This weird and wonderful World Series is heading back to Boston. That much we know. We have no idea which team will carry a 3-2 series lead into Fenway Park on Wednesday. Heck, we barely know how we got here. It has been the kind of series that begs you to stop and take a breath. The operative question heading into tonight’s pivotal Game 5 isn’t where are we going? It’s how did we get here?
After Game 3 ended with a walk-off obstruction call, you may have been compelled to come up with a list of potential bizarre endings for Game 4. And a walk-off pickoff – of a runner whose meant essentially nothing, no less – may not even have been on it.
Before Kolten’s Wong lapse into Roger Bernadina-level base running took the bat out of Carlos Beltran’s hand, the FOX announcers wondered why the Red Sox would hold Wong on base with one out and Matt Carpenter batting. The answer seemed obvious, actually: by holding Wong on base, it prevented from stealing easily and taking a groundball double play out of the equation. The Red Sox sacrificed some defensive range for the chance to prevent Beltran coming to the plate at all.
Of course, after Carpenter popped up, there was only one reason to hold Wong at first: to try to pick him off and end the game right there. Mike Matheny probably didn’t think he would have to worry about that when he sent Wong into the game, but that’s a peril of using a rookie pinch runner. You have to hope Wong gets another chance in this series to be known for something else, but you wonder if he will.
Tonight, the Red Sox will need a monster performance from their ace, Jon Lester. Even if the Sox can get to Adam Wainwright, a deep start for Lester is crucial. Felix Doubront, who was heroic in Game 4, is toast. Craig Breslow, Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara have all pitched in three straight games, including the past two days. Workload is not much of a consideration in late October, but at some point the Sox’ bullpen will start showing the effects of a heavy burden. Lester has the chance to give them a break.
The Red Sox may have throttled the Cardinals’ in Game 1, but the final score gives a false impression of the damage they inflicted on Wainwright. The Cardinals’ ace faced 24 batters in five innings and allowed one walk and five hits – one of which was a sky-high pop-up that plopped between the plate and the mound to the disbelief of every living soul. Even with that preposterous single, the Sox hit .217 off Wainwright in Game 1.
The Cardinals booted the ball behind Wainwright, and the Sox’ hits came at the perfect times. Two of the hits Wainwright allowed immediately followed an error by Pete Kozma, and they led to four runs. Two of the Red Sox’ hits came in the first, and the other three came in the second. After that, Wainwright didn’t let another Red Sox hitter earn his way on. As FanGraphs dubbed it, it was the blowout that wasn’t.
With Wainwright and Lester on the mound, a low-scoring game should be expected. In this World Series, though, nothing has gone as planned.
Game 5, Boston at St. Louis: 8:07 p.m., Fox
Boston LHP Jon Lester (15-8) vs. St. Louis RHP Adam Wainwright (19-9)