Lester, Red Sox stifle Cardinals to take 3-2 series lead going back to Boston
An entire season dedicated to the term has been well, just that. Led by the ace-like performance on the mound by lefty Jon Lester and timely hitting by the likes of David Ross and Jacoby Ellsbury, the Boston Red Sox are now one win away from soaking each other in endless bottles of champagne in front of their own fans at Fenway Park.
A team that at the beginning of the season was barely picked by any "experts" to even make the playoffs is now 27 defensive outs away from doing the unthinkable back in March. Even a team that lost Game 3 in one of the most heartbreaking and stunning ways possible, is once again, one W away.
Let that sink in for a moment. Can you believe it?
If you ask around the league, many people will say that the best part about this team is that no matter what, they find a way to win. They can out-pitch you. They can out-hit you. They can win a game on a wild pitch, or by way of a walk-off home run at any moment in time. You never know exactly how they will do it. And once again on a cool October night in St. Louis, the Red Sox found a way to win.
Arguably the best pitching matchup of this series, the somewhat cold Red Sox lineup (minus David Ortiz of course) seemed like they were in for a tough challenge by facing one of the leagues premier pitchers in Adam Wainwright. Other lineups may have crumbled under the pressure of facing the opposing teams ace pitcher on the road, in a 2-2 series, on the biggest stage in baseball.
But not this team. Not this cast of bearded idiots. Led off by back-to-back doubles by Dustin Pedroia and the unconscious David Ortiz, the Sox jumped on Wainwright early in the first inning to get out to a 1-0 lead. However, Wainwright went on to pitch 5 1/3 scoreless innings from then on and seemed to be in a groove, striking out 9 Boston batters. After an absolute moonshot home run by Cardinals slugger Matt Holliday in the 4th inning that tied the game, the Sox once again found themselves in a close October game heading into the 7th inning, tied 1-1.
21-year old rookie Xander Bogaerts lined a one-out single up the middle off Wainwright to start the seventh inning rally. After a Stephen Drew walk, (not a strikeout, imagine that!) 36-year old catcher David Ross came to the plate with two men on and one out. Naysayers would have immediately expected the ace Wainwright to retire Ross, and then presumably retire the number 9 hitter and pitcher Jon Lester as well. What are the chances of the #8 hitter getting a clutch hit to give his team the lead in a tie game late in a World Series game on the road?
That is the difference between the 2013 Red Sox and other teams. Nobody is an automatic out. Every player will grind out at-bats, and every player will treat each at-bat like it's his last. And as the script goes, Ross delivered. A ground-rule double down the left field line by Ross, followed by an RBI single two batters later by Ellsbury gave the Sox a 3-1 lead that they would never surrender.
Not to get lost in the shuffle was the dominant performance by Jon Lester. Turning in 7 2/3 innings of outstanding pitching, only giving up 1 run while striking out 7, Lester was nothing short of superb. An effective mix of fastballs and cutters completely shut down the Cardinals lineup, setting the Red Sox up perfectly for their near automatic closer Koji Uehara to secure the win. As expected, Uehara came on to retire all four batters he faced in impressive fashion to earn his 7th save of the postseason. Lester improved his career World Series record to 3-0 with a filthy 0.43 ERA.
Leading baseballs 109th Fall Classic 3 games to 2, the Red Sox head home to Fenway Park with a chance to clinch their 3rd World Series title in 9 years, and their first since 2007. After 2 years of complete turmoil for the entire organization, Boston fans can certainly smell that dirty water. Right-hander John Lackey will be looking to out-duel young Cardinals rookie Michael Wacha and bring the city of Boston a championship in front of their own faithful fans for the first time since 1918.
Red Sox skipper John Farrell said it best- "The fact is we're going home, going back to a place our guys love to play in. We're excited about going home in the position we are."
Excited is an understatement. A team that is the epitome of "Boston Strong" will look to etch their names into baseball lore forever. And they are one win away from doing so.