Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis will be offering his analysis throughout the World Series. Ellis, 32, recently completed his second full season as a starter for the Dodgers by batting .333 in a National League division series against the Atlanta Braves and .316 in the NL Championship Series against the St. Louis Cardinals. Ellis is familiar with the Boston Red Sox, a team the Dodgers faced during the regular season.
The final play of the game came in an inning that will be analyzed and second-guessed for what Red Sox Manager John Farrell should have done.
Farrell allowed relief pitcher Brandon Workman to take his first major league at-bat in the top of the ninth, leaving slugger Mike Napoli in the dugout with bat in hand and unused in Game 3. In the bottom of the ninth, he removed Workman after the second batter he faced and subbed in closer Koji Uehara.
Uehara gave up the double to Allen Craig to put runners at second and third. Farrell then chose to not walk Jon Jay and load the bases for the struggling Pete Kozma. Jay hit a bullet to second, and Dustin Pedroia made a momentarily game-saving dive and throw home. Jarrod Saltalamacchia's errant throw to third then allowed Craig to score, but not without serious controversy.
Player(s) of the game
In a game full of big hits and great defensive plays, Craig's pinch-hit double put the winning run in scoring position and set the stage. He then scrambled home to score the game-winning run after Saltalamacchia's throwing error in the ninth. Teammate Yadier Molina had three hits, none bigger than the one-out single in the ninth.
"The ball will find you" is an old adage shared by ballplayers. Matt Carpenter, the first batter to step to the plate in the seventh inning, hit a do-or-die play to new shortstop Xander Bogaerts, who was forced to make an off-balance throw that ended off target and sparked the rally. The next Craig Breslow pitch barely scraped the elbow guard of Carlos Beltran and set the stage for Holliday.
Holliday advanced to third with no one out on the throw home on his two-run scoring double. Junichi Tazawa buckled down and struck out Matt Adams and Molina on his way to leaving a big Cardinal insurance run stranded at third.
Joe Kelly's changeup was a difference-maker tonight. He used it to pitch out of jams and get huge strike outs of Daniel Nava with two on in the fourth and Stephen Drew with first and third and no one out in the fifth to limit the damage.
Shane Victorino has struggled offensively in this Series, but it was his grinding leadoff walk in the fifth that started the rally that tied the game. The Red Sox will need the former Dodger (and Dodgers nemesis) to find his way on base more frequently to set the table for Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz.
The left side of the Boston infield was reset heading into the seventh inning. It will be analyzed and second-guessed as both Bogaerts and Will Middlebrooks were challenged with tough plays.
Jake Peavy battled and competed through four pressure-packed innings. He withstood a first inning ambush with four of the first five Cardinals getting hits, netting the Cardinals two runs. He remained in the game and overcame a bases-loaded, nobody-out mess in the bottom of the fourth. He made big pitches to strike out Pete Kozma, and popped up Kelly and Carpenter in the infield.
Peavy kept the Red Sox in the game and gave them a chance to score runs in the fifth and sixth to get back in it.
After blowing away Holliday with an up-and-in fastball (exactly where you have to pitch him), Tazawa switched gears and threw a splitter to the low-ball hitter. The ball was rifled down the line for a two-run RBI double and was Holliday's third RBI of the game. Holliday is now five for 13 in the series and looks locked in.
Bogaerts had two of the biggest hits of the day for Boston. His leadoff triple in the fifth helped the Red Sox get on the board. Then, with two outs in the eighth, he chopped a game-tying single up the middle.
Game 4 preview
Peavy's ability to get out of multiple jams in the early innings saved Boston's bullpen, which could prove invaluable with a questionable Clay Buchholz scheduled to start Game 4 for the Red Sox. After starting the season as hot as any pitcher in the American League, Buchholz has battled injuries the second half of the season. His early-game effectiveness will be scrutinized heavily by the Red Sox coaching staff.
The Red Sox will get a similar arm to face in Game 4. Similarly to Kelly, Lance Lynn relies on a power fastball and sprinkles in his off-speed, hoping to keep hitters off balance. When he gets off to a solid start he can roll through innings, but he has a tendency to allow the damage in innings to escalate.
About the Dodgers
Last August, two teams that reached their respective leagues' championship series completely overhauled their rosters and futures with a single trade. The Dodgers, still chasing after a possible postseason berth, acquired a package of All-Stars highlighted by Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett. The Dodgers took on hundreds of millions of dollars in player salary, but with that move showed renewed commitment to immediately putting a championship team in Chavez Ravine.
The Red Sox were headed nowhere and were looking for a complete restart to their organizational makeup. They shed the players and salary in return for James Loney and a package of prospects, but it was financial freedom they were really after. Boston used the saved money to bring in a core of veterans like Mike Napoli, Jonny Gomes, Shane Victorino, Drew and David Ross to change their culture. As they were one of the last two teams in baseball standing, I'd say their plan worked.
The Dodgers' plan worked too. Buzz and anticipation surrounded the club as we arrived in Arizona for spring training. After just falling short of our goal in 2012, we entered camp with a weight of expectation. Manager Don Mattingly addressed the target we had on our backs from Day One. We weren't going to ignore the expectations and predictions, we were going to embrace them.
It took time for the team to gel, and more important, to get healthy, but when we did, the midseason turnaround and dominance we played with was as much fun as I've ever had playing baseball. It was our main acquisition of the Boston trade, Adrian Gonzalez, who carried our lineup all season long. His quality at-bats, ability to hit all types of pitchers and willingness to hit to the situation were all reasons he was our most consistent and valuable position player over the balance of the season. Yet there was another, less-heralded player who came West with Gonzalez, Crawford and Beckett who made an unseen and unmatched contribution to the Dodgers' 2013 NLCS run. His play was a big reason that inside our clubhouse last season's blockbuster trade was affectionately dubbed "The Nick Punto Trade."
If I were asked to sum up Nick Punto in a word, it would be "winner." His ability to play above-average defense at three infield positions, his knack for equally timely bunt or extra-base hits, his all-out effort as he sprints down the line on every ball he puts in play (not to mention the sometimes hilarious and poorly timed headfirst dives into first base) and his baseball instincts are all attributes that have helped his team stay on the win side of the ledger more times than not. And those skills pale in comparison to what Nick brings to a baseball clubhouse. It is part comic relief, part mentoring young players, part keeping superstars humble and part pure professionalism that, mixed together, form that unquantifiable "chemistry."
It is guys like our Nick Punto, the Red Sox's David Ross and Jonny Gomes and Cardinal pitchers Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright who are still able to impact baseball games without swinging a bat or throwing a pitch.