his body doesn't want to. And that's what a competitor does. That's what this stage does to a competitor, also."
Craig did not participate in batting practice with the Cardinals on Sunday afternoon, nor did he resume the defensive work that he had begun on Friday. It now seems unlikely that Craig would be cleared to play in the field by Monday.
"The defensive work is really kind of secondary to have him available to come in and do what he did last night," Matheny said. "Yesterday, he looked very good going home to second. He ran extremely well, as [well] as we've seen him. [We] didn't think that we were going to do much more running. But that changed quickly."
The fact that Craig was not the lead runner -- and therefore not poised to be the winning run -- after his double explained why Matheny chose not to replace him with a pinch-runner in Saturday's ninth inning. Yadier Molina, who was standing on third base, was the run that mattered in a tie game. Matheny was prepared to pinch-run Adam Wainwright if Molina was erased as the second out of the inning.
What no one could have predicted, though, was that the play would continue after Molina was thrown out.
Putting in a pinch-runner earlier would have had other ramifications as well. Matheny was waiting to insert Wainwright until it was absolutely necessary because that would have taken him off the bench as a potential pinch-hitter in an extra-inning situation. Also, the Cards preferred to have Craig's experience on the bases so as to reduce the chances of someone running into an out.
"Especially the way we saw him go home to second, we felt good about Allen being out there at that particular time," Matheny said on Sunday. "Little did we know that that one-percent chance that we would need him [to score] happened. So, yeah, we know that hindsight is pretty easy, but at the time, and still, looking what he was able to do, he did a great job of making the most out of it."
Wainwright applies golf mindset to pitching success
ST. LOUIS -- Has playing golf made Adam Wainwright a better pitcher?
The Cardinals right-hander thinks it has.
"That was John Smoltz's big thing," said Wainwright, a 3.7 handicap who will take the mound for Game 5 of the World Series on Monday (6:30 p.m. CT air time on FOX, 7:07 first pitch). "He always said if he never had golf, he would have never made it in baseball. First, it helped him escape from the field, but it also sharpened his mind.
"[That is] exactly right. In a blink of an eye in this game, as fast as it is, you can absolutely go out there and not focus for a couple of pitches and have a team score three runs off of you. Just the same way you can hit a ball 40 yards left out of bounds, and you're hitting three off the tee and all of a sudden you triple‑bogey when you were two‑under going into [hole No.] nine. I've been there and done both of those, unfortunately."
When Wainwright was recovering from Tommy John surgery in 2011, he was able to get away from baseball early in the Cards' season to attend the Masters Tournament in Augusta, Ga. He called it a learning experience.
"I wanted to follow golfers for extended amounts of time just to see if they let up," Wainwright said. "And every single shot, every single putt, was like it was the last putt to win the whole thing, or it was like the last shot to win the whole thing, or it was like the last pitch of the World Series. And that's the focus you have to have when you start. So it's very similar."
• A day after the Cardinals' Game 3 win, Matheny revisited his decision to have Seth Maness, not Randy Choate, face switch-hitting Nava with two runners on, one out and a one-run lead in the sixth inning. Nava has been a much tougher out batting left-handed (.322 regular-season batting average) than right-handed (.252). By bringing in the right-handed Maness, Matheny ensured Nava would hit from the left side.
However, Matheny also factored in his pitchers' strengths. Maness has been a ground-ball machine and led all relievers in double plays this season. As for Choate, he is a left-on-left specialist who let right-handed hitters bat 100 points higher than lefties. Nava would have hit right-handed against him.
"I was waiting to the last second again," Matheny said. "Just the unbelievable ability that [Maness] has had to get a double play, instead of asking Randy to face a right-handed hitter even though Nava's splits were strong going against it. Seth did a great job of getting us out of that inning. Obviously, he's done it a lot more against right-handers, but right there we're in a situation where do we want this game to possibly be turned by Randy facing a right-hander? And the answer to that most of the season is no."
• The Cards expected to have both Carlos Martinez and Trevor Rosenthal available out of the bullpen for Game 4 even though both threw 20 pitches on Saturday.
• Matheny tweaked the bottom part of his lineup on Sunday in order to break up his left-handed bats and in an attempt to provide better protection behind five-hole hitter Molina. Jon Jay batted sixth, followed by David Freese and Daniel Descalso. This marked Descalso's second start at shortstop in the World Series.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. Chad Thornburg is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.