The Boston Red Sox downed the St. Louis Cardinals 3-1 Monday night. Starting pitchers Jon Lester and Adam Wainwright each dominated, combining for 17 strikeouts, 1 walk, and 24 swings and misses. The game took just three hours.
Red Sox catcher David Ross was essential to the victory. The 36 year-old veteran produced two hits, including the go-ahead double off Wainwright in the top of the 7th inning.
The double was the biggest play of the game, increasing the Sox’ historical chances of winning from 55 to 80 percent. It came on a 1-2 curveball from Wainwright, the first curve Ross had seen that night. The pitch might have had a little too much of the plate, but it wasn’t a hanger by any means.
Not surprisingly, batters don’t fare too well against Wainwright’s curve. Since 2008, it’s been the best curveball in baseball. With two strikes hitters do even worse. Of the more than 2000 two-strike curveballs he’s thrown in that time frame, hitters whiffed at more than 20 percent of them.
This year, Ross whiffed on more than half of his swings at breaking pitches. Going back to 2008, Ross had only four extra-base hits against two-strike curveballs, with 24 strikeouts.
It would have been a good time to lift Wainwright. Before facing Ross, he was at 98 pitches. The hard-throwing Carlos Martinez or Kevin Siegrist would have been good choices. Since 2008, Ross has seen 101 fastballs of at least 96 miles per hour, and has recorded just one hit.
Still, even with a tired Wainwright, the matchup was a favorable one for the Cardinals. Unfortunately, baseball doesn’t lend itself that easily to predictability, and Ross came through with a big hit.
Besides his big hit, Ross’ made a big impact on the game behind the plate. As usual, Ross nabbed a couple extra strikes for his pitcher. Look at this strikezone map. You’ll see that Ross didn’t cost Lester any strikes, and stole a few to boot.
Ross has become Lester’s personal catcher. It’s hard to parse out how much credit should go to Ross and how much should go to Lester. Lester has thrown 34.2 innings this postseason, all to Ross, and he’s surrendered just six runs, with 29 strikeouts against eight walks.
The Guys with Beards are one game away from a World Series Championship. Their 36-year old backup catcher is a big reason why.