ST. LOUIS -- If you were worried about Kolten Wong, don't be.
He showed up for work Monday, took infield, took batting practice, did his due diligence to be ready for World Series Game 5 at Busch Stadium.
To be sure, Sunday night was not one he will remember fondly. He was picked off first base to bring Game 4 to a stunning end. He might have avoided the embarrassment had he not slipped. But when Boston reliever Koji Uehara put a throw right on the bag, Wong was too far gone to recover.
Keep in mind, Wong was not the tying run on first base in the ninth inning of a one-run game, like Babe Ruth was in the ninth inning Game 7 in 1926. With his Yankees trailing 3-2 to the Cardinals and his slugging teammate Bob Meusel at the plate, Ruth attempted to steal second and was thrown out.
There was no tomorrow for the Yankees that day. The game was over; the World Series was over.
Wong was on first base with the Cardinals trailing 4-2 on Sunday. His run meant nothing unless it was followed promptly by another. What made it especially compelling was the fact Carlos Beltran was at the plate, representing that additional run.
Because Beltran has had big postseason moments in the past, anticipation ran rampant. Beltran has 16 postseason home runs. That's a lot, eighth-most in major league history. The "Sea of Red" was smacking its collective lips, hoping for No. 17.
Reputation is intoxicating in that way and, certainly, we'll never know what Beltran might have done. But this is baseball, where even the most celebrated success is relative.
Coming into the ninth inning Sunday, Beltran had 49 at-bats during this postseason. He had hit home runs in two of them, made outs in 36. Statistically, there was a 4 percent chance he was going to hit a homer, a 73.5 percent chance he was going to make an out.
But this is the World Series, perhaps the most media-blanketed one in history. Things are magnified, and emotions swell proportionately.
A 23-year-old rookie trying to earn his stripes, Wong was devastated by the game-ending miscue. The cracking voice and red eyes afterward were the obvious tell.
Later, when the interviews ceased and the crowds scattered, Wong sent a tweet out on social media, asking for forgiveness. It said, "All i want to say is i'm sorry #CardinalNation I go out everyday playing this game as hard as I can and leaving everything on the field."
Before Monday's game, Wong explained: "I did it because I just felt like it was the right thing to do."
In retrospect, Wong might have demonstrated more substance in the face of adversity than he had shown in any of the previous 38 games he's worn the Birds on the Bat. He did all the right things. He was at his locker after the debacle, despite the emotional trauma. He answered all the questions?. Wong faced the music, explained himself and took full ownership of a baseball play gone wrong.
"I just felt like that's something I'm going to have to go through, so I just did it," Wong said. "It was difficult, for sure, but its' something you have to do."
Sometimes life's darkest moments come just before the dawn. If the Sunday night pickoff was the "toughest thing" Wong ever has experienced in baseball, it also has been one of the most gratifying. From fans to family to teammates, people have risen to the occasion in his support.
"We've got a couple of guys, myself included, that have said some things to him," Matt Carpenter said. "Certainly, the message most importantly being that was not the reason we lost the game. And that's how the game ended, but certainly it was not the reason we lost.
"There were a lot of other factors in play. And just (talking to him about) understanding that's the way baseball goes sometimes. Those things happen; we are human. We make mistakes. Let's not make it more than it is. We've got to regroup and come out ready to go."
Emotionally reinforced, Wong did just that. He showed up for work Monday, bolstered by his mates, ready for another chance.
"I mean, it was tough for sure," Wong said. "But I had so much support, all the guys contacting me and everything. It made it a lot easier coming in here and being ready today.
"Everyone responded and told me, 'It's all right man. We've got two or three more games to go, and anything can happen.'"
Major league orientation has not gone as swimmingly as some might have envisioned for Wong. A No. 1 pick in the 2011 amateur draft, he has been billed as an important piece of the Cardinals' future. To that end, he had a progressive season at Class AAA Memphis, batting .303 with 10 home runs and 20 stolen bases. He suggested he was ripe for the big-league picking.
When the Cardinals hit an offensive rut in mid-August, they added Wong to the mix ahead of the September roster expansion. They were hoping the diminutive second baseman could give them a spark. But the Hawaiian native struggled to transition, hitting .153 with one extra-base hit in 59 at-bats.
He was used primarily as a pinch-hitter in the waning weeks and had trouble adapting, going 1 for 15. But on Saturday night, he demonstrated the assets that make him an exciting prospect. He entered Game 4 in a double-switch and immediately made an outstanding defensive play to help the Cardinals survive an eighth-inning calamity.
Wong then singled sharply to right field and stole a base in the bottom of the frame. When the Cardinals scored the unconventional winning run in the ninth, Wong became one of the sidebar highlights in a remarkable victory. Twenty-four hours later, he was beating himself up for his base-running blunder.
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny was understanding about Wong.
"I saw him later, he was emotional," Matheny said. "You can't forget how young these guys are, too. I don't have any problem with it. I appreciate the fact that he cares that much."
Matheny added: "There's nothing wrong with sitting on it for a while, too, and that's what he was doing (Sunday) night. I think that's healthy. You realize and you go back through your mind and you figure out what happened and what you'd like to have done differently, and then you learn from it and you move on."
"And by the time you get to the park today, you put it in the archives and you move forward. That's where Kolten is today.... He had the veterans talking to him and encouraging him and giving him their own stories of things that they learned from."
They might have even referenced the 1926 World Series and the escapades of that Ruth guy.
Seems he moved on and did some pretty decent things.
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