Stan McNeal expects to see free frames, Wacha pitching to Ortiz and, maybe, John Lackey's luck changing
By STAN McNEAL FS Midwest
BOSTON --Based on the Game 6 history of these two teams, someone is destined for a night that baseball never will forget. (Think David Freese, Bill Buckner and Carlton Fisk.) Besides watching who might make history Wednesday night, here are three other things to watch:
Close game, extra innings
When teams aren't hitting, runs aren't scoring. When runs aren't scoring, comfortable leads are hard to come by. Since the Red Sox's 8-1 rout in Game 1, comfortable leads have been non-existent.
Over the past four games, the Red Sox have held a lead of more than two runs for all of one inning, and that came on Jonny Gomes' three-run homer. And that's one more inning than the
Cardinals, who haven't led by more than two runs at any point in the first five games.
Twenty-one of the past 36 innings have ended with the teams tied or separated by no more than one run.
About all that we haven't seen is an extra-inning game.
History says we are due. The last time either team played a World Series Game 6, in fact, extra innings were needed. Cardinals fans haven't forgotten Freese's walk-off homer in 2011, and probably never will.
Incredibly, the Red Sox have gone extra innings in their past two Game 6s, and both games rank among the most famous in World Series history. In 1986, the Red Sox lost to the Mets in 10 innings when Buckner let Mookie Wilson's two-out grounder slip between his legs. In 1975, Fisk's famous body-language homer down the left-field line beat the Reds in 12 innings. Unfortunately for the Red Sox, they lost both of those Series.
Wacha vs. Big Papi
Two of the three runs Game 6 starter,
Michael Wacha, has allowed in his four postseason starts came on David Ortiz's sixth-inning, two-run homer in Game 2. (The other also scored on a homer by Pedro Alvarez.)
Wacha remains bugged by the mistake even though the Cardinals won 4-2. "I didn't have my best stuff," he said after the game. "Definitely a bit more wild and didn't have the command."
Four nights later, talking after Game 5, he still hadn't forgotten. "I made too many mistakes," he said.
Undoubtedly, Wacha is referring to the full-count changeup he left up that Ortiz slugged into the first row of the Green Monster seats. Ortiz grounded out and walked in his other two appearances against Wacha, leaving him with a .667 on-base percentage that actually is lower than his .750 OBP for the Series.
Wacha has a plan for Ortiz in Game 6 that he's not about to reveal. While he certainly doesn't plan on serving him much in the way of hittable pitches, Wacha must be careful about walking Ortiz. With the DH in place, Mike Napoli will be back in the lineup and hitting behind Ortiz.
While the Cardinals are due to start hitting, Red Sox starter
John Lackey is due for a change of luck.
The veteran right-hander left Game 2 with a 2-1 lead in the seventh but ended up the hard-luck loser when reliever Craig Breslow threw away the lead. A tough-luck loss was nothing new for Lackey this season.
Game 2 was Lackey's ninth start of the season allowing three or fewer runs and ending with a loss. Lackey posted a 3.52 ERA during the regular season, his lowest since 2007, but finished 10-13. He has made 21 quality starts including the postseason but picked up a win in only 10 of them.
Lackey threw 17 pitches in a scoreless relief inning in the Red Sox's Game 4 victory Sunday night but doesn't believe that will affect him three nights later.
"The intensity obviously is a little bit different getting in the game than throwing out of the bullpen," he said Tuesday. "But the number of pitches I threw shouldn't be much of a factor."
You can follow Stan McNeal on Twitter at @stanmcneal or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.