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5 keys for Game 4 of the World Series

Posted by David D'Onofrio  October 27, 2013 01:00 PM

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It'll be a while before Red Sox Nation moves on from the wild finish to an exhilarating Game 3, but we try by looking ahead to the keys for Game 4.

1. Better manage the conditions of playing under NL rules.
As the series shifted from Boston to St. Louis, and from American League rules to National League rules, the assumption was that the biggest problem it would create for the Red Sox would be the loss of the designated hitter in the middle of their lineup.

In Game 3, however, the disadvantage appeared to be biggest in the dugout, where John Farrell -- who has never coached for or managed an NL team -- made a sequence of crucial mistakes that made him and his coaching staff look unable to keep up with the speed of the game as conditions changed in the late innings.

Individual moves can be second-guessed, and there was plenty to question in that regard, so whether it was wise to lift defensive asset Stephen Drew in the seventh inning of a tie game, or to pinch-hit for Felix Doubront with nobody on and two out while the pitcher was rolling, or to not use Mike Napoli at any point can all be justified.

But the most damning indication that the Sox staff was unprepared was the mistake Farrell admitted to afterward. With reliever Brandon Workman due up second in the ninth inning, and the game tied, there was an obvious and easy opportunity for the Sox to avoid having to have Workman come to bat -- and, in fact, it would've also left Boston with better defense behind the plate and its best relief pitcher on the mound. It was a win-win-win.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia had made the last out of the eighth, so all the Sox had to do was hit either Napoli (if they deemed that the moment for him) or David Ross (if they didn't want to burn two players in one move), and then execute a double-switch by bringing in Koji Uehara and inserting him into the lineup in Saltalamacchia's spot. Putting him there would've delayed the pitcher coming due for another inning or two.

It was a rudimentary managerial maneuver, and one Farrell wanted to have back as soon as the game was over. Maybe that means he learned his lesson, and will be better after experiencing the World Series at that speed in Game 3 -- and Red Sox fans had better hope he did, because if the strategy isn't better in Games 4 and 5, there's a chance this team won't play under AL rules again until the spring.

2. Buchholz must give everything he has -- without trying to give more.
Whatever the right-hander's physical condition is at this point, the only thing that matters is that he gives the Red Sox everything that he has. The team is hoping for at least five, based on the fact he's been solid for that long in each of his three previous starts, but even if it's only three or four he has to find a way to gut his way through those frames and manage the situation.

On the flip side, though, they shouldn't ask Buchholz to pitch beyond himself. He's made abundantly clear over the course of dealing with his neck and shoulder injury this season that he doesn't feel he can be effective when he's less than 100 percent, so it might actually put the Sox in a worse position if he were to go out there and try to pitch outside of his comfort zone just for the sake of proving something or saving face.

That approach to a challenge might work for some people, but Buchholz hasn't said anything that suggests he has the confidence necessary for him to be one of those. If he doesn't have it, he has to be honest and realistic about his limitations, or else he might put the team in a worse position than if he didn't pitch at all.

3. Score early.
Game 3 marked the fifth time in 13 postseason games that the Red Sox were held hitless the first time through the batting order. Game 1 of this series showed how different it is to play from ahead, rather than being forced to catch up or constantly playing under the mounting pressure of a tight or tied playoff game.

Given the way Saturday night ended, and the fact they're now trailing this series, it'd especially important Sunday if the Sox were able to jump out with a crooked number early. With a couple big hits they could take some of the heat off their manager, their pitchers, and the bottom of their order. All that could be huge in tilting the series back to their favor.

4. Hit Lance Lynn's fastball.
The Cardinals' starter relies heavily on his heater, and he's generally effective in doing so, holding opponents to a .246 average this season while striking out about a batter an inning.

But the Red Sox were far and away the best fastball-hitting team in baseball this season, so the opportunity should be there for them to either capitalize or force Lynn out of his comfort zone. Also worth pointing out is that the Pirates were the fifth-most productive team in the majors when hitting fastballs -- and they ousted Lynn after tagging him with five runs in 4.1 innings during the Division Series.

5. Respond.
This one is easy. All year long the Red Sox have professed to be resilient and relentless. Now their backs are against the wall, and they were pushed into that position in an historically frustrating fashion.

It's time to prove those characteristics are real.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

Dave D'Onofrio is a sports journalist who focuses on the Red Sox and Patriots, and also writes's "Off The Field" blog about what Boston's sportsmen do away from the More »

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