Jon Lester, David Ortiz Fueling Boston Red Sox in Epic and Weird World Series

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Jon Lester, David Ortiz Fueling Boston Red Sox in Epic and Weird World Series
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Game 3 of the 2013 World Series ended with a walk-off obstruction call. Game 4 ended with a pick-off play. Two extreme rarities happening on consecutive nights. In the World Series.

Hence the reason we're already anticipating filing this Fall Classic away as one of the most competitive and one of the weirdest to ever take place. We surely will when the time comes.

If Game 5 on Monday night drove a particular point home, however, it's that the 2013 World Series has a good chance of also being remembered as the Heroic Deeds of Jon Lester and David Ortiz

The Boston Red Sox beat the St. Louis Cardinals 3-1 in Game 5, pushing their lead in the Fall Classic to 3-2 with the series shifting back to Fenway Park on Wednesday. The victory was a huge one for the Red Sox, and their two superstars had a big hand in making it possible.

Making his second start of the series, Lester pitched 7.2 innings and gave up only four hits and no walks. He struck out seven, and the only bad pitch he made all night was a heater that was blasted into the center field bleachers by Matt Holliday.

As for Ortiz, he picked up three more hits in four at-bats. The first of those was an RBI double off Adam Wainwright in the first inning that gave the Red Sox a quick 1-0 lead. The only out Big Papi made was on a laser to center field in the sixth inning, and it broke up a string of nine consecutive plate appearances in which he had reached base.

"What planet is that guy from?" asked Red Sox catcher David Ross, via ESPN's Jerry Crasnick.

Given the way the lefty has pitched in the World Series, that question can be applied to Lester, too.

Courtesy of MLB Advanced Media via MLB.com.

How good has Jon Lester been in the World Series? Well, we can put it this way: Despite the fact he pitched brilliantly Monday night at Busch Stadium, it was actually a step back from his performance in Game 1.

Lester also pitched 7.2 innings in that game, giving up five hits and a walk with eight strikeouts. The Cardinals didn't score a run off him.

For that, Lester earned a Game Score of 76. For his efforts in Game 5, Lester only earned a Game Score of 74. But if you want tidbits, here's a good one from Red Sox information guru Jon Shestakofsky:

If you want another tidbit, it's not every year that a pitcher posts a Game Score of at least 74 in more than one start in the World Series. Per Baseball-Reference.com, Lester is only the 13th Integration Era (since 1947) pitcher to do so. In the wild-card era (since 1993), it's just him and Curt Schilling on the list.

One of the best starting pitching performances in recent World Series history? Yup. Mark it down.

More important to the Red Sox than tidbits, of course, is the sheer degree to which Lester has silenced St. Louis' offense. The Cardinals certainly haven't been world-beaters against Boston, but it's night and day between what they've done against Lester and what they've done against everyone else this World Series.

Cardinals Hitters in World Series
Split AB K AVG OBP SLUG OPS
Against Everyone Else 113 22 .239 .310 .327 .637
Against Lester 53 15 .170 .185 .245 .430

Baseball-Reference.com

Lester has done this with virtually no help from his off-speed stuff. According to Brooks Baseball, over 80 percent of Lester's pitches these last two starts have been either fastballs or cutters. He's achieved one of the greatest World Series performances in recent memory simply by being overpowering.

And speaking of overpowering, how about this David Ortiz fella?

Courtesy of MLB Advanced Media via MLB.com.

Like Lester, Ortiz actually took a step back in Game 5. I'll let Baseball-Reference.com explain:

And what a shame this is. Because the 2.114 OPS Ortiz was working on was slated as the second-highest OPS ever in a World Series. The only guy ahead of Big Papi on the list was Lou Gehrig in 1928.

It's worth noting, however, that Gehrig accumulated his 2.433 OPS in the 1928 Fall Classic in only four games. It's also worth noting that Ortiz was robbed of a grand slam in Game 1 when Carlos Beltran reached into the visitors' bullpen to take one away from him.

Factor in that, and Ortiz has been even more locked in than his 2.017 OPS indicates. Factor in his hard line drive to center field in Game 5 and, well, you get the same message.

As it is, Big Papi still has a shot at sealing one of the single greatest offensive performances in the history of the league. His .733 average would be good for second best in World Series history. Ditto his .750 on-base percentage. His 1.267 slugging percentage would be good for sixth.

Which Red Sox star has been more impressive in the World Series?

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All for a guy who entered the third Fall Classic of his career already boasting a .321/.441/.571 line in championship games. It was going to be hard for Big Papi to outdo himself, yet he's done so. And then some.

But now's where we acknowledge the bright side for the St. Louis Cardinals and their faithful followers: The series isn't over yet. They have the chips stacked against them with the Red Sox holding a 3-2 lead and the series shifting back to Boston, but the Cardinals have a few heroes of their own. 

Matt Holliday has been a much-needed power source for the Cards, blasting two home runs, a double and a triple thus far. Yadier Molina had at least one hit in each of the first four games and was robbed of two more Monday night on liners to shortstop and second base. Carlos Beltran is looking to add to an awesome postseason resume of his own. 

The Cardinals have their key arms as well. Michael Wacha will put his 1.00 postseason ERA on the table in Game 6. Trevor Rosenthal hasn't allowed a run in October and has struck out eight in 3.2 innings against the Sox. Both he and Wacha could have a huge say in getting to a Game 7.

In that event, who knows? This is baseball. Anything goes. Especially in a series that's been defined by, well, anything going. Maybe the winds will start blowing in the direction of the Cardinals, in which case we'll be forced to rewrite the general narrative of the series for the umpteenth time.

If the Cardinals want to help themselves rather than waiting for the winds to change, however, they'll have to start by shutting down Big Papi. And since they might just see him again if the series goes to a Game 7, they should also plan on possibly having to solve the Jon Lester riddle.

And therein lies the not-so-bright side for the Cardinals and their faithful followers: The Cards been able to do neither of these things thus far. That doesn't bode well for their chances of changing what history will ultimately make of this World Series.

Even if the Cardinals go into the books as a key contributor to the competitiveness and weirdness of the 2013 World Series, they might also go in as a mere footnote in the Heroic Deeds of Lester and Ortiz.

 

Note: Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.

 

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