Busch Stadium

World Series Game 5 preview: It’s Ace vs. Ace once again


What: Game 5 of the World Series
Where: Busch Stadium, St. Louis, Missouri
When: 8:07 EDT, Fox

What to expect? Your guess is as good as ours. But let’s try to pretend this game, which will decide who goes up 3-2 as the Series shifts back to Boston on Wedneday, is going to be conventional. Let’s talk about the matchups.

The 2013 postseason has been defined by aces. Clayton Kershaw. Zack Greinke. Max Scherzer. Justin Verlander. And now the two biggest aces left standing — Adam Wainwright and Jon Lester — meet once again.

Of course in Game 1 Wainwright looked like anything but an ace, giving up fice runs on six hits in five innings, putting his Cardinals in a hole out of which it was impossible to climb. He said during his pre-Game 4 press conference that that outing was a matter of poor mechanics, but one wonders if that’s the case. By now he’s been pitching for more than eight months straight and, between the regular season and the postseason, has 269.2 innings on his odometer, which is far more than he’s ever pitched. Will his work with film and practicing his pitching motion in a mirror these past four days cure whatever ailed him last Wednesday, or is Wainwright simply out of gas?  We should know in the early innings tonight.

Boston’s ace stands on far firmer footing. Lester looked dominant in Game 1, shutting out the Cardinals in seven and two-thirds innings. And maybe getting into their head a little bit courtesy of some mysterious goo that appeared on his glove. Or maybe that just got into the media’s heads with all of that, as the Cardinals didn’t complain. They did look lost against him, however. Possibly because they hadn’t seen him before. Perhaps their luck will change the second time around. Perhaps home cooking will help too. While it’s not easy to get to Lester anywhere, he is a bit more vulnerable on the road than he is at Fenway Park, where he sports a 3.09 ERA. In hostile stadiums he’s at 4.21.

Frankly, there is pressure on both offenses. Offenses which, in the regular season, were near the top of their respective leagues in most categories, but which have been mostly quiet during the World Series.

The Red Sox got power from an unexpected source in Jonny Gomes in Game 4 and David Ortiz has been an absolute beast thus far, going 8 for 11 with two homers, four walks and five RBI in the Fall Classic. But beyond that, it’s been an anemic offensive effort for Boston, with only Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Xander Bogaerts and Daniel Nava even cracking .200. For the Cardinals it’s been much the same: they sport a .235/.300/.309 line overall. Whoever can bust out will be the first team to truly do so and it could change the complexion of this Series.

But why are we even anticipating games decided on conventional grounds like hitting and pitching? With a Game 3 decided by one of the most unusual plays in World Series history and Game 4 ending in one of the more ignominious ways a World Series can end, perhaps we should expect the unexpected.

Video: Jonathan Lucroy who? Roberto Perez homers twice in World Series opener for the Indians

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 25:  Roberto Perez #55 of the Cleveland Indians hits a three-run home run during the eighth inning against the Chicago Cubs in Game One of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on October 25, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
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Back in July, then-Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy vetoed a trade that would have sent him to the Indians, helping the club make a significant upgrade behind the plate after losing Yan Gomes to an injury. At the time, Roberto Perez had only played in 11 games, batting .043. Gomes had hit .165 before his injury, and Chris Gimenez batted .202 over 42 games. It was not much of a logical leap to think the Indians would eventually falter due to a lack of production at the catching position.

But here the Indians are in the World Series facing the Cubs. In Game 1 on Tuesday night, Perez — who finished the season with a .183 average and three home runs in 184 plate appearances — drilled a pair of home runs, accounting for four of the six runs the Indians would score in a shutout win over the Cubs.

Perez’s first blast was a solo that that just cleared the left field fence at Progressive Field, coming on an 0-1 fastball from starter Jon Lester. That padded the Indians’ lead to 3-0.

The second homer put the game away, as he punished reliever Hector Rondon for hanging a 2-2 slider with two runners on base, slugging this one enough to clear the left field fence by plenty. That doubled the Indians’ lead to 6-0, the score by which they would eventually win.

Perez is the first catcher to homer twice in a World Series game since Gary Carter did it for the Mets against the Red Sox in the 1986 World Series. Perez is the first Indian to homer twice in the same playoff game since Jim Thome in the 1999 ALDS against the Red Sox.

Corey Kluber dazzles as Indians blank Cubs 6-0 in Game 1 of the World Series

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 25:  Corey Kluber #28 of the Cleveland Indians throws a pitch against the Chicago Cubs during the first inning in Game One of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on October 25, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

From the moment Kris Bryant struck out looking for the second out of the first inning in Game 1 of the World Series, the Cubs knew Indians starter Corey Kluber brought his A-game and that they were in for a long night. Bryant was Kluber’s second strikeout victim in as many batters and he would go on to strike out eight batters through the first three innings, setting a World Series record.

The Indians, meanwhile, gave Kluber an early cushion, scoring twice in the bottom of the first inning. Francisco Lindor hit a two-out single, then stole second base against starter Jon Lester. Lester proceeded to walk Mike Napoli and Carlos Santana to load the bases. Jose Ramirez brought one run home with an infield single to the left of the pitcher’s mound. The lefty then hit Brandon Guyer with a pitch to force in another run, giving the Indians a 2-0 lead.

The Indians scored one more run in the fourth inning when catcher Roberto Perez snuck a solo home run over the fence in left field, victimizing Lester yet again.

The Cubs struggled to get any kind of momentum going, wasting a leadoff double by Ben Zobrist in the second inning and a two-out double by Kyle Schwarber in the fourth. Through six innings, Kluber yielded only three hits with zero walks and nine strikeouts. He took the mound to start the seventh but departed after Zobrist led off with a single to left field.

Reliever and ALCS MVP Andrew Miller entered the game, but the Cubs seemed to have a better time against him. Schwarber drew a walk and Javier Baez singled to left, loading the bases. At the very least, it seemed, Miller would give up at least one run, if not two. The average team scored two runs with the bases loaded and no outs, according to Baseball Prospectus. But Miller showed why he was named the MVP of the ALCS, getting Willson Contreras to fly out to shallow center. Schwarber thought the ball would drop, so he was way off the second base bag, but center fielder Rajai Davis didn’t notice and fired home to ensure a run didn’t score. Despite the mistake, Miller rebounded by striking out Addison Russell and David Ross to escape the inning with no damage done

Miller returned to the mound for the eighth inning for his second inning of work. After getting Dexter Fowler to fly out, he walked Bryant. Miller got Anthony Rizzo to fly out to shallow center, but Zobrist singled to center to put runners on first and third with two outs. On his 46th pitch of the night, Miller struck out Schwarber to escape the inning.

Perez decided to double the Indians’ lead to 6-0 in the bottom of the eighth. Cubs reliever Justin Grimm walked Guyer and allowed a single to Lonnie Chisenhall, forcing manager Joe Maddon to replace him with Hector Rondon. Rondon hung a 2-2 slider and Perez crushed it, this time clearing the fence by plenty for a three-run homer. He’s the first catcher with two homers in a World Series game since Gary Carter in 1986.

Closer Cody Allen, who thought he was going to be used in a save situation, took over in the top of the ninth. After striking out Baez, Contreras doubled to right field. Allen then struck out Russell as well as pinch-hitter Miguel Montero to end the game in a 6-0 victory for the Indians.

Game 2 of the World Series will start an hour earlier than usual on Wednesday due to forecasted inclement weather late at night. Jake Arrieta will make the start for the Cubs opposite the Indians’ Trevor Bauer.