The 2013 MLB World Series has had it all. We had a Game 1 blowout, a solid Game 2, an obstruction call for the win in Game 3 and a walk-off pickoff in Game 4. What else could a baseball fan possibly ask for?
How about more games?
Wish granted my friends, as the Red Sox and Cardinals will do battle once again with the World Series knotted up at two games apiece. Game 5 will get under way tonight at 8:07 PM ET at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.
As Jon Lester and Adam Wainwright and their respective clubs prepare in St. Louis, here are keys that each team must focus on if they want to take a 3-2 series lead back to Boston in Game 6.
Boston Red Sox
Get After Wainwright Early
Wainwright's last appearance came in Game 1 of the World Series, and it wasn't one he'll want to remember. Wainwright gave up five runs in as many innings of work, but he wasn't terrible through all five. He gave up three runs in the first and two in the second inning but held the Red Sox's volatile lineup scoreless for the next three innings.
Wainwright is no slouch. He's one of the best pitchers in the game, with 19 wins this season and over 200 strikeouts, but he just got out of sorts early in Game 1. If the Red Sox want to go up 3-2, all they have to do is duplicate their Game 1 performance.
The Sox got all over Wainwright early and were able to keep things rolling throughout the game on their way to an 8-1 victory to kick off the World Series. The Sox were able to piece together eight hits on the night, but the damage was truly done in the first couple innings.
The Red Sox have to get their tough lineup rolling as fast as possible, not only to get some runs on the board, but to get Wainwright uncomfortable and out of the game. If the Sox are able to put up big runs early, look for a repeat performance of Game 1 on Monday night.
Lester Must Stay Strong
While it's important for the bats to get going early for Boston, it's just as important for their ace Jon Lester to pick up where he left off in Game 1. In the first game of the World Series, Lester pitched almost eight innings, gave up just five hits and didn't surrender a run to the Cardinals.
That's really just postseason business as usual for Lester. In 28 post-season innings this season, Lester has given up just seven runs, has lost just one game and has struck out over 20 batters. He's been solid, to say the least.
St. Louis batters just couldn't figure Lester out in Game 1, tallying just five hits and no runs. Lester has given his beloved BoSox three wins thus far, and if he keeps pitching like he has been, he'll make it four on Monday.
St. Louis Cardinals
Must Support Their Ace
In Game 1 of the World Series, the Cardinals had little to no offense. They managed to muster just one run, which didn't come until Kevin Siegrist hit a solo home run in the ninth inning. The Red Sox got all over Wainwright in the first couple innings, and the Cardinals didn't have an answer on offense.
With the explosiveness of the Boston batters, the Cardinals are going to give up a couple runs. The key for the Cardinals isn't to necessarily shut Boston out, but to merely answer with runs of their own. When the Cardinals back up their talented starting pitchers, they win games.
In Game 3, Boston put up four runs, but the Cardinals were able to go crazy on offense and give their pitcher five runs, which helped them stay close enough to take the game and the series lead due to the controversial obstruction call.
When the Cardinals can get a little offense going behind their pitcher, they win games. It's as simple as that.
Must Manage David Ortiz
One of the most important factors, if not the most important, in this series has been David Ortiz, who has been absolutely lights out for the Red Sox. Ortiz has eight hits in 11 at-bats in the World Series, which is good for a .727 average.
Not too shabby.
Not only is Big Papi piling up personal stats, but he has a third of his team's 24 total hits in the World Series so far. Ortiz's eight hits, two homeruns and five RBI have helped his team keep the series knotted at two games apiece, but if the Cardinals are going to tip the scales in their favor, they have to start managing Ortiz more effectively.
The Cards and their star Adam Wainwright can't give Ortiz the chance to have a big impact on the game and the series like the Tigers did in the ALCS. They might have to start contemplating an anti-Ortiz game plan ala the Arizona Diamondbacks anti-Barry Bonds strategy a few years back. The Cards have to start pitching around Ortiz in any way possible and find a way to keep him out of the batters box in clutch situations.