A wealth of young talent is a big reason the St. Louis Cardinals are in the World Series. In Game 4, though, rookie mistakes were critical.
The first came in the sixth when groundball specialist Seth Maness took over for starter Lance Lynn with two on and two outs. No grounder this time: Jonny Gomes crushed one into the Boston bullpen for a tiebreaking three-run homer.
Kolten Wong became the first player picked off to end a World Series game. And it came with Carlos Beltran, one of the greatest postseason hitters, representing the tying run at the plate.
Wong said he just wanted to get a good jump. The dejection showed after the game when he was red-eyed in the clubhouse. Wong also apologized to fans on Twitter: "All i want to say is i'm sorry #CardinalNation," he wrote. "I go out everyday playing this game as hard as I can and leaving everything on the field."
Before Game 5, the Cardinals had put the play behind them.
"Those things happen," leadoff man Matt Carpenter said. "We are human. We make mistakes. And let's not make it more than it is."
The 23-year-old Wong was a first-round pick in 2011 and could be the starting second baseman next year. His major league career isn't exactly off to a scintillating start — he hit just .153 in 59 regular-season at-bats.
Manager Mike Matheny said Wong would rebound from the mistake and added, "Yeah, it affected him because he's human and he cares."
HITLESS WONDERS: American League pitchers rarely hit, and boy has it showed in the World Series.
From 1976 to 1985, the designated hitter rule was applied to an entire World Series — switching off every other year between using it and not using it.
Starting in 1986, the DH has been used in the American League city and the pitcher hits in the NL city. It has proven to be a big disadvantage for the AL representative.
According to the website Sportingcharts.com, AL pitchers hit .096 entering this World Series, and they were 0 for 4 with three strikeouts in the first two games in St. Louis. Prior to this year's Series, NL pitchers had batted .154 since 1986 and were 0 for 2 the first two games against Boston.
In American League parks, the DH has favored the home team — especially this season. AL DHs hit .241 from 1986 through 2012, and their NL counterparts hit .217. In the first two games in Boston this year, David Ortiz was 4 for 6 with two homers and four RBIs. Allen Craig, the Cardinals' DH, was 2 for 6, but he did not score a run or have an RBI.
BIG PAPI, BIG NUMBERS: Through four games, David Ortiz was on pace for one of the best World Series ever.
Ortiz was hitting .727 (8 for 11) with two homers, a double and five RBIs. Throw in four walks and his on-base percentage is slow pitch softball-like .750.
Billy Hatcher of the Reds hit .750 with an .800 on-base percentage in the Reds' sweep of the Oakland A's in 1990, including seven straight hits. Both are all-time highs for qualifying World Series players.
Babe Ruth had the second-highest batting average, .625 in 1928, followed by Hideki Matsui's .615 for the Yankees in 2009.
IS THAT SO? Former St. Louis outfielder So Taguchi is back at Busch Stadium, this time as a member of the Japan-based NHK Television Network.
Taguchi, who played in St. Louis from 2002-07, serves as an analyst for the network.
"It's fun to be back," he said. "Always loved it here."
The 44-year-old Taguchi has been overwhelmed by the fans' reaction to his return. He said he can't walk down the street without being recognized.
"They were great to me," he said. "I appreciated them and I'm glad they still appreciate me."
Taguchi's biggest thrill with St. Louis came in Game 2 of the 2006 NLCS when he hit a tiebreaking homer off New York reliever Billy Wagner. Taguchi fondly recalls being on the field when Adam Wainwright clinched the World Series that year by striking out Detroit's Brandon Inge.
"So fun, everybody jumped on everybody on the field," he said. "It was great."
Taguchi lives in Kobe, Japan, but owns a house in St. Louis and usually stays there the month of December. He hit .279 in his eight-year major league career with 19 homers and 163 RBIs.
"This is fun," Taguchi said. "I like being around baseball."