With the Boston Red Sox on the brink of their eighth World Series title as a franchise, needing just one win in a possible two games back in Boston, post game questions after Game 5 turned to MVP talk for David Ortiz.
While the Red Sox slugger went 3-for-4 with an RBI double to help push Boston to a 3-2 advantage in the series with a 3-1 victory Monday, St. Louis manager Mike Matheny cringed when asked if Ortiz was clearly the MVP no matter what happens in Boston.
“That’s not even a conversation we are thinking about,” Matheny said in his post-game press conference. “We have games to play. That kind of stuff isn’t even on our radar.”
Ortiz has Cardinals pitching all over his radar. The 37-year-old is hitting a gaudy .733 at the plate with a .750 slugging percentage and a 1.267 OPS in the World Series. He’s 11-for-15 at the plate with four walks, two doubles, two home runs and 6 RBIs in the series. He had a streak of nine straight at-bats reaching base come to an end on a scorching line-out to center field.
Boston manager John Farrell was also asked about Ortiz’s MVP chances.
“Oh, he’s have a great series but the one thing we won’t do is get ahead of ourselves,” Farrell told reporters after the game. “He’s in a really good place right now.”
And so is Boston. The Red Sox have a chance to clinch the World Series title at home for the first time since 1918 and will send John Lackey to mound for Game 6, which starts at 8:15 p.m. Wednesday at Boston’s Fenway Park.
Lackey allowed three runs on five hits in 7 1/3 innings in a 4-2 loss to the Cardinals in Game 2. It’ll be a rematch of Game 2 as the Cardinals send rookie Michael Wacha to the mound. Wacha allowed two runs on three hits with four walks and six strikeouts in the win.
Jon Lester was masterful again for Boston, going 7 2/3 innings and allowing one run on four hits with seven strikeouts and no walks. His only blemish was surrendering a home run to Matt Holliday that tied the game at 1-1 in the fourth inning.
Lester has two wins in the series and in 15 1/3 innings on the mound, he’s allowed just one run on nine hits. He has 15 strikeouts and has issued just one base on balls.
“I think the biggest thing, especially after that first run from (Ortiz), was to have shutdown innings,” Lester told MLB Network after the win. “Our guys did a good job of wearing him down and any time you get the ball to Koji, that’s a good sight to see.”
Uehara earned his second save of the World Series, striking out two batters without allowing a base runner in four outs. The Neyagawa, Japan native hasn’t allowed a run or walk in 3 2/3 innings of work in the series. He has scattered two hits with two strikeouts.
While Ortiz and Lester grab the headlines, it was the much-maligned bottom half of the order that produced in crunch time.
With the game tied at 1-1 in the top of the seventh inning, Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright started off the inning by striking out Daniel Nava. Rookie Xander Bogaerts singled and Stephen Drew – batting .082 in the postseason – drew a walk. Catcher David Ross then hit a ground-rule double to score Bogaerts for the go-ahead run. With a much-needed insurance run at third base, Farrell stuck with starter Lester at the plate, even though the pitcher was 0-for-35 in MLB at-bats. Lester, who was needed to pitch to help a thin Boston bullpen, grounded out to the pitcher but center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury came through with an RBI single to give the Red Sox a 3-1 lead.
Now Boston is on the verge of winning its third World Series championship in 10 seasons.
“The fact is we are going home and playing in a place that our guys love to play. Right in front of our fans,” Farrell said. “We are excited to go back home with the way things are.”
Matheny isn’t ready to count his guys out.
“It starts with mentality,” Matheny said. “This is a great challenge, a great opportunity to prove how tough we are mentally. That’s where it begins. We need (Wacha) to throw a big game, we’ve been backed up in this spot before, and the guys know what we have to do.
“We have to lock arms and trust each other. It’s about not buying into stats and predictions or any kind of odds and just go out and play the game.”