One team is blessed while the other commits Cardinal sins
ST. LOUIS -- Let's take the Bud Collins approach and say that, for the Red Sox, it is now triple match point.
They are one victory away from doing what people have been talking about for longer than most people in New England have been alive. The scary thing is how easy it all looks.
Since the score was tied at 9-9 entering the eighth inning of Game 1 last Saturday, the Red Sox have been a vastly better team than the St. Louis Cardinals. Mark Bellhorn hit the Pesky Pole, and ever since the Red Sox have played like a team, well, blessed. The few mistakes they have made haven't cost them. They have been bulletproof and pressure-proof. It is as if they are attempting to undo all 86 years of frustration in one week.
They have exposed the Cardinals for what they are -- a great offensive and defensive team trying to win a championship with a mediocre group of starters. They are the late 1990s Indians revisited, and I trust you know how many championships that team won.
Here is the line for the three St. Louis starters in this series: 11 1/3 innings, 20 hits, 15 runs, 15 earned runs, 8 walks, and 8 strikeouts. And here are the combined lines for Curt Schilling and Pedro Martinez in Games 2 and 3: 13 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 10 K.Game 1 was the aberration, and we all knew it. The Red Sox were fortunate to win it. That was the bonus W. The real World Series was going to begin in Game 2, when Terry Francona was looking forward to writing Schilling's name on the lineup card. Schilling, and then Pedro in Game 3 . . . let's see what the Cardinals can do with them. The answer was just about nothing. The Cardinals were limited to one classically unearned run against Schilling (two-out error by Bill Mueller), and they got nothing at all against Pedro, who tossed three-hit, shutout ball over seven innings last night in a 4-1 victory that produced a string of words never before written by anyone covering the Boston Red Sox: The Boston Red Sox are now up, 3-0, in a World Series and can close it out tonight.
Was not this the grand vision when Young Theo journeyed to Phoenix for Thanksgiving dinner, Chez Schilling? Match Schilling with Pedro in the certified Big Games, the ones played when the leaves are falling, and see what happens. The No. 1 reason the Red Sox have gone 0 for 86 since that 1918 World Series has been pitching. The other team has usually had the big pitcher, or pitchers.
Not this time.
This time the Red Sox lack for nothing. They have pitching. They have hitting (30 hits and 21 runs thus far). They have had clutch hitting (10 two-out runs in the Series). Despite the antics in Game 1 and the inexplicable happenings in Game 2, they really can catch the ball, so, yes, they have the defense. They have the bench. And if anyone says they don't have the manager, that someone is ignoring the simple fact that they are where they are and they haven't been run by remote control.
But there is something else going on, too. They have also been the beneficiaries of some truly amazing St. Louis brain lock. You can be sure the folks in this town are convinced they are watching a baseball version of "Night of the Living Dead," because this is not the same St. Louis team that won 105 games and beat both the Dodgers and Astros in order to get here.
Manager Tony La Russa was on record as saying this was the best base-running team he's ever had. That was before Reggie Sanders missed second base, Larry Walker was out trying to score on a medium-deep sacrifice fly (the Cardinals apparently unaware that Manny Ramirez has a very accurate arm), and Jeff Suppan was running into a bizarre double play. OK, Suppan is a pitcher and is not used to running the bases. But this guy has been around for a long time now, and for him to turn a routine grounder to second with none out and men on second and third into a double play is inexcusable.
Now if you'd like to talk about the 3-4-5 men in the St. Louis order, and their putrid numbers, that would be OK, too. Albert Pujols, Scott Rolen, and Jim Edmonds are 5 for 33 with the only run batted in a Rolen sacrifice fly. Rolen is hitless. Edmonds has a single. When something like this happens at this point in the season, there are two allied explanations. The first is that the scouting reports are dead-on. So add to the list: the Red Sox have the advance scouts, too. The second thing is that the pitchers are capable of following and executing the scouting reports. These are the kind of details that win championships.
What a great night to be a Red Sox fan in St. Louis, Mo. Your team plays a sensational game. You actually get to hear a few scattered St. Louis boos (that alone is something you can one day relate to the grandkids). You saw Rolen called out on strikes to end the game and then begin whining to plate umpire Brian Gorman about the call. And then you got to stand around for an hour behind the Red Sox dugout, serving as a background chorus for the Boston TV types bringing home the good news to New England.
All this in a town where the closing time is 3 a.m.
It all looks too frighteningly good now. This is not the way anyone ever envisioned it could be. Remember the words of Tina Turner? "We nevah, evah do nuthin' nice 'n easy." That's always been the Red Sox way. It's never been nice 'n easy. This time it's different. The Red Sox are serving for the match, and tonight Derek Lowe is going for the ace.
Bob Ryan is a Globe columnist. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.