The Red Sox in Games Four and Five won two similar ( but not identical) games, 4-2 in Game Four and 3-1 in Game Five. Both games featured outstanding pitching by the Red Sox starters. The difference was in Game Four it took THREE of the Red Sox starters, plus three relievers to seal the deal. In Game Five Jon Lester blew down the Cards for 7 2/3 innings allowing only one run on a Matt Holliday home run ( the only run Jon Lester has ever allowed in three World Series starts) before handing the ball to Koji Uehara for the last four outs.
Each game also featured an offensive outburst to break a 1-1 tie. Jonny Gomes slugged a three run home run in the sixth inning in Game Four ( following a two out nobody on single by Dustin Pedroia and a walk to David Ortiz). In Game Five, the Sox scored two in the seventh on a Xander Bogaerts single, a tough walk drawn by Stephen Drew ( the only walk of the game allowed by Cards ace Adam Wainwright), then an eventual game winning ground rule double by David Ross, and with two outs Jacoby Ellsbury singled home Drew.
A few observations from the two wins in St. Louis.
* Clay Buchholz gave the Red Sox just enough to get down the road to victory. As the press box and the twitterverse burned up with scathing commentary about Buch's lack of velocity, the pundits neglected the fact he was hitting all the spots he needed to and was keeping the Cards largely off the board. After John Farrell elected to bat for Clay in the fifth, he was followed to the mound by another Sox starter, Felix Doubront, who had done the exact same thing the night before after Jake Peavy. Felix was dominant for 2 2/3 innings, and held down the Cards long enough for the Gomes blast to put Boston ahead( and made Doubront the winning pitcher.) After another discouraging short outing by Craig Breslow ( facing two batters who both reached) Junichi Tazawa came on to get Matt Holliday to end the seventh and the threat. John Lackey, Sox "starter" #3 pitched a shutout 8th inning.
* In both Games Four and Five Koji Uehara continued his mastery of big league hitters. Koji pitched in all three games in St. Louis but he is so economical with his pitches, he is not truly overworked. I read a comparison today with Koji's 2013 postseason vs. Keith Foulke's tremendous 2004. Foulke threw 14 1/ 3innings but hurled 256 pitches. So far this year in 12 2/3 innings, Uehara has thrown 156 pitches...exactly 100 fewer than Foulke.
* Stephen Drew continues to struggle at the plate ( although the rally helping walk and a near miss of a two run home run in Game Five may finally show some light at the end of the tunnel), he has not taken his woes into the field and has been superb at shortstop. His leaping spear of a liner in Game Five was just one recent example. He will be at shortstop for the rest of this World Series.
* The Red Sox pitchers were as a group all ready having a strong post season, but having David Ross behind the dish makes them even more invincible. It was a joy to see Ross on the post game podium last night as he relished openly the fact he was there in his first World Series.
* David Ortiz so far in this World Series due to strong St. Louis pitching and managerial wisdom has been held to only a .733 batting average. He is locked in and hitting everything( including the couple of outs he has made) on the screws. If Mike Matheny continues to have his hurlers pitch to Ortiz, he will keep leading the Red Sox to victory.
* Incredibly enough with Papi hitting over .700 he is not the only possible World Series MVP candidate for Boston. He is the favorite likely, but one could make a damned good case for Jon Lester as WS MVP. Two key starts: Games One and the pivotal Game Five, both 7 2/ 3 innings, one run allowed in total and he won both games. And all of Red Sox Nation hopes the Sox can win it all in six, but if it goes to Game Seven, do not be surprised if Jon Lester ends up on the mound at some point in that game as well.
Now a few random thoughts as we approach Game Six.
* Being back at Fenway Park means so much for this team in so many ways. Just to rattle off a few: the return of the DH and Mike Napoli to the middle of the Sox order. The raucous support this gritty team will feed off from the Fenway Faithful, wanting to see the Red Sox win the World Series at Fenway Park for the first time since 1918. The Red Sox who had the best home record in the AL, except for one pesky series in September with those damned Orioles, have not lost back to back games at Fenway since mid-May. And if nothing else, Boston will have last ups. There is nothing more heart stopping than having to play a late inning or extra inning game on the road in this time of year.
* Despite the fact St. Louis sends rookie phenom, Michael Wacha and his post season ERA of 1.00 to the hill, I like the pitching matchup for the Sox. Veteran John Lackey will go to post for Boston, and he brings a number of positives with him. First, Lackey is a veteran and even though Wacha has been awesome, he has never pitched a game meaning so much for his team. Lackey has. In the 2002 World Series Lackey was the starting and winning pitcher in Game Seven. Lackey also has an outstanding record at Fenway this year. He is 6-3 with an ERA of 2.47 and has allowed only 6 home runs in 91 innings. ( Lackey on the road in '13: 4-10, 4.48 ERA and allowed 18 HRs in 98 IP). And the fact Lackey pitched an inning in Game Four could also help, it allowed him to keep in the flow of the series.
* The Boston bullpen is fairly rested. As mentioned before, Koji has appeared in each game in St. Louis, but didn't throw many pitches. Brandon Workman will have had three days off by Wed. night. Neither Tazawa or Breslow have been overused ( although it is problematic if Breslow gets into another game, which is stunning considering how great he was in the ALDS and ALCS.) Clay Buchholz has also declared he would be ready to help out in the pen for Games Six or Seven. If Lackey can get through six or more innings, John Farrell will have some options. Felix Doubront also is likely available. ( although will he be held back, if possible, for a- if necessary-Game Seven start??)
* My pre Series pick for MVP, Xander Bogaerts has been overshadowed by Papi and Lester, but he is tied for second on the team with Pedroia with 5 hits. Do not be surprised if Xander is once again in the middle of an important rally. Maybe, even popping his first World Series home run into the Monster seats?!
* My other prediction for this series was the Sox in Six. So here we sit with the opportunity to hit that pick right on the money. And I will not waver from it. I feel the Red Sox will win the World Series in Game Six. It may not be easy, St. Louis is a worthy opponent and a strong team. But this is the moment this tough, never say die team has waited for since February. They believed in themselves when all of the rest of the world did not. I know that has become a popular cliche for sports teams from high school on up, but this time it is true.
* One last prediction within a prediction. This team has had a bushel of walk off wins this year, and I have had a nagging feeling ever since the middle of the ALCS, this team would win a championship with a walk off win. It was not needed in the ALCS, and even though I am not sure my central nervous system can take it, I think Game Six will end in a walk off fashion ( maybe even with a home run!).
One more time! Go Sox