The Boston Red Sox are one win in Fenway Park away from winning the 2013 World Series after David Ross' big double gave them the offense they needed to back up a tremendous start from Jon Lester.
Three at-bats into Game 5 and Red Sox fans may have been dreaming of another blowout like their 8-1 victory in Game 1. While Jacoby Ellsbury struck out looking, Dustin Pedroia took a hanging breaking ball and whacked it into left field for a double, then scored when David Ortiz hit a hard ground ball down the right field line. It wasn't the defensive mess that Game 1 was, but it was good contact off a good pitcher.
As it happened, though, neither Jonny Gomes nor Daniel Nava was up to continuing the rally. Both outfielders went down by way of the strikeout, and from there Wainwright started to cruise. All three batters he faced in the second fell victim to the strikeout, leaving him with six through six outs, and weak contact got him through the third inning 1-2-3 as well. David Ortiz would reach base again--he hasn't made many outs this series--but a broken bat double play ball from Daniel Nava made sure he enjoyed yet another 1-2-3 frame in the fourth.
Jon Lester, meanwhile, had started strong. A good piece of hitting gave Carlos Beltran a leadoff single in the second, and a seeing-eye ground ball led to another in the third. But with the southpaw placing his pitches perfectly and working his full repertoire in early, he was able to keep the Cardinals well at bay.
The fourth, however, would prove completely different. After striking out Shane Robinson, Lester left a fastball up to Matt Holliday, who crushed it a mile to center field to tie the game with a solo shot. Three pitches later and Carlos Beltran nearly made it 2-1, coming up just short with a fly ball to deep left. Only an incredible leaping grab by Stephen Drew kept Yadier Molina off base, ending the inning despite three straight balls being stung.
If that Lester had come back out for the fifth this game would have been very different. But the fifth lasted just nine pitches, and the sixth ten. Whatever caused his fourth-inning struggles, they proved a blip on the radar, albeit a costly one.
So it was that the Red Sox came to the seventh with Jon Lester scheduled to bat fifth. When Xander Bogaerts singled up the middle, the question was posed: do you pinch-hit for a dominant Lester, who had a pitch count that could leave him good for nine innings, and accept whatever the bullpen gives you? With Adam Wainwright giving up a walk to Stephen Drew (perhaps rattled by Drew nearly taking him deep in his last at bat), the only thing that could keep Lester away from the plate was a double play.
But there were scenarios that would make the decision rather easier for Farrell, and David Ross provided one, turning on a 1-2 curveball and ripping a ground-rule double just fair down the left field line, putting the Red Sox up 2-1. While Lester was unable to provide a productive out, Jacoby Ellsbury blooped a single to center field behind him, giving the Red Sox a third run to boot.
That left just nine outs for Jon Lester and the bullpen, with Lester good for the first five. A David Freese double in the eighth was the one really concerning moment, but Lester got Pete Kozma to fly out, and Koji Uehara came in to strike out Matt Adams on three pitches. One 1-2-3 ninth inning later, and the Boston Red Sox pulled within one win of claiming the 2013 World Series.
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