Lester Bests the Cardinals, and the Twitterverse, in Game Five

The story of Game Five was Jon Lester. The Red Sox lefthander matched Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright pitch for pitch in what turned out to be yet another nail-biter in a white-knuckle World Series. When it was over, the Red Sox had a 3-1 win and a three-games-to-two lead heading back to Fenway Park.

The deciding runs came in the seventh inning, as did the night’s most-interesting Twitter debate. The game was tied, runners were on first and second, and there was one out. David Ross was at the plate. Lester was on deck.

A number of people — some within the media — began Tweeting that the Red Sox should pinch-hit for Lester when his spot came up. After Ross doubled to make the score 2-1, and put runners on second and third, the Tweets increased. “You can’t let Lester bat and give up an out here” was the common refrain.

There was logic to that opinion. Lester was two batters into going through the Cardinals’ order for the third time. If you read Dave Cameron — and surely you do — you know that put Lester in the danger zone.

It wouldn‘t have been the right move. Lester is Boston’s ace, his pitch count was a comfortable 69, and outside of a tenuous fourth inning he had been dominating. As one person Tweeted, pulling your best pitcher from a pivotal World Series game in that situation would have been insane.

John Farrell is sane of mind. He said after the game he had no intention of lifting Lester, even if the game had remained tied. Ross’s hit made his decision easier, and it became easier still when Jacoby Ellsbury singled to make it a two-run lead.

Lester came back out for the seventh and fashioned a one-two-three inning. He then retired two of three batters in the eighth before handing the ball to Koji Uehara for the final four outs.

On the night, Lester allowed just four base runners and struck out seven. Of the 91 pitches he threw — 79 of which were fastballs or cutters — 61 were strikes.

Matt Carpenter, who was hitless in three at bats against Lester, was impressed.

“You just have to tip your cap to him,” said the St. Louis leadoff hitter. “He pitched extremely well. He had his cutter working to both sides of the plate, to both lefties and righties. He was front-dooring it to lefties and back-dooring it to righties, and also running it in on righties. He had command of all of his pitches. Waino pitched well, too. We just couldn‘t score any runs for him.”

A subdued Pete Kozma, who also went hitless on the night, didn’t see anything new from the Boston lefthander. What he did see was a pitcher on top of his game.

“It didn’t seem like he was doing anything too special, just what he did at their place,” said the Cardinals shortstop. “He was mixing everything and getting everything over for strikes. I think we had good at bats. He just beat us. It happens,”

Ross, who has become Lester’s primary catcher, probably said it best.

“He’s our backbone,” said Ross. “He’s our horse when he’s out there. We expect a lot out of him. He pitched like the ace he is.”

What the Red Sox got from Lester was a big-time performance in a big game. He out-pitched the Cardinals ace for the second time in a week, and the Red Sox are one win from a World Series championship.



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David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from February 2006-March 2011 and is a regular contributor to several publications. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.


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brian
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brian

hindsight is 20/20 but if you PH napoli there and he goes deep 1 2/3 of an inning dont really matter

Kampfer
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Kampfer

Even a sac fly would be worth pinch hitting for him. There was no excuse to let him bat, especially considering that they will have an off day tomorrow to rest their RPs.

Todd
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Todd

Yup, the positive result of a W doesn’t excuse Farrell’s mistake. He may be the ace, but Boston has enough good relief pitchers to cover a few innings. As you point out, even a sac fly would justify the move, because no reliver they reasonably bring in is going to be a full run worse than Lester over just 1 or 2 innings.

George
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George

I think you have way more faith in the Red Sox bullpen than Farrell does at the moment. Especially with Breslow blowing it 3 games in a row.

Kampfer
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Kampfer

He could have used relievers other than Breslow… Tazawa has been pretty good.

Mister
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Mister

Are you guys serious right now? You know Napoli struck out in 32.4% of his PAs this year, right? He had base hits or hit a fly ball for an out in 34.7% of his PAs. I’m sure many of those fly balls did not go deep enough to bring the run in, too. So, the most likely outcome even with Napoli at the plate is STILL an out that does not bring in another run.

Who exactly would you have pitched in the 7th? Breslow, Dempster, or Morales? No thanks. Doubront has pitched a lot lately and I don’t think was available.

The only options I could see would be to bring out Workman or to try and get Taz and Koji to combine for 3 innings. Those are both pretty risky options though. Lester was in total control at that point and had only thrown 69 pitches.

Sean Tuxill
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Sean Tuxill

I don’t think Napoli is the one called on to hit if Farrell goes to his bench there, I think it’s Carp. Lefty/righty matchup (though career numbers have Carp and Napoli fairly even against righties, Carp’s at .300/.367/.537 against them this season and Napoli has splits of .248/.353/.464 in 2013), he has a lower strikeout rate – 27% to 32% – and that’s Drew on third, who has enough speed to score on a shallow flyball. If runners are freezing on contact, then the double play goes out the window.

That said, if Matheny then pulls Wainwright and goes with Choate, this all goes to hell real quick.

maguro
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maguro

At that point, you just pinch hit for Carp with Napoli, right? Seems like the leverage of that situation would justify using two bench guys for one at bat.

Chief Keef
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Chief Keef

Yeah, if you take the best possible outcome, sure. On the flip side what if Lester went deep and then pitched a complete game and set down the rest of the batters in order? What is the purpose of this exercise again?

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