ST. LOUIS — Looking for ways to set up the bigger bats in his lineup, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny reworked his batting order for Game 5 of the World Series Monday night, benching Matt Adams (who was 3 for 17 in the series with no RBIs), moving Carlos Beltran into the No. 4 spot, and rolling the dice on a less-than-full-strength Allen Craig, who had been 4 for 9 as a DH and pinch hitter.
Beltran went 1 for 3 in St. Louis’s 3-1 loss Monday and is hitting .308 in the series with two RBIs and two walks. Of his 17 plate appearances, only three have come with runners in scoring position.
In the ninth inning of Game 4 Sunday night, with the Cardinals trailing, 4-2, Beltran had the bat taken out of his hands when pinch runner Kolten Wong was picked off at first to end the game. Monday’s game ended with Beltran on deck.
The Cardinals have just 10 hits over the last two games and are hitting .218 for the series.
Matheny also benched center fielder Jon Jay (2 for 13 in the series) for Shane Robinson, who was 2 for 5 in the series and 5 for 13 this postseason. Robinson pinch hit in the seventh inning Sunday night, lacing a double and then scoring on a Matt Carpenter single.
Robinson went 0 for 3 Monday and was pinch hit for by Jay, who grounded out in the ninth.
The idea of Craig playing in Game 5 was something he had discussed with Matheny.
“It was something that we had talked about a couple days ago,” Craig said. “If I was feeling good enough, maybe I’d start on Monday against [Jon] Lester.
“[Sunday], obviously I wasn’t feeling good, but I woke up this morning feeling better than I expected, so I thought that I should see it through. I felt good enough to contribute and I told Mike, and that’s why I was in there.
The ball didn’t hesitate to find him. David Ortiz sent a liner slicing low down the first-base line in the first.
All Craig could do was lay out for it in vain.
“I don’t think I would’ve got it even if I was feeling 100 percent,” Craig said.
Matheny said he will likely have Craig serve as DH in Boston.
No comfort zone
Carpenter did his best to bite his tongue after home plate umpire Bill Miller rung him up looking at a 3-and-2 cutter inside from Lester in the third.
It was a tough spot for a punchout with the a runner on second and the Cardinals down, 1-0.
The tracking tool PITCHf/x showed it being well inside, and even though he thought it was off the plate, Carpenter didn’t argue.
“I’m not going to throw anybody under the bus,” he said. “I mean, I didn’t swing at it because I thought it was a ball. [Miller] called it a strike, so it is what it is.”
The cutter was Lester’s go-to pitch most of the night. He threw 38 of them, 24 for strikes.
“He just has the ability to throw that cutter that looks like it’s going to hit you and then it comes around, never goes over the plate, but the guy catches it for a strike,” Carpenter said.
“That’s just not an easy pitch to throw. It’s a pretty unhittable pitch. All you can do is foul it off, if you can even swing at it.
“He has a unique ability to throw that consistently and he does the same thing to righties and it just comes around the plate and it’s never in a spot where you can do much to it, and he had it working. When he has that going, it’s a real tough fight.”
Carpenter agreed with the notion that the strike zone has been pitcher friendly.
“I wouldn’t say the zone has been bad, but I would definitely say that more often than not it’s gone the pitcher’s way — from both sides,’’ he said.
Getting picked off to end Game 4 weighed on Wong so heavily that he tweeted an apology to Cardinals fans. Matheny said teammates supported Wong afterward.
“Fortunately we have a good group of guys around here,” Matheny said. “We’ve talked about how they’ve helped these guys and prepared them. They’ve also helped him through troubles because they’ve been there. Maybe not getting picked off to end a game in the World Series, but they’ve had their issues that we’ve all had, decisions that we’ve made that didn’t necessarily work out.’’
Wong, a 23-year-old rookie who debuted Aug. 16, was successful on all three of his steal attempts this year (and 20 of 21 in the minors). Koji Uehara had picked off only two runners in his career. Looking for a chance to go to third on a single, Wong said he was trying to get a jump and slipped.
“Once I went to plant and go back, my back foot just gave out and I ended up falling short,” Wong said.
Out to get him
Matheny was asked, jokingly, how big the fine would be for throwing a strike to Ortiz. “No fine process in place, but obviously we’re talking about a very hot hitter, who is a good hitter,” the manager said . . . Quintin Berry’s steal in Game 4 was the first time the Sox tried to run on catcher Yadier Molina all series. Matheny said keeping the Sox’ running game in check was a priority. “We respect the fact that there’s some players on this club that can run,” Matheny said. “O ur pitchers pay attention to the running game, they mix up their time and their holds.”
Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.