Hmm. What is this?
The St. Louis Cardinals, apparently, did not get the memo.
Visiting teams at Fenway are supposed to melt into a puddle at the mere sight of Boston’s bearded warriors. For most of this year, especially in the playoffs, Sox opponents have lost their composure and their baseball skills upon walking into Fenway Park. The John Henry/Boston Globe Red Sox (has a nice ring to it, no?) are trained to play “Three Little Birds’’ and “Sweet Caroline” over the public address system, then watch the opponents beat themselves.
Not Thursday night. Not in Game 2 of the 2013 World Series. After a Game 1 embarrassment, the Cardinals played Big Boy Baseball, beating the Red Sox, 4-2, behind the power pitching of three baby hurlers who collectively are three years younger than the vice president of the United States.
Twenty-two-year-old Michael Wacha, 22-year-old Carlos Martinez, and 23-year-old Trevor Rosenthal blew the Red Sox out of Fenway with 99-mile-per-hour fastballs and sent this series to St. Louis tied, 1-1. Cardinal pitchers fanned 12 Sox batters. The next three games will be played in the shadow of the Arch and there is every likelihood that the 2013 World Series will be decided back here at Fenway Wednesday or Thursday (Halloween) night.
“This team has responded well to challenges on the road or at home,’’ said Sox manager John Farrell. “I know that we’ll be ready to go on Saturday over there.’’
After dominating the sloppy Cardinals, 8-1, in the opener Wednesday, the Sox had to face the MVP of the NLCS. Wacha pitched six innings against the Sox, allowing three hits, including a two-run homer off the bat of the redoubtable David Ortiz. This was Wacha’s first appearance against a New England team since he fanned 11 Holy Cross Crusaders in a February 2012 no-decision while pitching for Texas A&M.
Game 2 was a wake-up call for Red Sox Nation. Relatively easy series against Tampa Bay and Detroit, coupled with the thrashing of the Cardinals in Game 1, conspired to create a false sense of entitlement in Baseball New England. We wondered, would this be a sweep, or would the Sox settle for erasing the Cardinals in five easy games? There was nothing to suggest that the Cardinals would put up a fight.
Everything is different now. We got a look at the powerful young arms on the Cardinals’ staff. It was impressive. The Rays and Tigers never fought back. It looks like the Cardinals might fight back.
Hard-luck John Lackey and wonderboy Wacha hurled zeros through the first three frames.
The Cardinals broke through in the fourth when Matt Holliday tripled and came home on a ground out by Yadier Molina. This marked the first time St. Louis led the Red Sox in a World Series game since Bob Gibson finished off the Sox in the ninth inning of Game 7 in 1967.
St. Louis’s 1-0 lead was erased in the bottom of the sixth when forever young Ortiz hit a Wacha changeup into the first row of the Monster Seats after Dustin Pedroia had drawn a one-out walk. Ortiz rounded the bases in less than two minutes, a sure sign that the Sox meant business.
Boston’s 2-1 lead was erased when the Cardinals scored three times in the top of the seventh. The trouble started when Lackey walked David Freese with one out. Jon Jay followed with a single to right and after Lackey was lifted in favor of southpaw Craig Breslow, Daniel Descalso walked to load the bases.
The Cardinals regained the lead, scoring twice when Matt Carpenter hit a routine sacrifice fly to left. Freese beat Jonny Gomes’s throw home. Jay followed Freese home after Breslow picked up the ball after Gomes’s throw deflected off the mitt of catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia and fired it past Stephen Drew at third and into the stands. Saltalamacchia and Breslow were both slapped with errors. The Cardinals increased their lead to 4-2 when Carlos Beltran followed with a single to right.
The state of the Red Sox’ starting rotation compounds Boston’s woes in the wake of Thursday’s loss. Jake Peavy, a meatball artist in three of his four career postseason starts, will get the ball Saturday night at Busch Stadium. Clay Buchholz, Boston’s best pitcher for the first 2½ months of the season, has shoulder issues and is now slated to start Game 4.
Think about that: Buchholz was supposed to be the Sox’ best pitcher. Now he is Al Nipper, a Game 4 guy who will only pitch once in the series. It is possible that Buchholz will never pitch in this series and the Sox will go with Felix Doubront in Game 4. This is not an ideal situation.
But it looks like the World Series is going to be a real series. This is a good thing. And if the Henry/Globe Sox manage to win, they will probably do it at Fenway for the first time since Carl Mays beat the Cubs in 1918.Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @dan_shaughnessy.