Carlos Beltran’s rib injury and Michael Wacha’s breakout month will command most of the attention leading up to Game 2 of the World Series Thursday night.
But there’s plenty to ponder besides the playing status of the Cardinals’ veteran right fielder and the remarkable rise of their rookie starter. Here are three other story lines for Game 2:
Big Papi and the Cardinals’ bullpen
Cardinals rookie left-hander Kevin Siegrist, with the high-90-mph fastball and the 0.45 ERA, was expected to pose a problem for lefty-swinging slugger David Ortiz. The book on the soon-to-be 38-year-old Ortiz is that he no longer can handle the big-time heaters.
The book was wrong in Game 1.
When Siegrist entered in the seventh inning, he had faced 83 left-handed hitters this season, including the playoffs, and yielded only 10 hits, none of them homers. But when he didn’t locate his first pitch, a 96-mph fastball, Ortiz hit it into the Red Sox bullpen for his 16th postseason homer to further cement Boston’s 8-1 victory.
So who does Cardinals manager Mike Matheny summon now when Ortiz steps up in a key situation? Does Matheny go back to Siegrist and his power? Or does the skipper take a chance on lefty specialist Randy Choate?
Choate, 38, should get a shot. He has outperformed Siegrist in the postseason, and decidedly so. In six outings covering three innings, Choate has yet to allow a base runner. Siegrist, on the other hand, has given up three runs and allowed two inherited runners to score in seven outings covering three innings.
Choate figured to be busy in the World Series because the Red Sox feature plenty of firepower from the left side. With Siegrist scuffling, you can be sure Matheny and his staff are rethinking when they deploy the veteran slinger.
Lackey and his long wait
Red Sox right-hander John Lackey can relate to Wacha’s world. A long time ago, Lackey was a rookie starter who won Game 7 of the World Series. He was with the Angels and he beat the Giants. The year was 2002, and he hasn’t been back to the World Series since.
So he should be ready. Lackey is coming off a bounce-back season after pitching poorly in 2010 and 2011 and missing 2012 because of Tommy John surgery. With his right arm healthy again, a scout said Lackey was better able to maintain a consistent arm slot, which afforded him better command of his pitches. His walk rate of 1.9 per 9 innings was the best of his career. He was particularly effective at Fenway Park this season, with a 2.47 ERA and 6-3 record in 13 starts.
“He isn’t quite back to what he was before his arm problems, but he pitched well,” a scout told me. “He doesn’t throw quite as hard as he used to, but he still has a very good curveball.”
Though Lackey, who turned 35 Wednesday, has been in the majors for 11 seasons, he never has faced the Cardinals and has little history against their hitters. The only two he has faced, he has held hitless. Beltran, who will be a game-time decision, is 0 for 9. Matt Holliday is 0 for 7.
The importance of winning Game 2
No one on either club will declare the Red Sox champions if they win Game 2. The Cardinals, after all, have earned their reputation as a tough team to knock out. They have won eight of their past nine elimination games, including two earlier this month against the Pirates.
But a win by the already-favored Red Sox puts the odds decidedly on their side. No team has come back from a 2-0 deficit in the World Series since the Yankees in 1996.
Nine teams have lost the first two games since 1996, and only the 2001 Yankees were able to stretch their Series to seven games. Two of the teams that took a 2-0 lead went on to win in five games, and the other six went on to sweeps. In 2004, the Cardinals dropped the first game in Fenway and never led while losing the next three games.
You can follow Stan McNeal on Twitter at @stanmcneal or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.