BOSTON -- People of St. Louis, I have sent you the package from Boston. It is scheduled to arrive at your place at about eight o'clock Saturday night. Open it and enjoy. I think this is what you wanted.
I have sent you a real World Series.
"The teams are tied, one game apiece," I say, the St. Louis Cardinals back in the hunt with a 4-2 win over the Boston Red Sox on Thursday night at Fenway Park. "This will be fun. You can take out all the characters, spread them around like so many Legos mini-figures on the diamond at? -- What's the name of the new place? Busch Stadium? Wasn't that the name of the old place, too? -- and watch the pathos, the bathos, the hijinx, whatever comes next. We have a plot now. We have some actual drama set to unfold."
I had been worried -- and I know you had been worried, too -- that none of this would happen. Those bearded Bolsheviks from Boston had looked for a good while as if they were going to cruise off into the horizon.
After their 8-1 win over a nervous-looking bunch of Cardinals on Wednesday night, the Bolsheviks had won nine straight World Series games. That was a tie with the Cincinnati Reds (1975-1990) for the fourth longest win streak in Series history. After two straight Series sweeps in 2004 and 2007, this looked like a third.
As late as the seventh inning on Thursday night, a sweep seemed like a solid possibility, a good bet. The Bolshiveks were ahead 2-1 on yet another David Ortiz home run in the sixth and the denizens of Fenway were in your basic V-J Day mode, singing along with the music and dirty dancing for the fan-cam.
"Poor St. Louis," I was thinking. "The team is going to be down, 2-0 and the botanical gardens and the zoo are going to be more interesting this weekend than anything taking place at any Busch Stadium baseball field."
Then bing and bang and oops.
That's the way things happen in baseball, isn't it? A base hit, a walk, a couple of stolen bases set the scene. A crazy play, featuring a sacrifice fly followed by two errors, sent two runners across the plate. The Cardinals had the lead 3-2, then tacked on another run for insurance. Bing and bang and oops. The Series was what you wanted it to be. Easy as that.
"You were cheering when Craig Breslow, the Bolshevik pitcher, the Yale graduate (!!!) threw that ball over the shortstop's head and into the stands behind third base. I know you were. I could hear it from here."
I was cheering, too.
The Series now has evolved into the give and take between the two best teams in the game, each with 97 regular-seasons wins, the even contest everyone hoped it would be. The pressure of the moment that unnerved the Cardinals on Wednesday unnerved the Red Sox on Thursday. The good pitching of the Cardinals stymied the Red Sox on Thursday the same way the good pitching of the Red Sox stymied the Cardinals on Wednesday. Tit has been dutifully followed by tat. The matchups that seemed valid at the beginning of the Series are valid again now.
"We're looking forward to the challenge of going into what should be a great environment over there in St. Louis," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "We're looking forward to taking them on in Game 3 and continue to pace our way from the mound. I thought with the exception of one inning -- I know its only two games -- we continued to throw the ball well from the mound. I fully expect that to continue."
"I believe [baseball] is a momentum sport," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "I don't think there are statistics to back [that idea] but I do know that when we're able to turn it around like we did tonight what it's like inside our clubhouse and our dugout. These guys feed off each other. … You saw aggressiveness offensively today. You saw guys taking charge. It was not a tentative team, which we haven't been all year."
I have put both mangers, Farrell and Matheny, in the package. I put their optimism in there, too. They both seem like solid, stolid, determined men, sort of Dudley Do-Rights with strong chins. I packed in Farrell's philosophy, which is the Red Sox philosophy of grinding out at-bats, swinging at nothing off the plate. Youthful Cardinals starter Michael Wacha, a victim of the philosophy when he surrendered his home run to Ortiz on his 103rd pitch, a curve ball that hung over the plate, said he never had thrown so many pitches to so few people. I also put in Matheny's accompanying philosophy of grinding, much the same, but with more merit points for aggressiveness with no strikes or one strike.
I have put Ortiz, of course, in the package. He is on an incredible streak of big-time playoff hitting. He has homered in both Series games, has homered four times in the playoffs. No hitter has come close to matching him. Both managers have to worry about what to do with him next. Will he move off his designated hitter spot on the bench and play first base in St. Louis under National League rules? He will in the first game, according to Farrell. Will Matheny, forced to pitch to him in late innings, bring in a left-hander? He didn't Thursday night, sticking with 22-year-old Carlos Martinez, who surrendered a single. Will Matheny do that again?
I have put Cardinals right fielder Carlos Beltran in the package, of course, bad ribs and all. He played with an injection to mask the pain Thursday. He delivered an RBI single. How effective will he be? Presumably a day of rest will help. I have put that St. Louis bullpen, those young, flame-throwing kids, in the package. How good did they look? I have put the Red Sox bullpen anchored by Koji Uehara, in the package. These guys have been good all year. Will both of these bullpens mean that runs should be scored early if they are going to be scored at all? Is that going to be the Series rule, evoking short-game memories of Mariano Rivera?
I have put Jake Peavy, shaky starter for the Red Sox, in the package. I also have put in Joe Kelly, shaky starter for the Cardinals. That is the match-up for Game 3. I have put Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury and Mike Napoli and the rest of the Bolshiveks in the package. I have put in Matt Carpenter and Matt Holliday and Yadier Molina and the rest of the Cardinals. I have put in a certain number of base hits, some of them very big. I have sprinkled in a few errors, some of them also very big. I have added a number of hanging curve balls, some bad-hop singles, maybe a good fan interference situation. I definitely have added the umpiring crew of John Hirschbeck, a possibility to be included in any story.
I have put in the requisite number of laughs. I have put in the requisite number of moans. I have tied a bow on top. The postage has been paid.
"Here you go," I say. "This is the Word Series you wanted. Enjoy it for the next three games. Then send it back here to 4 Yawkey Way, Boston, Ma. 02215."
For the finish.