Perhaps it wasn't as traumatic, but the Boston Red Sox added a memorable new error to their Bill Buckner collection in losing Game 2 of the World Series to the St. Louis Cardinals, 4-2, Thursday night.
When Buckner booted a routine grounder in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, it took Red Sox Nation 18 years to get over it. Chances are, Boston won't need another 18 years to cope with reliever Craig Breslow's moment of madness in the seventh inning Thursday. But it will certainly take at least until Game 3 Saturday.
When Breslow decided to throw to third base, the game was tied 2-2 with two out in the seventh and runners on second and third. Not ideal, but hardly game over. A popup, a strikeout, a routine grounder, and they're up in the bottom of the seventh with the game tied.
But after Breslow uncorked a wild throw to third, the game swung irrevocably, as it turned out. Breslow was backing up catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia because Cardinals pinch-runner Pete Kozma had just scored on a sacrifice fly. The throw home squirted a few feet away from Saltalamacchia and Breslow saw John Jay pelting for third. And the rest is for the commemorative edition World Series videos.
Breslow's sailing throw ended up in the stands, Jay scored, and Daniel Descalso was able to advance to third. When the next batter, Carlos Beltran, singled, Descalso scored and the damage was complete.
On the surface, it might not seem the most catastrophic of errors. Boston was able to split the first two games against the Cardinals' best starting pitchers – beating Adam Wainwright Wednesday and losing to the masterful Michael Wacha Thursday. That's not so bad. The Sox batters will like their chances against the Cardinals starters in Game 3 and 4.
Yet at the time Breslow's throw sailed into the left field stands, the Red Sox still stood a good chance of putting a headlock on this series.
The cause against Wacha had seemed hopeless for much of the night. As the Detroit Tigers starting pitchers had done in the American League Championship Series, Wacha had made the Sox hitters look like they were chasing butterflies. But as in the Tigers series, the Sox found a moment for the extraordinary. To no one's surprise, it came off the bat of David Ortiz.
The script seemed written, perhaps because it has become so familiar. With one swing, Ortiz did what David Ortiz does ... make postseason history. The ball ended up in the first row of Monster seats, and Dustin Pedroia came around to score in front of him after drawing a one-out walk, giving the Sox a 2-1 lead.
Suddenly, the prospect was real and tantalizing: The Sox could win Games 1 and 2 against the Cardinals' two aces. Sure, the series still hasn't shifted to St. Louis, but a loss by Wacha – who came into the game with a 3-0 postseason record and a 0.43 earned run average – would have been a hammer blow to the Cardinals' chances.
With only three innings left, the Red Sox had their Big 3 relievers in reserve. When Breslow, Junichi Tazawa, and Koji Uehara entered a game, it was supposed to be over – they have been the Sox late-inning padlock.
Instead, Breslow sprung the lock, and Red Sox will lament a huge opportunity missed. How huge remains to be seen.