Resilient Sox get what they need when they need it
Big hits, big pitching performances have come at exactly the right time
ST. LOUIS -- Inside the visitors' clubhouse at Busch Stadium, there appears to be zero worry. Forget all those chilly batting averages. Forget the pitching staff, which has a couple of question marks. And forget that energetic opponent, with its assembly line of power arms.
"We're a tough team," reliever Craig Breslow said. "We're a resilient team. We'll bounce back."
Breslow's probably not just saying what he thinks he's supposed to say. That's because he has the confidence gained from being part of a team that has won 105 times this season. And there have been several points when the Red Sox played poorly enough that people doubted them. But when they were pushed, they pushed back -- every single time.
"When a game has gotten away from us, we've done such a great job of putting yesterday behind us and doing what it has taken to regain the momentum," manager John Farrell said.
So the Red Sox believe. Never mind that a couple of cracks have surfaced over the last few days. In fact, ignore the high-wire act they've been performing for a couple of weeks.
Theirs has not been a smooth ride, but baseball doesn't tally style points. To study batting averages, to pore over the numbers, is to miss at least some of what makes the Sox special.
Boston was five outs from falling into an 0-2 hole in the American League Championship Series when David Ortiz hit a thundering, game-tying grand slam. He'd had just one other hit in the entire ALCS.
Likewise, Shane Victorino. He's hitting .094 over the last two rounds of the playoffs, but he's the guy who hit the grand slam that closed out the Tigers in Game 6 of the ALCS.
That's how the Red Sox have done it. When they need something, they get it, whether it's a gigantic hit or John Lackey outpitching Justin Verlander in Game 3 of the ALCS.
Although the bottom line may be ugly, the Red Sox are just three victories from winning the World Series.
And that's remarkable, considering they're hitting .198 over the last two rounds of the postseason. They've scored three runs or fewer in four of their last eight games, going 1-3 in those contests.
Jacoby Ellsbury and Victorino gave the Rays fits in the AL Division Series, getting on base 20 times and scoring nine runs in four games. They've scored just six in eight games since.
Ellsbury is one for eight in the World Series. Shortstop Stephen Drew is in a 2-for-33 slump. Jonny Gomes is hitting .130 the last two series.
Still, the Red Sox and Cardinals are tied at a game apiece as the World Series shifts to St. Louis for three games.
"We're in the same split situation we were [against the Tigers]," catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia said. "We're 1-1 going to their place. We've been there before. We're going to turn the page."
Game 3 starter Jake Peavy allowed seven runs in three-plus innings in his ALCS start against the Tigers. Since then he has cleaned up some mechanical issues he believes were causing problems.
If the Red Sox are looking for their latest hero, Peavy might be it. He's a 12-year veteran, a respected pro highly regarded by teammates wherever he has been. He has had 11 long days to dwell on that tough start against the Tigers.
General manager Ben Cherington acquired Peavy at the non-waiver Trade Deadline to add depth to the rotation and a veteran presence for the postseason. Peavy would surprise no one by taking control of Game 3 and not letting go.
"I'm excited as I ever will be ... to go out there tomorrow," Peavy said.
After blowing their first late lead of the postseason in Game 2, the Red Sox could use a good turnaround performance, especially since there are questions about the health of Game 4 starter Clay Buchholz.
Offensively, the Red Sox led the Major Leagues in runs, in part because of an extremely disciplined approach at the plate, one that allowed them to run up the pitch count of opposing starters.
There's not much value in doing that against the Cardinals, because St. Louis has so many young guys who throw hard that its bullpen has no weak spot.
Still, it's impossible to count out the Red Sox.
They've accomplished so much and gotten so far with a club that was never considered the most talented in the game. Now they just need three more victories to finish the deal.
"This is what you dream about," Peavy said.
Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.