One win in the last two games of the World Series. That is all the Red Sox need to secure their rightful place atop the major league this season and back up their regular-season dominance with a World Series title. Even if they fail to win one of the last two World Series contests left on the slate, an unlikely occurrence, the Red Sox should still consider this a very successful season. Then again, to get so close to the mountaintop only to fail to reach the summit would no doubt leave a bitter taste in the mouths of the Red Sox players.
What surely left only sweetness behind in the players' mouths was the outcome of Monday night's Game 5. Needing to win Game 5 to take the edge in the series, the Red Sox received masterful pitching performances from starter Jon Lester and reliever Koji Uehara to win 3-1. It was not quite as dominating as the wins they have put together in the past, but the game went a long way in demonstrating the supremacy of the Red Sox over the St. Louis Cardinals.
Lester picked up right where he left off in Game 1, once again out-dueling Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright. This time, Lester pitched 7.7 innings and consistently mowed down the Cardinals hitters he faced with an array of overpowering pitches. Lester struck out seven of the 26 Cardinals batters he faced, did not issue a single walk, and allowed just four hits, two of which went for extra bases.
Time and time again, Lester avoided in getting into a jam of which he would later be required to extricate himself. There were only three plate appearances during his time mound in which the Cardinals had a runner in scoring position; the Cardinals failed to drive in any runs during those opportunities.
The only run that the Cardinals did manage to score against Lester, or in the entire contest for that matter, was the solo home run hit by Cardinals left fielder Matt Holliday in the fourth inning. Giving up a home run to Holliday was the only true blemish on what was a stellar pitching performance by Lester.
No blemishes could be found on the game's pitching record of closer Koji Uehara. Coming on in the eighth inning to get a four-out save, Uehara lived up to his reputation of being nigh unhittable. Uehara struck out two of the four Cardinals hitters he faced, and the other two, while making contact and managing to put the ball in play, were also retired by Uehara.
Keeping with the theme of picking up where players left off in previous games was David Ortiz, who continued his blistering hitting in the World Series. Before Game 5, Ortiz was hitting .727 BA/.750 OBP/1.364 SLG in the World Series, and after going 3 for 4 on Monday, he is now hitting a still-staggering .733 BA/.750 OBP/1.267 SLG. Unfortunately for the Red Sox, only one of Ortiz's hits actually contributed to a run being scored, which speaks more to the struggles of his teammates to match his stratospheric level of production than it does to suggest Ortiz's hits are not helping the club. Ortiz drove in Dustin Pedroia with a double in the first inning to score the first run of the game.
Until the seventh inning, it looked like the only run the Red Sox might score, at least as long as Wainwright was still on the mound. Then the Red Sox rattled off three hits and a walk to score two runs, taking a 3-1 lead that proved to be a commanding one since runs were so scarce in the game. David Ross and Jacoby Ellsbury provided the RBI hits.
Other than Game 1 of the World Series, which was a blowout victory for the Red Sox, each contest has been a tightly contested affair with a few breaks determining the victor. Look for more of the same in Game 6 as the Red Sox try to close out the World Series and the Cardinals seek to force a Game 7.