BOSTON RED SOX (106-70)
at ST. LOUIS CARDINALS (106-71)
World Series Game 5 - Series tied 2-2
First pitch: Monday, 8:05 p.m. ET
Line: St. Louis -120, Boston +110, Total: 7
After an unusual ending for the second consecutive game on Sunday, the World Series is tied at 2-2 with the Cardinals playing their final home contest in Monday's Game 5 versus the Red Sox.
After an obstruction call ended Game 3 and gave the Cardinals victory, Game 4 also ended in atypical fashion as Boston closer Koji Uehara picked off St. Louis pinch-runner Kolten Wong at first base to seal the 4-2 victory. LF Jonny Gomes was the key bat for the Red Sox in the win, hitting a three-run homer that would prove to be the deciding factor. Gomes was not originally in Sunday's starting lineup, but took the place of Shane Victorino who was scratched because of tightness in his back. Victorino is considered questionable for Monday. The Red Sox enter Game 5 as slight underdogs with Jon Lester (18-9, 3.52 ERA) taking the mound for the second time this series. In Game 1, he pitched 7.2 scoreless innings as the Red Sox cruised to an 8-1 victory. He’ll face the same counterpart he did in that contest in St. Louis ace Adam Wainwright (21-11, 2.87 ERA), who had unusual struggles in that game. With a shaky defense behind him, he gave up five runs (three earned) in only five innings, well below his 7.1 innings-per-start average this season. The Cardinals will need him to pitch more like he has in his career during the playoffs, with a 2.37 ERA and 0.96 WHIP in 17 career outings. Defending home field is huge for the Cardinals in this one with a 60-29 record (.674) at Busch Stadium before the series will conclude at Fenway Park. The Red Sox, after Sunday’s win, are an outstanding 48-40 on the road (.545, second-best in majors).
Lester (1.27 WHIP) was fantastic in Game 1, striking out eight Cardinals and walking only one while giving up five hits in his 7.2 scoreless frames. That just builds on an already tremendous postseason during which he is 3-1 with a 1.67 ERA and 1.07 WHIP in four starts. Overall he has a 2.22 ERA and 1.10 WHIP over 12 career postseason appearances. Lester will benefit from having a much better defensive catcher behind the plate in David Ross for Game 5 as opposed to Jarrod Saltalmacchia whose defensive shortcoming loomed large in both Red Sox losses this series. Lester could also be getting a big break with Cardinals slugger Allen Craig questionable to play because of his lingering foot injury. Craig barely made it to first base as a pinch-hitter in Game 4 when his hit reached the right-field wall. His unavailability would only hurt a St. Louis team that is 22-26 this season against lefty starters even more. If the Cardinals have one advantage, it could be Lester’s middling splits on the road this year, where he has a 4.18 ERA and 1.40 WHIP. If the lefty does struggle, he’s fortunate to have the Boston bullpen behind him that has an absurdly good 1.38 ERA and 1.14 WHIP while limiting opponents to a .221 BA this postseason. Part of that has been manager John Farrell’s willingness to use everybody, with starters Felix Doubront and John Lackey throwing a combined 3.2 scoreless innings of relief on Sunday night.
Wainwright (1.05 WHIP) has generally been brilliant this season, leading his team to a 25-13 record (.658), which includes a 2.25 ERA and 0.89 WHIP this postseason. He certainly wasn't sharp in Game 1, though he wasn’t helped that the St. Louis defense committed multiple errors behind him. The guy to register the biggest hit off him was 1B Mike Napoli, who nailed a three-run triple in the first inning, but he will not start with normal DH David Ortiz shifting over to first base in the National League park. And of the four Red Sox hitters that Wainwright has faced at least five times in his career (OF Shane Victorino, SS Stephen Drew, OF Jonny Gomes and C David Ross), the foursome is a combined 13-for-72 (.181 BA) with 17 K's, but three of those players have homered off the right-hander. Ortiz has been absolutely huge in the World Series, going 3-for-3 with two runs on Sunday and improving his batting average to .727 (8-for-11) in the series with two homers, 5 RBI and five runs. Wainwright will be happy to pitch at home in this one though, where he had a 2.36 ERA and 0.92 WHIP in 19 starts during which the Cardinals went 13-6. Though Wainwright typically doesn’t need it as much as he did during his last start, the St. Louis bullpen has been reliable all season with a 3.35 ERA and 1.21 WHIP. They’ve been way better than that this postseason with a 2.30 ERA, 0.86 WHIP and .186 opponents' BA over 43 innings.