ST. LOUIS —With this wild World Series even at two games apiece, there will be plenty to look for in Game 5 Monday night besides what Red Sox starter Jon Lester has in his glove. Here are three things:
Pitching to Big Papi
As unpredictable as this now best-of-three series has been, there is one prediction that is safe to make: If any game is close, Red Sox slugger David Ortiz will not see a strike.
The Red Sox DH/first baseman is evoking memories of Barry Bonds in the 2002 World Series when he seemed impossible to get out (and virtually was, reaching base 21 times in seven games). Ortiz so far has reached in 12 of 16 plate appearances, scored five runs and hit two homers. His eight hits (in 11 at-bats) are more than the combined total of the rest of the Red Sox who follow him in the batting order.
“If he doesn’t leave the ballpark, it’s a good night,” said Lance Lynn, who “held” Ortiz to a single, double, walk and two runs in Game 4.
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny did not commit to a “four-fingers” strategy when pitching to Ortiz, but that might be because his pitchers don’t need him to.
“They’re all watching and realizing that he’s tough to get out right now,” he said. “So we’ve got to figure out a new game plan and execute our pitches. But good hitters are going to get hits sometimes, even on good pitches. We’ve just got to be careful and make sure we’re making our adjustments. We’ve got guys that can get him or any hitter out. But there’s definitely times where it’s a little more difficult and he’s locked in.”
The first inning
In Game 1, the Red Sox proved right away that their reputation for taking long at-bats is deserved. The first time they came up against Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright, all nine Red Sox took the first and the second pitch.
How much their approach played into Wainwright’s subpar performance is difficult to know. Wainwright says his mechanics were off from the first batter — a walk to Jacoby Ellsbury — and they never got right. The Red Sox led 5-0 after two innings.
Wainwright says he has spent plenty of time in front of a mirror fixing his delivery since his Game 1 loss. If he’s right, we will know early. In his first three postseason starts, Wainwright avoided the first-inning woes that hampered him during the regular season. He went on to work at least seven innings and give up two or fewer runs.
A cold Freese
Cardinals third baseman David Freese looks like the same guy who was the hometown hero of the 2011 World Series. Until he swings the bat, anyway. His offensive production this time around is nothing like two years ago. In the 2011 postseason, Freese went 25 for 63 (.397) with five homers and 21 RBIs. This time around: 8 for 49 (.163) with one homer and four RBIs. In the World Series, he’s 1 for 12 and has left 13 runners on base in the first four games. At least once a game, he seems to whiff at a high fastball.
Freese has kept his head up, as he did through a trying regular season during which he lost his everyday job at third base for a stretch. He knows how much one swing at the right time can mean.
“It’s not the time of year to not be productive,” Freese said. “But baseball can change in a hurry.”
You can follow Stan McNeal on Twitter at @stanmcneal or email him at email@example.com.