After all the stress caused to Cardinals fans by an off performance in the first game of the 2012 World Series, St. Louis turned things completely around with a hard-fought road win in Game 2 Thursday.
The Birds were on the brink of disaster. A loss would have put the home nine in a spot where they really needed to win all three games at home in order to have a reasonable chance to win the Fall Classic. Now they are in good position to win it all by taking two of three at Busch Stadium. Then they need to win one of two games in Boston.
It was remarkable to see the Redbirds come back together after they seemed ill-prepared for the opener and played poorly in all facets of the game. While the offense seems to still be scratching for runs, the pitching and defense were spectacular.
The Cardinals got a lead early when Matt Holliday tripled off the top of the right centerfield wall and then came home on a groundout. The lead held until the bottom of the sixth when Michael Wacha, who was dominant through five frames, started to get a little frayed around the edges.
Manager Mike Matheny left the rookie in the game and David Ortiz hit a two-run homer to put Boston ahead.
But no sooner than Wacha stopped punching things in the St. Louis dugout -- and he apparently hasn't seen Bull Durham to learn not to punch with his pitching hand -- the Birds rallied for three runs to regain the lead.
David Freese walked and Jon Jay singled. Pete Kozma pinch ran for Freese. Then in a rarity for the modern age of Cardinals baseball, St. Louis pulled off a double steal without a throw. Daniel Descalso walked and Matt Carpenter hit a fly to medium left to drive home Kozma to tie the game. Jay took third and when the Red Sox tried to throw him out the ball got away and Jay came home with the go ahead run.
Carlos Beltran, who was questionable to start the game after bruising his ribs in Game 1, got a two-out hit to drive home an insurance run to put St. Louis ahead 4-2.
Wacha, who was on the hook for the loss, ended up getting the win after the rally. But not until the bullpen had a huge performance to nail down the last three innings.
Carlos Martinez pitched two excellent innings, mowing down the Sox 1-2-3 in the seventh and then pitching around an error by Matt Carpenter to start the eighth. That was no small task because it included dealing with Ortiz, who hit a scratch single, and Mike Napoli who popped out.
Trever Rosenthal came in to pitch the ninth and made short work of the three batters he faced, striking them all out.
Cardinals Star of the Game: Wacha, who allowed three hits and four walks while striking out six over six innings.
Play of the Game: The baserunning that led to two runs being scored on Carpenter's sacrifice fly.