The world was watching, from Canada to Qatar, Mexico to Mongolia, Trinidad and Tobago to Togo. On military posts from Leavenworth to Afghanistan, on ships at sea, and in big cities and little hamlets across the globe, the eyes of Red Sox fandom Thursday night were focused on Fenway Park.
In Australia, it was midmorning Friday when Ben Walker, a Sox diehard in the village of Dubbo, watched the troubadour, James Taylor, sing America’s anthem. He saw some of the lovable “Idiots’’ from Boston’s 2004 championship team toss out ceremonial pitches.
Then just after lunch — Dubbo is 15 hours ahead of Boston — Walker’s day darkened as the Sox came undone in a brutal seventh inning in the Fens, wasting yet another superb start by the big Texan, John Lackey.
By the time the dust had settled and the Cardinals’ bullpen had blanked the Sox over the final three innings, Walker was suffering a bit of indigestion after a 4-2 Boston loss evened the World Series at a game apiece.
“It’s a shame Lackey got nothing for his efforts,’’ Walker said from down under, a year after he made a pilgrimage to Fenway Park. “It seems a common trend that Lackey goes pitch for pitch with the best of the other teams and hardly ever gets the reward.’’
Give the Aussie an A for insight. Lackey displayed the poise of a big-game postseason starter — he began his run in 2002, when he started and won Game 7 of the World Series for the Angels against the Giants — and maintained nearly full command of his pitching repertoire before he left the game in the seventh inning with runners on first and second and the Sox leading, 2-1.
Manager John Farrell opted for lefthander Craig Breslow to face the lefthanded-hitting Daniel Descalso.
After a double steal put Cardinals at second and third, Breslow walked Descalso, loading the bases. Then came calamity, as Matt Carpenter flied to left. Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia allowed the throw from Jonny Gomes to bounce past him, and Breslow aggravated matters by firing wildly to third.
By the time the play ended, St. Louis led, 3-2, and the Sox never recovered.
Frustration, thy name should be Lackey. No Sox starter has been more of a hard-luck pitcher this season than Lackey.
“Just losing the game is frustrating, for sure,’’ he said. “We played a pretty good game. [The Cardinals] had a really good pitcher [Michael Wacha] pitching tonight and we had a chance there.’’
Safe to say Lackey considered himself unlucky?
“I guess that’s kind of obvious,’’ he said with a pained smile. “Yeah, unfortunately, I’ve had it happen a few times this year.’’
He must be kicking himself. After all, he faced 26 batters and allowed only two to reach second base.
“At this point, it’s not about me,’’ Lackey said. “Who really cares who gets the win or loss next to their name? We’re trying to win four games, trying to win a ring.’’
Lackey’s only major mistake was a fastball in the fourth inning that Matt Holliday smacked to center for a triple. Holliday scored a batter later, on Yadier Molina’s ground out, a high bouncer past Lackey.
“He was awesome,’’ Dustin Pedroia said of Lackey. “On the run they scored, Holliday put a good swing on the ball, and then, with the infield in, [Molina] just chopped it just enough to get the run across. But [Lackey] threw the ball great. He was lights out.’’
Lackey’s résumé of postseason success is perhaps best illustrated by his allowing opponents no more than four runs in 14 of his 15 playoff starts. The only American League pitcher with more such starts since 2002 is Andy Pettitte, with 16.
“Lackey was great,’’ Saltalamacchia said. “Unfortunately, we let it slip away.’’
Lackey understands the rigors of the postseason.
“The margin for error is really slim this time of year,’’ he said. “[We] kind of let one go tonight, but we’ll be back the next one.’’
His teammates are looking forward to it. After strong starts in Games 1 and 2 by Jon Lester and Lackey, Gomes said, “We’ll give it to [Jake] Peavy and [Clay Buchholz], and we’ll see what’s next. But I’m definitely OK with how our starting pitching has been.’’