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MLB.com Columnist

Richard Justice

Nine outs from victory, Red Sox come undone

Nine outs from victory, Red Sox come undone

Nine outs from victory, Red Sox come undone

BOSTON -- It was playing out just the way the Red Sox hoped. John Lackey had been tremendous. David Ortiz had delivered. This is one of the blueprints Boston has used again and again in this magical season.

"It's a beautiful world," catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia said.

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That's exactly how a lot of the good citizens of Red Sox Nation felt with their team leading the Cardinals, 2-1, in the top of the seventh inning of Game 2 on Thursday night.

With a solid defense and a terrific bullpen, the Red Sox routinely close out these kinds of games. So there they were, nine outs from a 2-0 lead in the World Series, and that's when something weird happened. One of baseball's best teams, one of baseball's most fundamentally sound teams, a team that simply doesn't beat itself very often, came undone.

It happened right there in the top of the seventh inning. All of a sudden, two walks, two errors and some resourceful hitting by the other guys changed everything.

"It's not like we were going to sweep 'em," Saltalamacchia said after the Cards rallied for a 4-2 victory and a 1-1 series tie.

That was the message from the Red Sox as the World Series heads to St. Louis for three games, beginning on Saturday night (7:30 p.m. ET air time on FOX, 8:07 first pitch). Regardless of how it happened, almost no one expected this to be a fast World Series.

From the beginning, this was a World Series that was supposed to be close and competitive, a World Series that was going to be decided by a play here and a play there.

"Baseball is not like the Super Bowl," outfielder Jonny Gomes said. "It's not one game. It's the best of seven. I don't know if it'll take all seven, but we'll be ready for it. I don't think many people thought there would be a clean sweep with the team they've got over there."

Still, the Red Sox let this one get away. Or, to put it another way, they might have made it easier for the Cardinals than it should have been. Things began to go south for Boston when St. Louis' Pete Kozma and Jon Jay executed a double steal with one out in the top of the seventh inning.

Reliever Craig Breslow then walked Daniel Descalso to load the bases, and that's when the Red Sox blinked. After Matt Carpenter lifted a sacrifice fly to left, Gomes fired home from left in an attempt to get Kozma.

Gomes' throw tailed away up the first-base line from Saltalamacchia, who was charged with an error for missing the catch. Breslow smartly backed up the play, but he fired the ball wildly toward third base trying to get Jay. Jay trotted home on Breslow's error, and the Cards had the lead.

"It just kind of sailed on me," Breslow said. "I looked up and saw that I definitely had a play there. I didn't make a good throw. I think I definitely had a play there. I felt like it was a play worth making a throw."

Saltalamacchia offered no excuses for his error, saying, "The throw took me a little bit to the right. I tried to kind of lean for it. One of those plays you're kind of do-or-die. I probably could have held onto the ball, but at the time, we're trying to get the out."

And when it was over, it was almost a reversal from the previous night, when it was the Cardinals making mistakes and the Red Sox capitalizing.

"It's kind of ironic. Win or lose, it almost comes down to one play in nine innings in both these first two games," Gomes said. "We weren't able to really capitalize tonight. That's why they give us seven games. We're OK."

The Red Sox said they picked a bad night to have a bad night. Saltalamacchia may have gotten a tough error for not holding onto the throw from Gomes, but Breslow simply made a bad play.

"I'm sure Craig would like to have that ball back and hold it with a chance to shut down the inning right there," manager John Farrell said. "We gave them the run. Uncharacteristic of the way, I think, we've taken care of the baseball this year."

In the end, it was the kind of game this World Series will see again and again. These two teams are evenly matched, and they could just be getting warmed up.

Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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