BOSTON – In the waning minutes of Monday night after the Boston Red Sox had won, and as the World Series prepared to return here for either an abiding moment in Red Sox history or another really foul one, David Ross, one of their catchers, said something that made such sense.
Somebody had been rooting around in statistics that revealed the bottom of the Red Sox lineup hadn't done much in the series (though a cursory glance at the at-bats themselves should have sufficed), and mentioned to Ross that, offensively speaking, this group of men had been largely absent lately.
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Ross has been around, mostly as a backup catcher. If you didn't know, these are among the most reasonable people on the planet. What you come to know as a backup catcher – humility, patience, strength of character, sunflower seed flicking – gives one great perspective upon retiring as an active player and becoming a bullpen catcher.
Anyway, Ross was asked about this particular malady of the Red Sox, who, at that very moment, were leading the World Series 3-2 over the St. Louis Cardinals. Game 6 is Wednesday night at Fenway Park.
And Ross said, "There's a reason why we hit at the bottom of the order. There's a reason why I hit in the eight hole and the nine hole in the American League; I'm not very good at hitting.”
Ross smiled and the room, usually a rather grim place this time of year, laughed with him.
"I know David [Ortiz] makes it look easy,” he said. "But it's work for me. I think we're all doing the best we can working on a daily basis.”
Baseball's not a game of perfect. When it is, I'll stop watching, and David Ross – and a whole lot of other guys – will have to go do something else for a living and maybe take fewer fastballs to the mask. The reason baseball looks hard, except in rare cases, is because it is, and the reason this World Series has been slightly disjointed and occasionally horrifying but entirely riveting is because sometimes baseball just says so. There's probably not a stat for that.
Late Sunday night, in the bustling corridors between clubhouses at Busch Stadium, when a walk-off pickoff had followed a walk-off obstruction call the night before, Joe Torre and I happened to lock eyes. We smiled dumbly. He said, "I can't wait to see how tomorrow night's game ends.”
When Game 4 had died on the basepaths, at least one pitch before anyone expected it to, and Kolten Wong had introduced himself to America in the clumsiest way possible (thus ending Carlos Beltran's at-bat prematurely), one reporter in the press box cried, "Can't one of these games just end on a fly ball to the outfield?”
Not 24 hours later, Koji Uehara threw a pitch and Matt Holliday got under it a little, and right fielder Daniel Nava caught it, which is how Game 5 concluded in eight minutes shy of three hours, which may qualify as the oddest ending yet to a World Series game.
So, the series has gone a little sideways. There've been 11 errors committed in five games. There's been controversy, and a postgame umpire news conference, and allegations of cheating, and apparently some kind of labor slowdown by certain members of both teams' lineups, and on Tuesday afternoon the St. Louis Cardinals' charter flight was delayed because of mechanical issues. Maybe the clutch went out.
All that is not a reason to hate a series. It's a reason to love it. Sure it's flawed. A little ugly in parts. Didn't we agree just a week ago these are the two best teams in baseball? So they haven't exactly played that way.
Not necessarily in this context, but as John Lackey himself said Tuesday, "These days the word ‘expert' gets thrown around way too much. We're all experts.”
I'm guessing the lady at the stenotype machine was slow to the sarcasm font there.
As the Boston Red Sox took batting practice on a cool evening in the Back Bay, and the Cardinals hoped to God their iPads wouldn't run out of juice on a tarmac in St. Louis, what waited was Game 6. At Fenway Park. To perhaps end a series that I've fallen for. From the ball that fell to the feet of Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina in Game 1, to the ball Craig Breslow threw into the stands in Game 2, to the ball Jarrod Saltalamacchia threw to the tarp in Game 3, to the ball Seth Maness threw to Jonny Gomes' bat barrel in Game 4, to the ball that dropped into Nava's glove 2 hours and 52 minutes after the first pitch in Game 5, this has been charming, if not always glorious, baseball. And it is why I expect nothing less – or is it more? – for Game 6.
Even the title of the event – Game 6 of the World Series – holds a significant place in the history of the franchises. In most of our lifetimes, Bill Buckner whiffed a grounder in a Game 6. David Freese hit a home run in a Game 6. In between, a lot of good happened. And some bad.This Game 6? Lackey and Michael Wacha, in a city that can't quite believe this is happening, in a series that hasn't yet decided what it will be. As David Ross might say, it's doing the best it can.