- Jim Caple, Senior Writer, ESPN.com
- 0 Shares
BOSTON -- Qwoidh ethf fgbfdik une rfu k/vm edj 0- = 3kn vcs eld ien C/rt Sch#l9mg rfmm dhjsg iepov saknn.
Whoops. Sorry about that. I wrote that sentence in the eighth inning while sitting in the right field auxiliary pressbox and it's not easy to type when your fingers are numb. I'm sure Red Sox third baseman Bill Mueller can sympathize.
Not to imply that Sunday was a cold, wet, miserable night for baseball -- game time temperature was 48 degrees with mist and 15-20 mile-per-hour winds -- but I missed the entire sixth inning standing in line to apply for a major-league logo credit card just so I could use the free beach towel to wrap around my head.
Baseball has certainly been played in worse weather and we've long since grown accustomed to seeing the players' breath during these late postseason games (as well as seeing David Wells' breath after any late night in Manhattan). But it does seem to be affecting the performances in this series, or at least those that don't involve Curt Schilling. Of course, Schilling was born in Alaska.
Red Sox first baseman Kevin Millar predicted before the series that the cold Boston weather might have an effect on the pitchers -- "They're the ones who have to make the pitches and I think it gives them a little different feel of the ball'' -- and St. Louis manager Tony La Russa agreed after watching the two staffs combine to walk 13 batters, hit two others and allow 20 runs in the series opener.
"Sometimes when the conditions are like that, the balls are slick and they don't have the feel,'' he said before his team's 6-2 loss in Game 2. "If that's what happened, you're going to miss your location. You can choose to miss it right over the plate or try to pitch the edges and you're going to walk people. We walked a bunch and they walked almost as many. The wind was blowing in and there were 20 runs scored. That's not supposed to happen. I think that was probably a grip problem.''
If so, it might have been even worse in Game 2 when it was considerably damper, windier and no warmer than Game 1. The Cardinals walked six more batters (starter Matt Morris walked three in the first inning) and hit two others, giving them 14 walks and three hit batters in two games. Not that they used the weather as an excuse, saying quite correctly that it was the same for both teams.
The Red Sox pitchers certainly fared better -- Schilling walked only one batter in six innings and the bullpen walked just one as well -- but Boston's fielding was shoddy again. The Red Sox made four errors in the opener and four more in Game 2 -- three by Mueller, who crashed into catcher Jason Varitek on a foul popup, tripped over his own feet on a grounder and botched another grounder.
It was as if Tom Emansky had hired Bill Buckner to film a fundamental video.
And just imagine the error total the Red Sox could have had if the Cardinals had only hit a flyball to Manny Ramirez.
On the one hand, the eight errors are an exceptionally high number for a team playing in the World Series. On the other hand, they aren't that many for a team playing inside a cloud.
"It's not the boys of summer -- this is October,'' Millar said. "The conditions definitely were a big factor. You're standing around, the grass is wet and it's cold. But those conditions are a part of baseball and you have to deal with it.''
"We're just happy that we're not the team that made eight errors,'' St. Louis center fielder Jim Edmonds said. "That would have made us look real bad.''
Hmmm. That's an interesting way to look at it. But how good does St. Louis look by not winning a game here despite the eight Boston errors?
And that's the amazing thing about the errors. Were these the old Red Sox, the errors would have cost them both games and their fans would be lining up on the ledge of the Prudential Building. But these new Red Sox don't seem to pay for their mistakes. Mueller and Mark Bellhorn made consecutive fielding errors to put two runners on in the sixth inning when the score was still 4-1, but Boston didn't allow a run because Schilling retired the next batter.
"Very few times on the mound do you get a chance to pick up the fielding for the guys playing behind you and there was a chance to do that,'' Schilling did. "I wanted to do that so bad, I wanted to get out of that inning and make it all right for (Bill) as much as anybody because I know how they feel when they make the errors behind you.''
When pitchers pick up fielders instead of watching grounders bounce between the first baseman's legs while the winning runs score, you get the feeling that maybe, just maybe, this really, finally, is Boston's year. Not that veteran Red Sox fans are getting too cocky even after the team scored 17 runs and took a 2-0 lead in the series. The Yankees, after all, led 3-0 in the ALCS and lost, and the 1986 Red Sox led the World Series 2-0 and lost.
Their team is also heading to Busch Stadium, where the Cardinals haven't lost a game this postseason. More importantly, the next three games will be played under National League rules, in which there is no DH. The Cardinals' DHs were 0-for-6 with four strikeouts in Boston while the Red Sox's No. 9 hitter, Bellhorn, had three runs, four RBI and a game-winning home run in Game 1. Those dynamics will change drastically in St. Louis.
"Going back home will be a huge advantage for us,'' Morris said. "We have to play without the DH there and the DH is their best hitter. Plus, their pitcher will have to bat and that lets you pitch around guys a little.''
The Sox will keep their DH in the lineup by playing David Ortiz at first base. The downside to that is he's a terrible fielder. So we may not have seen our last error.
There is one other likely change -- warmer weather. The forecast is for temperatures in the 60s in St. Louis. Of course, the forecast is also for thunderstorms and rain showers. So don't be surprised if a ball slips out of Manny's hand and hits one of the Budweiser Clydesdales in the head.
And now, you'll have to excuse me. I have to go re-stoke the fire.
Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.
1dJesse Rogers and Jerry Crasnick