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World Series Game 4: Papi’s Pep Talk

As if Giants spiritual leader Hunter Pence didn’t get enough air time in the Giants post-season run of 2012, there he was again getting his name brought up in Game 4 of the 2013 World Series. Pence became known nationally for both  his pre-game pep talk in the division series against Cincinnati when the Giants were a game away from elimination, and his subsequent dugout rah-rah sessions. What gets lost in the story is that Pence’s initial pep talk didn’t exactly inspire the offense. The Giants struck out 16 times in 10 innings, and it took a key error to help them pull out a 2-1 win. On Sunday night, in the Red Sox 4-2 victory to even the series at 2-2, it was David Ortiz who became the inspirational leader. After Ortiz doubled in the sixth with the Red Sox trailing 1-0, he hollered at his teammates in the dugout to get going. Ortiz took matters in his own hands, eventually scoring on a sacrifice fly, his legs chugging down the third base line. Ortiz continued his rallying cry In the top of the sixth, doing his best Hunter Pence impression as he gave a verbal push to the players gathered around him in the dugout. Maybe Pence should take note. While Pence’s original speech failed to awaken the Giants bats, Big Papi’s pep talk got instant results as Jonny Gomes drilled a game-deciding three-run homer moments later. Ortiz brought much credibility to his words through his play in the first four games, where is 8 for 11.

WORLD SERIES NOTES:

* Pitchers and catchers don’t report until about 110 days from now, but both World Series managers already have some fundamentals heading their list when spring training drills get under way. John Farrell of the Red Sox will no doubt have his troops working on what has apparently become one of the most difficult plays in baseball — the throw from home plate to third. Boston has produced a how-not-to-do-it video that must be kept out of the hands of all little leaguers seeking professional guidance. Mike Matheny of the Cardinals is certain to have his players assemble around first base where they will be lectured on the art of taking a lead. Matheny’s tutorial became necessary Sunday night when pinch-runner Kolten Wong got picked off to end the game. Wong’s inexplicable gaffe came a day after the obstruction call, the first time series games ever ended on such plays. Two things made the pickoff hard to understand. First, with the Cardinals down 4-2 and home run threat Carlos Beltran up, there was nothing required of Wong other than a safe lead. Two, how could he possibly be caught leaning to second base, since he certainly wasn’t going to stealing? Afterward, there was much excuse-making over Wong’s debacle. I was waiting for someone to say he lost the first base bag in the lights. Don’t they teach base-running 101 as part of the Cardinal Way?

* Ortiz glove watch: The Red Sox have not been burned by putting the DH slugger at first base for Games 3 and 4. All but one of the plays involving Ortiz have been routine, and even that was marginal. Shortstop Xavier Bogaerts threw off line to first after fielding a grounder and Ortiz couldn’t grab it. The play was a questionable base hit, but it didn’t cost the Red Sox in any event.

* If the Cardinals lose the World Series, the blame might come down to the first four innings of Game 4 and their inability to pounce on a vulnerable Clay Buchholz. A right shoulder injury drastically altered the effectiveness of Buchholz, who was 12-1 with a 1.74 ERA when healthy in the regular season. He velocity was down, and the Cardinals had two men on base in every inning but the first, yet they could only score one run against him before Buchholz was removed after four frames.

* I keep watching replays of the sacrifice fly that scored Ortiz, and I can’t shake the opinion that catcher Yadier Molina didn’t handle the play properly. The throw from Matt Holliday beat Ortiz, but Molina seemed to be too far in front of the plate. The angle of the throw down the left-field line forced Molina to step out to the left of home, but he might have gotten himself in a bad position to cleanly field the ball. While Ortiz was a menacing figure heading to home plate, it was taking him time to get there, giving Molina an opportunity to better locate himself.

* Unless you are a Cardinals fan, it was good news that the Red Sox took Game 4 to assure that the World Series will go back to Boston. This is a good, entertaining matchup with good ball players, and while some of the play has been erratic, the series is on track to have some memorable drama at Fenway.

* The distinguished panel of judges in the Star Spangled Banner Star Search Reality Show are still considering the Game 4 performance of Rascal Flatts. The talented trio did fine, but when it comes to groups, I’m spoiled by the national anthem rendition of Huey Lewis and the News. None of the four performers so far have run away with the competition, leaving the Lou Rawls Award for best World Series anthem up for grabs for the Game 5 and 6 contestants (Game 7 if necessary).

* In the office pool, I’ve got Game 5 ending on a catcher’s interference. Other choices for final play of game: a balk; Cardinal runner gets feet tangled in a beard; fan interference on ball hit down line; a triple play; batted ball hits runner; and a “Canseco homer” (ball bounces off outfielder’s head and goes over fence. Hope Game 5 doesn’t end on a pop up or strikeout. Boring!!!

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