ST. LOUIS -- Red Sox pitcher Jake Peavy is playing in his first World Series. He knew better than most not to read too much into Carlos Beltran's exit after banging into the right-field wall at Fenway Park in the second inning of Game 1 on Wednesday night.
After all, if there was something wrong with Peavy, you would need horse tranquilizer to keep him from taking the mound for his Game 3 start Saturday night (7:30 p.m. ET airtime on FOX, 8:07 p.m. first pitch). He knows Beltran, who's also playing in his first World Series, is feeling the same sense of urgency as he plays through badly bruised ribs, which is why Peavy thinks Beltran's extraordinary effort is not the least bit surprising.
"We all know what Carlos Beltran is about," Peavy said before the Red Sox's workout at Busch Stadium on Friday. "To spend as long as he has and to be the postseason player he has [been] and never have the opportunity to play in a World Series, we knew on our side it's going to take more than bruised ribs to keep him out of the lineup. He was obviously a huge part of their win [in Game 2]. Carlos is a tremendous competitor, and it doesn't surprise me one bit that he's out there."
Beltran needed an injection of the painkiller Toradol to be able to get in the lineup on Thursday night. He said afterward that he surprised himself by playing, but he certainly won't be a surprise anymore.
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny was thrilled by how Beltran ran and moved during his 2-for-4 night in Game 2, which included a liner pulled into left field in the first inning and an opposite-field single to drive in a run in the decisive seventh inning as St. Louis won, 4-2. Matheny expects the 36-year-old impending free agent to start feeling more like himself as the World Series moves on.
"He looked pretty normal to me yesterday," Matheny said. "Not a lot of apprehension. I didn't see him wincing when he was taking swings, and [he was] moving pretty well in the outfield, good jumps. He wasn't tested a lot out there. But overall, I think, once again, he wouldn't allow himself, just out of pride's sake, to go out there [if he couldn't help]. It would have to be he felt that he could contribute and not be halfway going out there. He looked good to me. And I think he's going to continue to get better every day. I don't think he's far."
That's the best news the Cards could get as they return to their well-appointed ballpark, where the left-field foul pole is in almost the exact position of the right-field pole where Ozzie Smith hit his dramatic homer off Tom Niedenfuer in Game 5 of the 1985 National League Championship Series. The winning tradition here intersects and overlaps eras, just as the newest Busch Stadium does the footprint of the one it replaced.
Beltran is not Stan Musial, to be sure, but for these Cardinals, he is the man. He goes into the Game 3 start against Peavy hitting .273 with two home runs and 13 RBIs in St. Louis' 13 postseason games this October -- ultra-impressive numbers given the dominance of pitching. Beltran's a lifetime .339 hitter with 16 home runs, 38 RBIs and a 1.163 OPS in 47 postseason games with the Cards, Mets and Astros.
Some New York fans still see Beltran as the guy who took an 0-2 curveball from Adam Wainwright for the final out in Game 7 of that great 2006 NLCS against the Cardinals, when he left the bases loaded to seal a 3-1 loss at Shea Stadium. But for Beltran, that untimely missed opportunity was the outlier. His seventh-inning single off Craig Breslow on Thursday night -- a textbook example of cutting down your swing and going the opposite way -- made him 7-for-9 with runners in scoring position this poseason.
"He's a good player and a great competitor," Red Sox catcher David Ross said. "He's one of the best players in the game [at] doing special things in the postseason. He's a good player, [period]."
Beltran has built his reputation by seizing the moment, so why wouldn't he do it again, even if had an injury that, by his own estimation, probably would have kept him out of the lineup in the regular season?
"There's not one person in the clubhouse, position players and pitchers, that don't look up to him," said Joe Kelly, the 25-year-old right-hander who will face Peavy in Game 3. "When we saw him go down like that, we knew he was going to try to do whatever he could to get back in the next game."
Beltran has done that and more. The question is, "What is he going to do next?"
Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less