In Game 5, Jon Lester took center stage and topped Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright for the second time in the series, putting St. Louis' title hopes on the brink of vanishing. But Boston won't be able to lean on its star pitcher Wednesday.
Instead, the World Series shifts to a pitching matchup that didn't quite favor the bearded wonders in Game 2. John Lackey, who lost in his last appearance against rookie sensation Michael Wacha, will be on the mound for the Red Sox.
Wacha has been untouchable throughout the postseason, with a 4-0 playoff record and a spectacular 1.00 ERA. His only blemish in Game 2 was a two-run homer by red-hot David Ortiz.
ESPN Stats & Info captured Wacha's postseason success during his first World Series start:
Via @eliassports Michael Wacha: 16 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings. That is a rookie record for a single postseason.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 25, 2013
The Sox have been dominant in the series with a late-inning lead, but it'll be tough to get that with Wacha on the mound. It's hard to see Boston building a lead off Wacha unless Big Papi gets big hits.
At one point in the Fox broadcast of Game 5, the Red Sox's batting success—or lack thereof—was compared to Ortiz's batting success, as captured and tweeted by Jose3030:
Red Sox Offense. David Ortiz. Rest Of Team. 2013 World Series. pic.twitter.com/p5E8Iv9WPm— 3030 (@jose3030) October 29, 2013
In Games 4 and 5, Ortiz went 6-for-7, and that may need to continue. The Red Sox have been incredibly reliant on his play, which has been better than ever.
As for Boston's pitching, there shouldn't be many worries early on. John Lackey gave up only one run through six innings in his Game 2 outing before letting a couple of runners on base. He was then pulled from the game and earned two more runs when the Cardinals pulled away. He recorded a loss but didn't deserve one.
This game will require some smarts from manager John Farrell around the sixth inning. He'll need to pull Lackey before Lackey puts the team in a jam and forces the bullpen to try to bail him out. It didn't work in Game 2, and don't put your money on it working in Game 6.
What's more crucial to a Red Sox win?
Getting out early on Wacha isn't everything, as the Red Sox also have to sustain that lead. That will take some masterful calls by Farrell regarding when to use hot hands (like Koji Uehara) in order to shut down the Cardinals bats.
The World Series has gone back and forth, and if that continues, the Sox will be pushed to a decisive Game 7. Nobody in Boston wants that. They want this thing wrapped up as quickly as possible, but that won't be easy against a very dangerous team and a hot pitcher.