October Clutch and a Red Sox Championship at Fenway

The ghost of Carl Mays smiled tonight. In 1918, the erstwhile right-hander pitched the Red Sox to a World Series championship with a Game 6 win. Nearly a century later, on the eve of Halloween, Fenway Park was once again the setting for the final game of the Fall Classic.

It was a horror show for the Cardinals.

Boston rolled to a 6-1 win, rocking Michael Wacha in the process. John Lackey played the role of Mays, sucking the life out of the St. Louis offense. For the first time in 95 years, the Red Sox tasted champagne in baseball‘s oldest ballpark.

It was over early. In a Series that featured four nail-biters and some bizarre happenings, drama was lacking. Boston put up three-spots in both the third and fourth innings, and from there it was mostly a matter of waiting for the bubbly to chill. The Cardinals fought for their lives, but the Red Sox — a team that arose from the ashes of a 69-win season — were seemingly a team of destiny.

The second inning epitomized the frustration the Cardinals felt throughout the Series. The National League champions produced hard contact and put two runners on base with nobody out, but proceeded to follow the same tortured script. They failed to get the big hit. Matt Adams lined to left, David Freese flew to right, and John Jay fanned on a Lackey curveball.

An inning later, the Red Sox did what they’ve done in October. They got the big hit when they needed it.

With two out and the bases loaded, Shane Victorino drove a 2-2 pitch off the Monster to clear the bases. It was reminiscent of Game Six of the ALCS, when his grand slam off Jose Veras killed Detroit’s hopes of a pennant. The Red Sox right-fielder was an offensive black hole throughout the post-season, save for two timely swings. That’s the way the post-season went for Boston. They didn’t hit on all cylinders, but they hit when they had to.

“They beat us at our own game, which is timely hitting,” said Cardinals reliever Randy Choate, “We didn’t get that. We had the bases loaded and two out tonight, and didn’t get the big hit. They were able to come up with that hit a couple of times in the series. That’s why they’re out there on the field celebrating, and we’re not.”

The fourth inning was the third inning redux — the Series redux — for the St. Louis offense. A Dustin Pedroia error on a tailor-made double play ball put two on with one out. Adams once again hit into hard luck, lining to Jonny Gomes in left. Freese took a called third strike.

“We hit a few balls hard, said infielder Daniel Descalso. “There were a couple of diving plays by them, and a couple hard-hit balls right at guys. If some of them fall, it’s a different game. [Lackey] had good stuff, but we had some guys on base — we had nine or 10 hits — we just couldn’t capitalize.”

Asked about his team’s inability to deliver the clutch hit as they had all season, general manager John Mozeliak gave credit to both Red Sox pitching and the BABiP gods.

“I imagine there is some randomness to that, but we did face some very good pitching, said Mozeliak. “I also think that when things don’t go your way, you start to press a bit. Unfortunately, when you combine great pitching and the wanting-to-do-more factor, it just didn’t work out.

“Overall, I think [the players] kept to their approaches. You could argue there were individual at bats from time to time that may have looked different, but overall, being two games shy of winning the World Series, I don’t think you can find too many hardships, or careless mistakes, on how we approached things.”

In the bottom half of the fourth inning, the Red Sox buried the Cardinals’ chances. Stephen Drew, mired in a 4 for 51 slump, homered. Mike Napoli singled in a run. Victorino, again batting with the bases juiced, singled in another.

Is there such a thing as clutch hitting?

“How can you not believe in it?” said Red Sox outfielder Daniel Nava. “If you don’t believe in the idea of clutch, you haven’t been watching these games.”

The Cardinals put two more runners on in the fifth, but again couldn’t score. In the seventh, they left the bases loaded. For all intents and purposes that was the game. And the Series.

“I think what you saw tonight from Boston is what got them here to begin with,” said Mozeliak. “They seem to take advantage of mistakes, and all of a sudden the inning becomes big. That’s just the type of lineup they have. It’s deep and obviously talented. You don’t win 97 games by accident.”

The Cardinals won 97 regular season games of their own, which is why this was such a competitive Series. Had a few swings of the bat produced different results, it could have gone either way.

“We were evenly-matched teams, they just played better,” said Choate. “If we played them again, maybe it would be us in six games. That’s just the way the cards fall.”

Ultimately, the Cardinals fell victim to the unexplainable forces that determine whether a batted ball finds a glove or an open space. The Red Sox hit better in the clutch, which is a phenomenon difficult to explain On the eve of Halloween, the Red Sox are World Series champions.




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David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from February 2006-March 2011 and is a regular contributor to several publications. His first book, Interviews from Red Sox Nation, was published by Maple Street Press in 2006. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA


11 Responses to “October Clutch and a Red Sox Championship at Fenway”

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  1. Ben The Bird Tarrelford says:

    Clutch is dead, long live clutch!

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  2. Ruki Motomiya says:

    Clutch definitely exists, the question is if it is possible to do good in the clutch as a repeatable skill.

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  3. olethros says:

    “That’s just the way the cards fall.”

    I wonder if he did that on purpose.

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  4. dave in gb says:

    Good. Hopefully they shave that rats nest off their face

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  5. RC says:

    “Had a few swings of the bat produced different results, it could have gone either way.”

    Meh, the Sox won two games in resounding fashion, won two games close, and lost two games on defensive miscues they usually don’t make.

    If not for two errant throws to third, they could have swept.

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  6. RMD says:

    David Ortiz’s performance in the World Series wasn’t just a coincidence. I imagine that once a player is successful in these situations, the pitcher’s anxiousness is more of a factor than the hitter’s confidence.

    If I’m facing David Ortiz on the big stage, I’m sure I’d be a bit nervous and miss a target.

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  7. jh says:

    There’s also the clutch idiocy of Mike Matheny making terrible roster decisions and intentionally walking David Ortiz every other time he came to the plate.

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  8. ShishBoomBah says:

    That’s Lackey’s second WS closeout game where he coughed up only 1 run. (There’s always an Angels angle). Clutch? I dunno but it’s certainly better then “Everything sucks right now”.

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