ST. LOUIS —In addition to any throw the Red Sox make to third base, here are three things to watch in Game 4 Sunday night:
The Red Sox should hope that right-hander Clay Buchholz performs better on the mound Sunday than he sounded in the interview room Saturday. Buchholz did not exude much confidence during his routine pre-start press conference.
He reiterated he is not 100 percent healthy, reported a “little bit of rust” after a longer-than-usual throwing session Saturday, admitted the “ball is not coming out of my hands like it does in spring training and the regular season” and said he’d be more than satisfied with a five-inning, two-run outing.
Besides all that, he’s roaring and ready to do his part to keep the Red Sox from falling into a 3-1 hole.
When healthy, Buchholz has been as effective as any Red Sox starter this season. He went five innings and gave up two runs in Boston’s ALCS clincher over the Tigers last Saturday. During the regular season, he was 12-1 with a 1.74 ERA though he was limited to 16 starts because of a neck strain.
The Red Sox were considering Buchholz for the Game 3 start – which would have put him in line to start a potential Game 7 — but he essentially removed himself from consideration by complaining of shoulder stiffness. After a couple of days last week with his status unclear, the Red Sox announced Friday that Buchholz would start Game 4.
He will have the unfamiliarity factor on his side. In his six big league seasons, he has not faced anyone on the Cardinals’ roster. On the flip side, Red Sox hitters don’t have much history with Cardinals starter Lance Lynn. Six of their hitters have faced him, but none more than four times.
A change behind the plate
Don’t be surprised if David Ross starts at catcher ahead of Jarrod Saltalamacchia for the Red Sox. Actually, be shocked if Ross doesn’t start. It’s not about Saltalamacchia’s questionable throw that ended Game 3. It’s because his swing is too long for the Cardinals’ (and Tigers’) power pitching. Eleven of his past 17 at-bats going back to the ALCS have been strikeouts, with just two walks. Ross had a hit and scored in his Game 1 start and is hitting .308 for the postseason.
The Cardinals have no such problem at catcher. Not only did Yadier Molina get three hits in Game 3, his reputation seems to have stopped the Red Sox running game. They have yet to even attempt to steal in the first three games, and they’ve had chances. The Cardinals, who stole fewer bases than Jacoby Ellsbury during the regular season, got their third of the Series when rookie Kolten Wong singled in the eighth and then easily beat Saltalamacchia’s throw.
Holliday’s hot bat
Cardinals left fielder Matt Holliday didn’t drive in a run during the 2011 World Series but is producing in 2013. He had a mammoth (and, yes, harmless) home run in Game 1, a key triple in Game 2 and drove in three runs with a double and single in Game 3. Only David Ortiz has been a more dangerous hitter in the first three games.
The Red Sox hardly can afford to pitch around Holliday, though. He is followed in the order by Matt Adams and Yadier Molina, and both are hitting well. Molina was on base four times in Game 3 while Adams contributed a single and a double.
Though this Series is a long way from over, Holliday has emerged as early leader for MVP honors.
You can follow Stan McNeal on Twitter at @stanmcneal or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.