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AP
Boston Red Sox first baseman Mike Napoli celebrates after tagging out St. Louis Cardinals' Kolten Wong on a pick-off attempt to end Game 4 of baseball's World Series Sunday, Oct. 27, 2013, in St. Louis. The Red Sox won 4-2 to ties the series at 2-2. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Strange end, again: Pickoff ends Game 4

ST. LOUIS (AP) — The World Series had another bizarre ending — this time, a pickoff at first base.

One day after the Cardinals walked off (tripped off?) with a win on an obstruction call, Game 4 ended Sunday night with St. Louis pinch-runner Kolten Wong caught leaning.

Wong, his eyes red after the game, took full responsibility.

"I just got a little too far off and my back foot slipped out," Wong said. "He just made a good throw. I slipped and that's it."

It was the first postseason game in history to end on a pickoff, according to STATS. Game 3 was the first World Series game to end on an obstruction call.

On Sunday, the Cardinals were down 4-2 when pinch-hitter Allen Craig hit a ball off the right field wall with one out in the ninth. It would normally have been a double but Craig can barely run due to an ankle injury made worse when he scored on the obstruction play on Saturday.

Wong, a speedy rookie, pinch ran for Craig. After Matt Carpenter popped up, the Cardinals had just the right man at the plate as the potential tying run in Carlos Beltran, among the best postseason hitters ever.

But perhaps inexplicably, given the need for two runs, not one, Wong was caught too far off the base by closer Koji Uehara's.

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said Wong had been told that Uehara has a good move.

"He was reminded once he got on base, and also he was reminded that the run didn't mean much, be careful, shorten up," Matheny said. "And he got a little extra, then he slipped and the slip cost him."

Wong said he had no intention of trying to steal second.

"Not at all. I was just getting ready, getting aggressive," he said. "It was a hitting situation. Carlos, he can drive the ball. If that ball got down somewhere, I was hoping to go first to third, maybe score."

Boston manager John Farrell said it wasn't a play he called.

"That was on his own," Farrell said. "It was all on Uehara."

Uehara was surprised he caught Wong.

"It was the first time for me to end a game like that as far as I can remember," he said through an interpreter.

___

TRUE GRIT: Troublesome shoulder or not, Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz turned in a brief but effective start in Game 4.

Buchholz used guile, not velocity, to keep St. Louis hitters off-stride and mostly in check Sunday night. He lasted just four innings but allowed only one run — unearned — giving up three hits, striking out two and walking three, one intentional.

He didn't get the decision, but his gutsy performance was crucial in the Red Sox's 4-2 win to even the series 2-all and ensure it will be decided in Boston.

"I don't think I had the fastball I usually had," Buchholz said. "But I had some more movement on my other pitches and had some good defense behind me. I was able to stay away from that big inning."

Buchholz missed three months of the regular season with an injury to his right shoulder. Pitching in the AL championship series, he said the shoulder didn't feel quite right, like it was weak or fatigued. There was speculation about whether he could make his first World Series start.

He did, and he's a big reason the Red Sox have regained home-field advantage.

Not that it was easy. The Cardinals put two men on base in every inning but the 1-2-3 first against Buchholz. The only run they could push across against the 29-year-old right-hander came in the third when Matt Carpenter singled and hustled to second when center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury misplayed the ball, then scored on Carlos Beltran's single.

Buchholz, 12-1 with a 1.74 ERA in his abbreviated regular season, survived by mixing speeds and hitting the corners. His fastest pitch was clocked at 90 mph.

The Boston relievers were strong over the final five innings, except for one big scare.

Felix Doubront, who started 27 games in the regular season and was pitching on consecutive days for just the fourth time in his four-year career and the first time since Sept. 19-20, 2011, was perfect through 2 2-3 innings but gave up a two-out seventh-inning double to pinch-hitter Shane Robinson.

Craig Breslow relieved and allowed a single to Matt Carpenter that made it 4-2. When Carlos Beltran walked, Matt Holliday came up as the potential go-ahead run.

But Junichi Tazawa came in and got Holliday on a ground-out.

___

LONG TIME: When the Cardinals and Red Sox met in the 1967 World Series, the average length of the seven games was 2 hours, 22 minutes.

My, how things have changed.

All four World Series games this season have exceeded three hours: Game 1 was 3 hours, 17 minutes; Game 2, 3:05; Game 3, 3:54 and Game 4, 3:34.

Long games have been the norm in the postseason for several years now. The Red Sox needed nearly four hours to beat the Tigers 1-0 in Game 1 of the ALCS.

Sure, there are more commercials during the postseason, making the wait between innings longer. But it's not just TV.

Watch a baseball clip from the 1970s or earlier and hitters generally stay in the batter's box. Pitcher's get the ball and toe the rubber. Today, 20- to 30-second breaks between pitches are common as hitters step out to adjust their batting gloves or pitchers stalk around the mound.

Red Sox games tend to be slower than most because their hitters work deep into the count. MLB figures show the average Red Sox game in the regular season was 3 hours, 10 minutes, longest in baseball.

Jon Lester, Boston's starter in Game 5, doesn't see any reason to fuss over an extra hour or so.

"I don't know what you can do to speed it up but it's something we've been dealing with for a long time," Lester said, "so I'm not too concerned about it."

"This time of year it's going to be two heavyweights going at it and it's going to take some time," Lester said.

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