World Series - Boston Red Sox v St Louis Cardinals - Game Five

Jon Lester’s mastery, efficiency carry Red Sox to edge of glory, push Cardinals to brink

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ST. LOUIS — We thought of Game 1 as a battle of aces. It didn’t turn out that way. Game 5, however, gave us what we had been expecting. Adam Wainwright vs. Jon Lester and this time they were both on their game. But Jon Lester was better than Wainwright and, just as importantly, was more efficient than his Cardinals counterpart. As a result the Red Sox beat the Cards 3-1 and now take a 3-2 series lead with them back to Boston with two shots at clinching their eighth World Series title.

Early on it didn’t look like Wainwright had made those post-Game 1 adjustments he had been talking about on Sunday. At least not against David Ortiz, who continues to carry the Sox on his back offensively. After allowing a one-out double to Dustin Pedroia, Wainwright inexplicably threw fastballs to Ortiz despite the fact such beasts had been murdered by this beast all series long. A hard double to right made it 1-0 and one would be forgiven if one thought that Wainwright’s night was destined to be a short one.

But then he settled down, retiring the next eight batters he faced. Ortiz singled off of him again in the fourth but nothing came of it. In the fifth two singles put runners on first and second before Wainwright bore down and struck out Lester — who looked helpless trying to bunt and has yet to get a major league hit in over 30 plate appearances — and sat down Jacoby Ellsbury as well.  In the sixth Wainwright even retired Ortiz. It was the first time anyone had done so since early in Game 3. Through six Wainwright had struck out nine while scattering five hits.

Lester matched him frame for frame through six, striking out seven and needing only 69 pitches to do it. He was hit harder at times — his big mistake was allowing a 423-foot homer to Matt Holliday in the fourth — but the Cardinals, as has so often been the case this past week, were unable to string anything together. It left Lester in a position to stay in the game longer than any pitcher had so far in this series.

Wainwright had to work harder to get to the seventh and it was in the seventh where we finally saw the toll of his evening and, in all likelihood, the toll of his long season finally paid. After notching his tenth and final strikeout of the night, Wainwright gave up a single to Xander Bogaerts and walked the heretofore harmless Stephen Drew. A David Ross ground rule double plated Bogaerts and — because he had only thrown those 69 pitches through six — John Farrelll let Lester hit for himself. That didn’t work out — Lester bounced back to the pitcher — but Jacoby Ellsbury singled in Drew. David Ross was sent home as well, but he was nailed at the plate. Maybe. He was called out, though, ending the inning with the Sox up 3-1.

Letting Lester hit for himself bought John Farrell an inning and two thirds of his starter’s time, helping preserve a bullpen that was on fumes and likely without the services of Felix Doubront, who had pitched the previous two nights. As it was, Lester would retire the Cards in order in the seventh and get two outs in the eighth before being lifted for Koji Uehara who sealed the four-out save.

It was a masterful and powerful performance for Jon Lester, who allowed only four hits while not walking a batter in seven and two-thirds. More importantly, he powered his team to victory and on to Boston, where the Red Sox can pop champagne corks as soon as this time Wednesday night.

Cubs, Jake Arrieta avoid arbitration at $10.7 million

Jake Arrieta
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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The Associated Press is reporting that the Cubs and starter Jake Arrieta have avoided arbitration, agreeing to a $10.7 million salary for the 2016 season. That marks the highest salary on a one-year deal for a pitcher with four years of service, the AP notes. Arrieta and the Cubs were set to go before an independent arbitrator but now can simply focus on the season ahead.

Arrieta, 29, is in his second of three years of arbitration eligibility. He had filed for $13 million while the Cubs countered at $7.5 million. The $5.5 million gap was the largest among players who did not come to terms with their respective teams by the January deadline. The $10.7 million salary is $450,000 above the midpoint between the two submitted figures.

Arrieta won the National League Cy Young Award for his performance this past season, narrowly edging out Zack Greinke, then with the Dodgers. Arrieta led the majors with 22 wins, four complete games, and three shutouts. With that, he compiled a 1.77 ERA and a 236/48 K/BB ratio across 229 innings.

Once a top prospect in the Orioles’ minor league system, Arrieta struggled in the majors but found immediate success with the Cubs in 2013 after the O’s traded him along with Pedro Strop in exchange for Steve Clevenger and Scott Feldman.

Giants sign Conor Gillaspie to a minor league deal

Los Angeles Angels third baseman Conor Gillaspie is unable to hold on to the ball after catching a grounder hit by Kansas City Royals' Lorenzo Cain in the fourth inning of a baseball game at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., Friday, Aug. 14, 2015. (AP Photo/Colin E. Braley)
AP Photo/Colin E. Braley
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Per Baseball America’s Matt Eddy, the Giants have signed infielder Conor Gillaspie to a minor league deal. Gillaspie was selected by the Giants in the supplemental round of the 2008 draft, then was traded to the White Sox in February 2013.

Gillaspie, 28, hit a meager .228/.269/.359 with four home runs and 24 RBI in 253 plate appearances between the White Sox and Angels during the 2015 season. Almost all of his playing time has come at third base but he can also play first base if needed.

The Giants, thin on depth, will allow Gillaspie to audition in spring training for a spot on the 25-man roster.

Joe Nathan plans to pitch in 2016

Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Joe Nathan throws against the Chicago White Sox in the ninth inning of a baseball game in Detroit Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
AP Photo/Paul Sancya
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Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that free agent reliever Joe Nathan, recovering from Tommy John surgery, plans to pitch in 2016 according to his agent Dave Pepe. According to Pepe, Nathan’s workouts are “going well” and the right-hander is “definitely planning on playing this year.”

Nathan, 41, got the final out on Opening Day (April 6) against the Twins before going on the disabled list with a flexor strain in his right elbow, causing him to miss the next 161 games. He will likely be able to contribute out of the bullpen in late May or early June if he has no setbacks. On a minor league deal or incentive-laden major league deal, Nathan could make for a low-risk gamble.

Over a 15-season career that dates back to 1999 (he did not pitch in the majors in 2001 or 2010), Nathan has 377 saves with a 2.89 ERA and a 967/340 K/BB ratio over 917 innings.

The Rays are considering reliever Tyler Clippard

New York Mets pitcher Tyler Clippard throws during the eighth inning of Game 4 of the National League baseball championship series against the Chicago Cubs Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh
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On Thursday, we learned that the Diamondbacks were still considering free agent reliever Tyler Clippard. You can add the Rays to the list as well, per Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.

The Rays traded lefty reliever Jake McGee to the Rockies in exchange for outfielder Corey Dickerson in late January, so Clippard would be able to slot right in behind closer Brad Boxberger. Clippard, 30, compiled a 2.92 ERA with 64 strikeouts and 31 walks over 71 innings in a season split between the Athletics and Mets. The strikeout rate was at its lowest since the right-hander become a full-time reliever in 2009, and his walk rate was at its highest since 2010, which may be a factor in his still being a free agent in February.