ST. LOUIS—Carlos Beltran had to leave the first World Series game of his long career after crashing into an outfield wall while pulling back a grand slam.
He could have guessed then that the 109th World Series would become a theater of the bizarre.
“This game, sometimes, it goes the way that you don’t understand,” Beltran said in the St. Louis Cardinals’ locker room after Game 3. “Right now, it seems like we have made some mistakes, and they have made some mistakes. They have been able to take advantage of those, and sometimes we have been able to take advantage of their mistakes.
“To this point I haven’t seen us playing real, real solid baseball, or them playing real, real solid baseball.”
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As the Cardinals and the Boston Red Sox prepared for Game 5 on Monday, not much else had been clear. The teams finished the regular season with identical 97-65 records, and both finished their league championship series in six games. They split the first four games of the World Series, making this only the second in the last 10 to be even through Game 4. But it has not exactly been crisp.
The Cardinals made three errors, and at least two more misplays, in losing Game 1. In each of the next two games, the Red Sox allowed the go-ahead run to score on a wild throw from the home-plate area to third base. The second of those, Game 3, was the first World Series game to end with an obstruction call.
Then came Sunday, when the Red Sox won the first World Series game ever to end with a pickoff.
“There’s been plenty of oddities that have happened, kept the umpires on their toes — keeping everybody on their toes,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said.
The games have been riveting, to be sure. The second and fourth included lead changes — something that never happened when these teams met in 2004 — and in Game 3, the Red Sox tied the score twice before losing.
But clean baseball has been harder to find. Last year, when the San Francisco Giants swept the Detroit Tigers, the teams combined for just two errors and no unearned runs. This World Series, while far more interesting, included 11 errors through five games, leading to seven team unearned runs.
The obstruction call that ended Game 3, when Allen Craig tumbled over the legs of third baseman Will Middlebrooks as he tried to score the winning run, stupefied one 79-year-old observer.
“Just when you think you’ve seen everything, which I like to convince myself that I have — and everything on and off the field — no, I never saw this before,” baseball commissioner Bud Selig said.
Selig spoke on Sunday before Game 4, which would add Kolten Wong’s name to a long list of World Series goats. Wong, pinch-running for Craig in the bottom of the ninth with two outs, Beltran batting and the Cardinals trailing by two, was victimized by Boston closer Koji Uehara.
First baseman Mike Napoli was positioned near the line holding Wong at first, but did not know a pickoff throw was coming.
Uehara stepped off the rubber with his back foot and whipped a throw to Napoli as Wong tried to stop his shift toward second. Uehara’s throw was true, and Napoli knelt to catch it, tagging Wong as he tried to dive back to the bag.
“This is what the postseason is all about,” the Cardinals’ Matt Carpenter said. “Baseball is a game that something you’ve never seen before can happen every day.”