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

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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.

Phillies, Red Sox interested in Carlos Santana

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The Phillies and Red Sox appear intent on pursuing free agent first baseman Carlos Santana, MLB Network’s Jon Morosi reports. Santana rejected a one-year, $17.4 million qualifying offer from the Indians on Thursday and is expected to draw widespread interest on the market this winter. The Mets, Mariners, Angels and Indians could make a play for the infielder, though no serious offers have been made this early in the offseason.

Santana, 31, is coming off of a seven-year track with the Indians. He batted .259/.363/.455 with 23 home runs and 3.0 fWAR last season, making 2017 the fourth-most valuable year of his career to date. Although he was primarily stationed at first base over the last year, he could step back into a hybrid first base/DH role with the Red Sox, who are hurting for infield depth with Hanley Ramirez still working his way back from shoulder surgery.

As for Santana’s other suitors, the Mariners are far less likely to pursue a deal after trading for Ryon Healy last Wednesday. Neither the Mets nor the Phillies have a DH spot to offer the veteran infielder, and the Phillies’ Rhys Hoskins appears to be blocking the way at first base. Then again, Santana may not find a more enticing offer outside of Cleveland, where Edwin Encarnacion might otherwise be the club’s best option at first base. During the GM meetings, Indians’ GM Mike Chernoff said he “love to have both [Santana and Jay Bruce] back” in 2018, but hasn’t backed up that love with any contract talks just yet.