Originally posted on NESN.com  |  Last updated 10/29/13
The Red Sox have played 177 games combined between the regular season and the postseason, and they’ve won 107. The next win is the most important. Boston sits just one victory shy of an improbable World Series title. Before the season, the Red Sox appeared to be entering a bridge year — although most Sox fans hate that phrase — and any World Series aspirations seemed like the product of over-the-top optimism. The Red Sox have battled their way to the brink of a championship, though, and it’s been a wild ride, to say the least. The World Series now shifts back to Boston for Game 6 and Game 7 (if necessary). John Lackey will take the mound in Game 6 on Wednesday. He’ll be looking to not only give the Red Sox a World Series title, but also give a positive ending to a remarkable season. In many ways, Lackey’s renaissance is a microcosm of this entire team’s ability to bounce back after the 2011 collapse and the train wreck that was 2012. Sealing the deal isn’t going to be easy, though. The Red Sox will face Michael Wacha in Game 6, and the rookie has been arguably the best pitcher in baseball this October. We should be in store for another nail-biter. As we sit here on the eve of Game 6, let’s tie up some loose ends following another exiting contest in Game 5. The Cardinals won a small battle in Game 5. They actually retired David Ortiz. But only once. Ortiz still finished 3-for-4 while driving in Boston’s first run with an RBI double in the first inning. He’s now hitting .733 (11-for-15) in the series with two home runs, six RBIs, five runs and four walks. Ortiz’s 11 hits this World Series are two shy of the record for a single World Series — held by Bobby Richardson (1964 Yankees), Lou Brock (1968 Cardinals) and Marty Barrett (1986 Red Sox). Ortiz reached base in nine straight plate appearances before lining out to center field in the sixth inning of Game 5. He joined Joe Gordon (1939/1941 Yankees) and Billy Hatcher (1990 Reds) as the only players in MLB history to reach base in nine straight World Series plate appearances. This all begs the question: Is Ortiz the World Series MVP regardless of whether the Red Sox win or lose the series? Neither manager has given the idea much thought. “He’s having a great series,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “The one thing we won’t do is get too far ahead of ourselves, whether that’s what we achieve collectively or what any individual’s performance suggests. But he’s in a really good place, obviously.” “That’s not even a conversation we’re even thinking about,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. “We’ve got games to play. And we’ve got two games we could still win here. So that kind of stuff isn’t even on our radar.” Ortiz is now a career .465 hitter (20-for-43) with a .556 on-base percentage, three home runs and 14 RBIs in 13 World Series games. Ortiz’s career 1.370 OPS in the Fall Classic is the highest in MLB history among players with at-least 40 World Series at-bats. He leads Babe Ruth (1.214), Lou Gehrig (1.214) and Reggie Jackson (1.212). “David’s just ‑‑ he’s just ‑‑ he’s David Ortiz. That says enough,” catcher David Ross said. “The guy is a postseason stud and a stud in general.  Like I said in my interview the other day, that’s why we call him ‘Cooperstown,’ because he does Hall of Fame stuff.” Jon Lester is also showing Babe Ruth the door. Lester, who was once again sensational for 7 2/3 innings, became the second left-hander in Red Sox history with three World Series wins. Ruth is the only other southpaw to accomplish the feat. Lester has allowed one run or fewer in his first three World Series starts. He’s only the fifth player in MLB history to start his World Series career in such a manner. Only Christy Mathewson (1905-1911) had more consecutive World Series starts with one run or fewer to begin his career (four). Lester now owns a 0.43 ERA (one earned run in 21 innings) in three career World Series starts. His career postseason ERA sits at 2.11 in 13 games (11 starts). “If I could say one good thing about him, he doesn’t take any pitches off,” Ross said. “He puts the same emphasis on the first pitch he throws as the last pitch he throws, and that’s what makes a really good pitcher.” Ross delivered what turned out to be the game-winning hit in the seventh inning of Game 5. He ripped an RBI double down the left field line. Ross, known more for his leadership and handling of a pitching staff, was a rather unlikely offensive hero. The 36-year-old hit just .216 (22-for-102) during the regular season. “No, I don’t put my pressure on myself. I’m in the World Series. I’m going out there laying it on the line,” Ross said after Game 5. “There’s no pressure. It’s go out there and do the best you can. “There’s a reason why we hit at the bottom of the order,” Ross joked. “There’s a reason why I hit in the eight-hole and the nine-hole in the American League. I’m not very good at hitting — as opposed to the guys who hit up top.” The only other time that a catcher provided the Red Sox with a game-winning hit in the seventh inning or later of a World Series game? Carlton Fisk’s game-winning home run in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series. Koji Uehara recorded the final four outs of Game 5 after Lester exited in the eighth inning. Uehara’s seven saves this postseason tie a record for a single postseason. John Wetteland (1996 Yankees), Troy Percival (2002 Angels), Robb Nen (2002 Giants) and Brad Lidge (2008 Phillies) are the other four closers to accomplish the feat. “As we’ve said, every time he walks to the mound, it’s one of the most calm innings that we’ll watch, regardless of the stage, regardless of the importance of the game,” Farrell said of Uehara. “He gets a quick strikeout of [Matt] Adams [in the eighth inning], which kind of helps conserve the number of pitches he’s got to throw overall.  And on the third consecutive day, we felt like four outs was probably the max for him. Still, he’s been outstanding.” The Cardinals will now try to do something that no team has done since the 1979 Pirates: Win Game 6 and Game 7 of the World Series on the road. “Our guys have been backed up against the wall before, and this is something that isn’t foreign to them,” Matheny said. “They know what we have to do. We just play our game. If we go about it the right way, we’ll be right where we want to be.” The Red Sox, meanwhile, are trying to clinch a World Series at home for the first time since 1918. “That’s the house of pain,” Ortiz said of Fenway Park. “Our fans, they’re always behind us. I talked to a couple of friends that I have on the other team that they never played at Fenway. And we were talking when we came back to St. Louis, and they were saying, ‘Man, playing at Fenway, you feel like everybody’s on top of you.’ It’s something that our fans deserve — us coming back to the house and trying to win one more game and get to be champions again.” Have a question for Ricky Doyle? Send it to him via Twitter at @TheRickyDoyle or send it here. Click here for Boston.com’s World Series coverage>> Filed under: Boston Red Sox, Ricky Doyle, St. Louis Cardinals, Top Stories, World Series
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