By now everyone knows the Red Sox drive to the World Championship was obstructed last night and now the Cardinals are up 2 games to 1. All year long this Red Sox team has had an incredible ability to put yesterday behind and focus on the next task at hand. Game Four will be the ultimate test of this focus. The Sox must move on from Game Three and so will we. Here are some thoughts about Game Four:
* This Red Sox team largely because of the focusing on today attitude have not lost three in a row since mid August, over two months ago. With losses in Game Two and Three of the series they will need to win tonight to prevent losing three games in a row. Every time this season a sign of a crack in the armor has begun, this team rallies. I expect nothing less in Game Four.
* Going into St. Louis I had posted I thought the path to the title for the Red Sox was to split Games Three and Four, and then have Jon Lester dominate and win Game Five. That path would have been much easier with a Game Three win, but that path is still available to Boston.
* Clay Buchholz. The season may rest on the shoulder ( neck?) of the early season ace of this staff. It seems iffy that he can pitch at all. But since Felix Doubront was used in relief for Game Three, Clay better have at least five good innings in him. Even though, Buchholz has not been what was wanted or needed in the postseason, he has pitched very well, allowing only no or one runs through five innings. The sixth has been the problem. If Clay can give them the five good innings, the bullpen is relatively rested to help from there on. Breslow pitched only to two batters last night, and in hindsight, he was incredibly unlucky. He induced a ground ball to short (which was not converted into an out) and he threw what was likely a strike to Carlos Beltran( until Carlos stuck his elbow into the strike zone for a HBP). Brandon Workman could likely go anther inning, and Koji should be fine to go. If the bullpen is spent tonight, it will be more imperative than ever that Jon Lester handle most if not all of Game Five on his own.
* There is another way to win this Game Four, even of Buchholz doesn't give them the five innings or more ( or if God forbid, he cannot go at all). That way is for the offense to step and win another game, similarly to Game One. There were two good signs obscured by the gruesome loss in Game Three. Daniel Nava and Xander Bogaerts at the plate. Nava had two key RBI after finally getting into the lineup rather than Jonny Gomes, And Xander Bogaerts scored the first run after tripling and drove in the tying run in the eighth. These are at least two guys, along with David Ortiz, who do not look lost at the plate. ( Maybe throw Ellsbury and Pedroia in the okay at the plate group, too.) Lance Lynn is the Game Four starter for the Cards, and the Sox must get to him for a bunch of early runs. Offense is needed more than ever in Game Four and it is time for John Farrell to make lineup moves. First is a offensive and defensive move by having David Ross catch. Ross is the best defensive catcher the Sox have ( and both of the losses are tied to Salty miscues behind the dish-- not being able to throw out Kozma on the double steal in Game Two and of course the throw leading to the end of Game Three), but Ross is hitting very well in the post season and Salty is in a terrible slump. Next it is time to put Bogaerts at shortstop and sit Setphen Drew, who continues to be unable to even put a ball in play.
* That brings us to third base. If you are going to bench Drew (who can certainly come in for defense if the Red Sox get their desired early lead) the only remaining conventional third sacker is Will Middlebrooks. But if John Farrell wants to shoot for the moon, and God knows a manager who lets Brandon Workman bat in the ninth of a tie game is willing to think outside the box, the starting third baseman should be Mike Napoli. Before Game Three, Napoli was taking ground balls at third, and working hard with Brian Butterfield and John MacDonald. He put in a Gold Glove quality season at first, he should be able to catch a ground ball on the other corner. And after years as a catcher he can certainly throw. I say if you are looking for offense, go all in and try Nap at the hot corner.
* St. Louis bullpen. If the end of anyone's bullpen is gassed for Game Four it is the Cards. Both Carlos Martinez and Trevor Rosenthal threw twenty or more pitches last night and they both also worked Game Two. You have to wonder if either is available tonight, and if they are ( it is the World Series, after all) will either be totally effective. Neither looked as unhittable last night as the previous game.
* A couple of Xander Bogaerts notes. When Bogaerts tripled in Game Three during our Red Sox Maineiacs live chat, I was going to speculate that he may be the youngest player to ever triple in the World Series. Before I could throw it out in the chat, I read that two other younger players had tripled in the WS. A couple of guys named Ty Cobb and Mickey Mantle. Also when Xander drove in the tying run in the 8th, he became the youngest player ever to drive in a tying run in any World Series game in the 8th inning or later. No matter what happens this week, we are witnessing the start of the Xander Bogaerts era in Boston.
* All hands on deck in Game Four, as near to a must win as you can get for the Red Sox. Go Sox!