Aces Face-Off: Game Five Preview


“Even-Steven” spake Big Papi, but, entering tonight’s Fifth Game, it feels like more of a “must win” for the Cardinals, whose best case scenario is heading to Boston’s Pinball Palace, with two chances to win one game.  Or, St. Louis could need to win both games in Fenway—and the Monster will seem twice as ominous.

You can sense the teetering momentum is leaning East in this brave comment from the Cards’ David “Deep” Freese:

“But we’re still in a good position. That’s the way I look at it. I understand that we’re 2-2 in the World Series, so you come to the yard happy.”

The use of the words “But” and “still” subtly suggests a subtext of ‘although the momentum has now shifted to the other guys…’

Tonight’s Fifth Game will reprise the Game One starters, Lester and Wainwright, each team’s staff Ace (7:30 p.m. ET airtime on FOX, 8:07 p.m. first pitch) and we highly recommend turning the volume off on the Fox TV blabbers and tuning in to the ESPN radio team of Dan Shulman and Orel Hershiser;

"Shulman pays attention to the game and Hershiser is a savant of the game."

In the Boston game of Defense Musical Chairs, expect Ross, who started only 33 games during the regular season, behind the dish, as has been Jon Lester’s personal catcher in the playoffs.

Since Victorino has shelved his Switch-Hitting Experiment and is a dedicated RHB, he would be Farrell’s RF starter; unless his back stiffness lingers, then, enter last night’s last-minute replacement, Jony Gomes.

In tonight’s version of his other Defense game, “Ma-Napoli,” Farrell will likely go against “The Book” and start LHB, Big Papi, his best WS hitter, against RHP Wainwright; Napoli will again lurk, menacingly,  in the tunnel with his bat, like a shadowy character in an Italian opera.

"Farrell has a solid reason for starting a LHB vs. a RHP:"

Big Papi is hitting .727/.750/1.364 with 8 hits in 12 World Series at-bats with four walks.  And, recall he was denied a Grand Slam in Game One by a heroic effort by Carlos Beltran.

"LISTEN:  Whenever possible, Manager Matheny will issue Ortiz a Free Pass to take the bat out of his hands and set up a double play."

Will Middlebrooks be on Third?  Will Farrell insert rookie phenom “X-Man” Bogaerts in lieu of Will and leave “Auto-Out” Drew at SS?

There is no question that Wainwright will start and try to get his wain righted; it was out-of-synch mechanics that sent his cart into the ditch in the Series opener.

“I threw maybe four or five quality pitches the whole time…Lucky to come away with just a few runs. It could have been 10 instead of five.” [Wainwright]

During the regular season he was one MLB’s best pitchers, tying for the NL lead with 19 victories. He led the majors with 241 2/3 innings, and was third in the NL in strikeouts.

But, in Game One, Wainwright could not get in front of his cart:

“Everything I threw tonight was pretty garbage…” [Wainwright]

Lester, the Lone Lefty starter in this WS, would appear to have a statistical advantage:

"The Cards were third in MLB in overall OPS at .755, but, against LHPs, they ranked 26th (.672)."

Manager Farrell likes his chances with Lester who; in two World Series starts, has yet to allow a run; he pitched 7 2/3 shutout innings against St. Louis in Game One.

“His physical strength and endurance is unique…I think the one thing we all recognize is that power stuff wins in the postseason. He’s got it. He maintains it. And in addition to his physical strengths, there’s a degree of concentration that he’s capable of maintaining that gives him the ability to execute consistently.”

Cards’ starter Wainwright, who coughed up 5 runs (3 earned) in 5 innings, seeking to redeem his Game One loss, exudes confidence:

“I honestly don’t know why my mechanics were as bad as they were, why my delivery was off as much as it was…But I feel like I’ve put in a lot of good reps in front of the mirror and watching film and feeling my delivery, learning the basics all over again. I feel like I’ve made a lot of good adjustments to be ready to throw some quality pitches the next time. I threw maybe four or five quality pitches the whole time I was pitching [in Game 1].”

With historic endings in two games so far, pundits are reticent to venture specific predictions, but here are two stats:

"The Cardinals haven’t lost two in a row at home since they were beaten by the Cubs Aug. 9 and 10.Low-scoring game?  The Cards are batting just .235; the Red Sox are even worse at .189."

Maybe a record with innings played?

On May 8, 1984, the Brewers -White Sox game went 25 innings.  [8 hours, 6 minutes.]

Maybe a record time?

The Longest Game for 9 Innings was the New York 14, Red Sox, 11 on August 18, 2006.

The only two certainties about Game Five: the Series won’t be “Even-Steven” and there will be more “must win” games.