World Series Game 6 Preview: Cardinals, Sox Head Back to Boston

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Redbirds face elimination against Red Sox

The only thing bigger and better than Game 6 would be a Game 7 tomorrow.

World Series – Game 6
St. Louis at Boston
8:07 ET Fox
Michael Wacha (4-1, 2.78) vs. John Lackey (10-13, 3.52)


Not only did the Cardinals miss an opportunity to win the series in St. Louis with a sweep of the three games there, they didn’t even leave town with a lead. And like twice before in this postseason, the Redbirds turn to 23-year-old Michael Wacha with their backs against the wall. Boston counters with veteran John Lackey, the loser in Game 2 although he left the game in position to be the winner. Wacha features a lively fastball and put-away changeup, which kept the Boston hitters off balance in Game 2. Lackey had terrific command in Game 2, with only five two-ball counts over his 6.1 innings.

Keys for Boston
Offensively, the Sox must give David Ortiz help. The Cardinals have yet to execute an effective plan against Boston’s best hitter. But whether it’s Dustin Pedroia in front of him, or Mike Napoli and Jonny Gomes behind him, the Sox can’t expect Ortiz to beat this St. Louis team alone. Lackey needs to have solid command once again. If he’s wild, the Cardinals’ patience will drive up his pitch count and force manager John Farrell’s hand with the bullpen earlier than he would like.

Keys for St. Louis
Wacha must continue to pitch well beyond his years. He pitched a gem in an elimination game in a boisterous atmosphere at Pittsburgh in the NLDS, then won the must-have Game 2 in Boston. Wacha faced Ortiz three times. He grounded out with no one on base, walked with a runner on second, and homered to left field with a runner on, giving the Red Sox a 2-1 lead. Expect Wacha to pitch him off the plate outside tonight and be content to walk him. The Cardinals offense has shown some signs of coming back to life, although the scoreboard didn’t show it in Game 5. Carlos Beltran had a close encounter with a home run, and Yadier Molina had two line drive outs right at infielders. But this offense must start with Matt Carpenter at the top. In Game 2, there were no runners in scoring position for Matt Holliday or Allen Craig. Beltran delivered an RBI single in his only trip with a runner in scoring position. The tablesetters must give Holliday and Craig opportunities.

Red Sox to Watch
If Lackey can’t make it deep into this game, relievers Junichi Tazawa and Felix Doubront could be on the spot. They have pitched well to this point, but the more hitters get a look at pitchers, the more the advantage switches to the hitter. Ortiz and Pedroia accounted for three of the Red Sox four hits in Game 2. If Jacoby Ellsbury can join that party, it could be a tough night for Wacha.

Cardinals to Watch
All eyes are on Wacha once again. The youngster hasn’t been rattled by big stages this postseason, but each time the stakes get a little bigger. Defensively, the Cardinals must be airtight. No mistakes allowed tonight. David Freese, a postseason hero in 2011, has been silenced in this series. He’s had some opportunities to come up big. Tonight he will have yet another chance in a big moment.
 
Key Stats
Ortiz’s batting average for the series is up to .733, the highest ever for a hitter with 20 plate appearances…For all players with as many as 50 plate appearances in the World Series, Ortiz is best all-time in average (.465), on-base percentage (.556), slugging percentage (.814) and OPS (1.370)…Led by Xander Bogaerts (.294) and Pedroia (.263), Ortiz’s teammates are now batting .151 for the series…The bottom of the Cardinals’ order is struggling to say the least. The 7-8-9 hitters with the DH — and 6-7-8 hitters with the pitcher in the lineup — are hitting .106…Boston relievers Doubront, Tazawa and Koji Uehara have allowed just one run, five hits, two walks and struck out eight over 10.1 innings…St. Louis pitchers have more strikeouts (50) than hits (33) and walks (14) combined.

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