FINDING A WAY: It’s evident Clay Buchholz is missing his best stuff. Not a surprise. The velocity on his fastball is down about 3-4 mph from his average heater this season.
But he’s thrown a couple of pretty good breaking balls _ and what he does have tonight is an effective two-seam fastball. It’s sinking well and running away from left-handed hitters. If he can harness his two-seamer and work off that, maybe Buchholz can induce a steady stream of grounders keep the Cardinals at bay for a while.
Interesting challenge for him _ finding a way to hang in there without his regular weapons. This is not a guy who has a reputation for mental toughness.
After he opened 9-0 with a 1.71 ERA this season, Buchholz was selected to the AL All-Star team. But he missed the next three months with a strained neck, longer than expected. That led to his toughness being questioned, and Buchholz was aware of the criticism.
When he came back in September, Buchholz went 3-1 in four solid starts. He finished the regular season 12-1 with a 1.74 ERA but was a mixed bag in three AL playoff starts.
GOOD SIGN? Pretty encouraging start for Buchholz and the Red Sox. The two-time All-Star was pushed back to Game 4 in this Series because of weakness in his pitching shoulder, and no one seemed too sure what Boston would get from Buchholz.
His fastball was in the upper 80s (mph) in the first inning, and he bounced a wild breaking ball well wide of the plate. But he was able to throw strikes and get far enough inside on Matt Holliday to induce an inning-ending grounder to third.
Perhaps most important, Buchholz looked fairly calm out there.
What a crazy finish that was last night, though. Tough to swallow for the Red Sox and their fans. But it seems as though, after some rule-book explanations from the experts, most people are realizing the correct call was made.
St. Louis leads 2-1 in the best-of-seven Series.
SHANE SCRATCHED: Boston made a late lineup switch, pulling right fielder Shane Victorino and putting in Jonny Gomes.
The Red Sox say Victorino has stiffness in his lower back. The change came about 75 minutes before the first pitch.
Daniel Nava shifted from left field to right and moved into Victorino’s No. 2 spot in the batting order. Gomes will hit fifth and play left.
Victorino and Gomes were both hitless in the Series at a combined 0 for 18.
CRAIG READY: The Cardinals say Allen Craig will be ready if needed.
Craig re-injured his sprained left foot on a wild trip around the bases Saturday night, sliding into third base and home while scoring the winning on the obstruction call against Boston third baseman Will Middlebrooks in the ninth inning.
The first baseman and cleanup hitter had been out since Sept. 4 before returning for the World Series. Craig was the DH in Boston, and got a pinch-hit double in Game 3.
Manager Mike Matheny said X-rays showed no additional injury.
St. Louis had one lineup wrinkle for Game 4, with Daniel Descalso starting at shortstop in place of Pete Kozma. Descalso has plenty of starting experience in the middle infield.
HALF THE DISTANCE: For the ceremonial first pitch, Hall of Famer Bob Gibson threw to Tim McCarver, who is in his final season as a broadcaster with Fox.
The pair also made up the battery for the Cardinals‘ 7-2 victory in Game 7 of the 1967 World Series at Fenway Park. However, Gibson’s toss Sunday night was only from about 30 feet.