No one knew what to expect.
When he left Fenway Park with a rib contusion after running into the fence in right field to rob David Ortiz of a home run, Carlos Beltran was doubtful he would be able to play in Game 2 Thursday night.
“When I left the ballpark [Wednesday] I had very little hope that I was going to be in the lineup with the way I felt,” he said. “When I woke up, I woke up feeling a little better.’’
Still, three hours before the first pitch, the Cardinals were unsure if they would have one of their most important pieces in the lineup.
Beltran still had to be cleared by doctors and after that manager Mike Matheny would evaluate how he was swinging in batting practice.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals tried to prepare as if Beltran would be out.
“I’m not sure what the deal is, if he’s playing today or if they’ve ruled him out or whatnot,” said outfielder Shane Robinson. “We haven’t really heard anything. But if he can’t go today, then somebody obviously will fill in and pull up the slack.”
Beltran was willing to go to any length to get back on the field.
“I came to the ballpark, talked to the trainer,” he said. “I was able to get treatment and talk to the doctors, and find a way to try anything I could try just to go out there and feel no pain. And I did that before BP and went to the cage. I felt like I was swinging the bat okay — not good, but good enough to be able to go out there and be with the guys.”
He was given an injection to block the pain for “five hours or six hours.”
It was long enough for him to return to right field. Hitting second in the order, he went 2 for 4 with an RBI and helped push the Cardinals to a 4-2 win over the Red Sox that evened the World Series a game apiece.
His RBI single in the seventh was the Cardinals’ insurance.
“I didn’t know what was going on today,” outfielder Jon Jay said. “For him to go out there — he contributed, it’s not like he just played just to play. He drove in that run for us and that was big for us.”
After the win, Beltran knew exactly what his body was telling him. The fact that Friday was an off day felt like a gift.
“I know for sure tomorrow I’m going to feel sore,” he said.
When Allen Craig began rehabbing from the Lisfranc injury he suffered in September, the hope was that he would be able to return by the World Series.
Even though Craig went 1 for 4 in the cleanup spot Wednesday, including a fourth-inning single off Jon Lester, Matheny was aware how quickly the seven-week recovery process moved for the 29-year-old slugger.
“He’s been challenged here to move pretty fast in this rehab process, right toward the end,” Matheny said. “But I thought he took good at-bats, looked like he was seeing the ball pretty well, and didn’t see a lot of apprehension. But he’s still going to be guarded a little bit. But everything came out pretty good.”
The idea of playing Craig in the outfield was floated with Beltran’s status uncertain.
But Matheny said asking Craig to roam the field, especially when the series shifts to Busch Stadium, would be asking too much.
“We have to have him be able to do it well in order to have him out there,” Matheny said. “And I think that would be pretty much of a stretch. You’d be putting him in the outfield expecting him to cover a lot of ground, especially in a big outfield. That would be a tall order.”
A pair of costly errors in Game 1 cost Pete Kozma his spot in the starting lineup.
But he wound up turning a small role as a pinch runner into a crucial cameo in the three-run seventh inning that swung the game for the Cardinals.
After David Freese worked a walk one-out walk and Jay stroked a single to make it first and second, Kozma came on to pinch run.
Matheny made the call to double steal, and Kozma came through, swiping third without a throw from Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
After a Daniel Descalso walked to load the bases, Kozma scored on a Matt Carpenter sacrifice fly to left.
“It’s a risk we were willing to take, and it paid off,” Kozma said. “Whenever I came into run for Freese, that’s the first thing that was on my mind.”
After starting all but one game in the postseason and 143 games in the regular season, Kozma was replaced at shortstop by Descalso.
The error Kozma committed in the first inning In Game 1, mishandling the transfer on a double-play ball, got the ball rolling on an uncharacteristically sloppy night all around for the Cardinals.
The Red Sox would score three runs in the frame and never looked back
“Yesterday’s behind us,” Kozma said. “It’s gone. We looked at our mistakes. We learned from them.”
The switch was a move Matheny had gone to before in the regular season as a way of getting Kozma in the game, and despite his struggles in Game 1, Matheny said he was still confident in Kozma.
“Regardless of what may have happened yesterday, he is a plus defender and we have a lot of confidence in him,” Matheny said. “So we want to get him in the game.”
Kelly on deck
Righthander Joe Kelly will start Game 3 for the Cardinals on Saturday in St. Louis. Kelly is 0-1 in three starts this postseason. In his last outing, Game 5 of the NLCS against the Dodgers, he gave up four runs on seven hits in five innings. Righthander Shelby Miller remains in a holding pattern. After going 15-9 in the regular season, Miller has made just one one-inning appearance in the playoffs . . . Despite Beltran’s run-in with the short fence in right field, Robinson said the wall didn’t bother him. “I’m not the tallest guy in the world, so I don’t think I’m going to be flipping over that fence at all,” said Robinson. “You have a little more opportunity to catch a ball if it’s hit around there, like robbing a home run or whatnot that we saw Carlos do. I’m not really worrying about it too much.”Julian Benbow can be reached at email@example.com.