World Series 2013: Boston on the brink

Boston last won a World Series at home in 1918. It was in front of 15,238 fans at Fenway Park and Babe Ruth was a defensive replacement late in the game.

Now, after a 3-1 victory in Game Five over the St. Louis Cardinals, John Farrell’s 2013 Red Sox are one win away from a third title since 2004, and they have two shots at winning it in their own back yard.

It will be loud. Oh, it will be loud.

“The fact is we’re going home,” said Farrell. “We’re going back to a place that our guys love to play in, in front of our fans. This atmosphere here, these three games, has been phenomenal. We know it’s going to be equal to that, if not better. And we’re excited about going home in the position we are.”

That position is one win away from a World Series title. They lead the Cardinals 3-2 in this best-of-seven after two straight road wins in a baseball cauldron.

This, of course, is not over. Michael Wacha goes in Game Six for St. Louis, but more on that later.

In Game Five at Busch Stadium yesterday, it was the final chance this series for the Cards’ to take advantage of home-field and National League rules, but it just didn’t go to plan as David Ortiz yet again pummelled the Redbirds with multiple hits and such a fearsome presence at the plate.

Many have questioned how the Cardinals have approached pitching to Ortiz, who is batting an unbelievable .733 (11-for-15) in the Fall Classic, and .476 (20-for-42) in his World Series career. He smacked the first pitch he saw from Adam Wainwright down the right-field line for a run-scoring double to open the game’s account in the first inning. In the previous at-bat, the pesky Dustin Pedroia had doubled down the opposite line.

Even though Matt Holliday tied it up in the fourth with a solo shot to left-centre, Boston’s Jon Lester was lights out, pitching 7 2/3 innings while giving up only four hits, one run and striking out seven.

Lester vs. Wainwright was a classic pitchers’ duel, but it was the man whose job it is to look after Lester throughout the game that was the hero with the bat this time around.

David Ross, who has started the last two games behind the plate in place of Jerrod Saltalamacchia for leadership and defensive reasons more than anything else, was the man at the plate when rookie Xander Bogaerts had singled and Stephen Drew had walked in the seventh.

This game-changing moment was as much about Mike Matheny’s game management as it was Ross, with the former keeping Wainwright in the game in the seventh even though he had just walked a man who was batting 4-for-49 in this postseason, and was now 276 innings deep into his season.

The count went to 1-and-2 but as with the previous at-bats, the Cardinals ace hung a curve over the plate that had no bite and Ross obliged by smacking it down the left-field line, the ball bouncing into the stands to score a run on a ground rule double.

Lester was next up, so that was an easy ground out, but surely now Matheny would take out his starter.
Not the case, and Jacoby Ellsbury drilled a fastball for an RBI single which scored Drew, while Ross was out at home plate to end the inning.

Wainwright had nothing left in the tank and, crucially, because he was left in too long and throwing pitches that weren’t doing enough; the Red Sox had an insurance run. They led 3-1 and their lead was relinquished, with Koji Uehara mowing down the final four batters as he himself builds quite the reputation as one of the games’ best closers.

This has been a brilliant series. The TV ratings have been the highest since 2009 as these classic franchises battle it out. The games have been low scoring and entertaining; the majority ending on a crazy play or call.

From Games 2-5, Boston and St. Louis have remained within two runs of one another in 35 of the 36 innings. It is only fitting that the series is going back to Boston, where the home team have never won a decisive Game 7.

They might have to do that, as Michael Wacha looks to become the first man ever to win five postseason games in one season. At age 22, Wacha has been nothing short of incredible, holding a 4-0 record with a 1.00 ERA in 27 postseason innings. Three of those wins have come after St. Louis losses; one was against Pittsburgh in the NLDS which kept St. Louis’ season alive. He beat Clayton Kershaw twice in the NLCS, including the decisive Game 6, and then won his start back in Game 2 of this series.

An umpire’s reverse call has changed the shape of a game in this World Series. In another, an obstruction call decided it. The next night, a pick-off ended the encounter. We’ve seen four straight games decided by two runs or less.

Tonight it’s Wacha against John Lackey, a man who at 35 could become a Red Sox hero having been generally hated by Boston fans after being a central figure in the beer and chicken fiasco that marred the 2011 season. He missed all of 2012 through elbow surgery, but now Boston and John Farrell aren’t afraid to hand him the ball in such a crucial game.

It’s been compelling, and if I had to guess it will go the distance. Tonight, Wacha will exude confidence. If his manager grants it, which we will have to wait and see, he will attack David Ortiz.

American League rules are now in force which means Mike Napoli is back in the lineup at first base. Boston has their ammunition locked and loaded. Fenway Park will be rocking.

The old lady is 101-years-old, and you hope and pray that if Boston clinch over the next two days, its foundations stay intact.

The Green Monster wishes to be the shadow of the greatest celebration Boston has seen.

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