This year’s World Series has been beyond crazy. Words more intense than ‘insane’ and far-reaching than ‘Wow’ should be used. The only thing for sure is that it’s been unpredictable. A walk-off obstruction call followed by a game-ending pick-off has set up a 2-2 series tie and a pivotal game in Game 5 in St. Louis. The team that loses Game 5 at home, historically, is 1-for-19 winning the World Series and the team that loses Game 5 on the road is 13-for-33. This is a much bigger game for the Cardinals. So here’s a preview of this must-win game – being the last of the series in St. Louis.
Pitching – St. Louis is going with its 32-year old Ace, Adam Wainwright. The Cardinals need this game to have a chance at the World Series title because winning two in Boston with Wacha and a Not-As-Good-As-Wacha. This is one of – if not THE – biggest game of Wainwright’s career. Wainwright is unusual; he’s tougher on lefties (.242 batting average) than righties (.254) and typical in the fact that he’s better at home (.217 BAA, 3.36 ERA) than on the road (.276, 2.53). It’s tough to imagine Wainwright has another start as disastrous as the first one (5 IP, 5 R, 1 Absurd Dropped Pop Up) – Wainwright will bring his A++ game and have a superb outing.
Jon Lester – An impressive as his performance in the playoffs (3-1, 1.67 ERA), Lester did work in Game 1 going 7.2 innings with no runs and only five hits. The St. Louis Cardinals offense struggles mightily against left-handers and Lester is one of the top-five lefties in baseball right now. The Cardinals offense gets going with Matt Carpenter so shutting him down is Lester’s key. He’s 1-4 against Lester as they only faced each other in Game 1. Also, the Cardinal hitters in their careers are 7-37 (.206) so Lester has dominated each hitter, respectively, with one exception: Matt Holliday, with a .333 batting average. Lester’s increasing use of the cutter (24%) has been a great change of speed.
Boston – The Red Sox lineup which, if you hadn’t heard, scored the most runs in the regular season – Tim McCarver only talks about 15 times per game. The Sox, who are usually a patient team that likes to see a lot of pitches, need to make a decision. Do they want to try to run up the pitch count, like they did in Game 1 where Wainwright threw 95 pitches in five innings? Or, do they want to jump on the first pitch which, from Wainwright, is usually a fastball for a strike. Wainwright is allowing a .260 BAA if they swing on the first pitch and a .242 BAA if the first pitch is taken. Though Game 4 saw a good break for the Sox, they need to be aggressive, even if that means swinging at the first pitch.
St. Louis – Allen Craig’s switch into the starting lineup over Matt Carpenter is a serious upgrade in power and ability to draw obstruction calls from umpires who don’t see the play. Carlos Beltran needs to step-up as the game has ended with the bat on his shoulder twice. Last night was on Kolten Wong more than Beltran, but he still hasn’t performed up to expectations. The success of Matt Carpenter is a big deal and getting any production from Jon Jay/Pete Kozma/David Freese has been minimal (.117 batting average) so if the Cardinals get an production from them, look for them to put up runs.
Bottom Line – An incredible article on FanGraphs.com shows that Starters do not often improve or regress significantly from one start to the next. Therefore, Red Sox batters should see the ball well once again coming out of Wainwright’s hand. This contest will be lower scoring than Game 1, but…
Sox prevail in St. Louis 5-4