Red Sox manager John Farrell said that Shane Victorino’s back strain is much improved and he will be available off the bench in Game 5 Monday night, but there were still questions about how long he could go if he started, so he’s not in the lineup.
Farrell said he expects Victorino to be able to start Game 6 in Boston.
Farrell also made a small but significant change to his batting order, sliding Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz and Gomes up one spot in the order, with Nava dropping from second to fifth. Farrell said he did so to “lengthen” the lineup behind Ortiz, who is batting .727 (8 for 11) in the Series and has reached base safely seven consecutive times, his on-base average at .750.
As for his bullpen for Game 5, Farrell said Game 3 starter Jake Peavy will be available, and that he would turn to left-hander Felix Doubront, who has pitched in back-to-back games for the first time since 2011, “only in an emergency.’’
Doubront would appear to loom as a potential option in the event Farrell elects not to start Peavy in Game 7, especially since the Cardinals hit right-handers significantly better (.278/.340/.413/.753) than left-handers (.242/.309/.366/.675) in the regular season. However, the Cardinals routed baseball’s best pitcher, Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw, 9-0, in the deciding game of the NLCS.
Left-hander Craig Breslow, who has retired only one of seven batters he’s faced in the World Series (the out came on a sacrifice fly), looks “a little bit tentative — he hasn’t settled in against their lineup,’’ Farrell said. “He doesn’t have the same familiarity with them as he does with the American League lineups.’’
In something of a surprise, Farrell said that Game 4 starter Clay Buchholz came to him Monday and volunteered to pitch out of the pen when the Series returns to Boston on Wednesday. Game 2 starter John Lackey did the same thing last week, Farrell said, and pitched a scoreless eighth inning Sunday night.
“The way [Buchholz] came out of [Sunday’s start], he told me last night he would be in here [Monday] to get ready for another opportunity,’’ Farrell said. “By no means has he shut down anything physically or mentally.
“When he came back to the dugout after the second inning, he said, ‘I haven’t even tried to throw the ball hard yet,’’’ Farrell said. “I said, ‘Based on what’s happened, you don’t need to.’ He has such feel and can manipulate the ball, even when he’s lacking power, his cutter and two-seamer are very effective.’’
Asked about his rotation plans, Farrell said that as far as Peavy starting Game 7, “everything points to that right now,’’ but added, “Everybody’s available in Game 7.’’
For Game 5, Allen Craig, who has been dealing with a foot injury, was a late addition to the Cardinals lineup. He will bat sixth and play first base. Also, Mike Matheny moved Carlos Beltran, who batted second in an 8-1 loss to Game 5 starter Jon Lester in Game 1, will hit cleanup behind Matt Holliday. Shane Robinson, who hit eighth in Game 1, will bat second.
This probably isn’t the World Series most baseball folks wanted, assuming you don’t root for the Red Sox or Cardinals. After all, both franchises have been to the World Series multiple times in the past decade and both have won twice. So maybe you wanted some new blood.
Instead you’ll get beards. Lots of them.
But you also get two great teams, with no shortage of reasons to watch. Here are 10:
1. Adam Wainwright. He was a rookie closer when the Cardinals won the World Series in 2006 but was injured when they won again in 2011. In a season where much of the attention for pitchers went to Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer, Matt Harvey and Mariano Rivera, Wainwright quietly went 19-9 with a 2.94 ERA while leading the majors in innings pitched. This is his chance to make his October mark in Cardinals history alongside the likes of Bob Gibson and his mentor Chris Carpenter, who won two games in the 2011 World Series. He has that big curveball — maybe the best since Bert Blyleven was spinning his own — that he’ll throw on any count but is especially deadly with two strikes, when opponents hit .118 with 130 strikeouts in 238 plate appearances.
2. David Ortiz versus Carlos Beltran. They’re not facing each other, but you sort of get the feeling they are. Few hitters have delivered in their playoff careers like these two, although Ortiz did go just 2-for-22 in the American League Championship Series. Beltran had six RBIs in each of the Cardinals’ first two series and now gets the opportunity to play in his first World Series … and perhaps make a Hall of Fame statement.
3. John Lackey’s redemption. Two years ago he was the most hated man in Boston after posting a 6.41 ERA in 28 starts and ordering lots of fried chicken between starts. Now, after beating Justin Verlander 1-0 in the ALCS, he’s going to start Game 2 of the World Series. Remember, he’s familiar with the pressures of a big game: As a rookie with the Angels in the 2002 World Series, he was the winning pitcher in Game 7.
4. Yadier Molina. One of the memories of the 2011 World Series that stuck with me was the ovations Molina received from his home fans — louder than those given Albert Pujols. Perhaps Cardinals fans anticipated Pujols’ departure, or maybe they just appreciated everything Molina does for the team, from his hitting to his defense to the confidence he instills in his pitchers. Few players ever perfect their jobs on a baseball field, but you get the idea Molina has perfected playing catcher. Appreciate and enjoy. And then see if the Red Sox — who set the all-time record for stolen-base percentage (123 for 142) — attempt to run on him.
5. Power versus RISP. Each team led its league in runs scored, just the fourth time since 1976 that’s happened (1976, Reds-Yankees; 2004, Cardinals-Red Sox; 2009, Phillies-Yankees), but did so in different ways. The Red Sox, while not as powerful as some Red Sox teams of the past, hit 178 home runs (sixth in the majors), but also pounded out 363 doubles (first) and drew 581 walks (third). The Cardinals ranked 27th in the majors in home runs and don’t steal many bases (just 45), but they put the ball in play, an attribute that allowed them to hit .330 with runners in scoring position, the highest figure in the majors since that stat has been recorded beginning in 1961. The Red Sox beat the Tigers largely because of three key home runs — the grand slams from Ortiz and Shane Victorino plus Mike Napoli’s solo shot in the 1-0 victory in Game 3 — and while the Cardinals have hit just .210 in the postseason they’ve hit .286 with RISP.
6. Michael Wacha. In the span of 16 months he’s gone from Texas A&M to … well, almost unhittable. In his past four starts, going back to his final outing of the regular season, he’s allowed an .093 batting average — 9 for 97. In his three postseason starts, he’s allowed one run for a tidy 0.43 ERA. He has a chance to become just the sixth pitcher to have four starts in one postseason where he allowed one run or less, joining Blue Moon Odom (1972), Burt Hooton (1981), John Smoltz (1996), Ryan Vogelsong (2012) and Curt Schilling (2001, the only one with five). I can’t wait to see what the rookie does.
7. Xander Bogaerts. He just turned 21 and had just 18 games of big-league experience before the playoffs began. Now he may be starting at third base, like he did the final two games of the ALCS. He’s going to be a big star down the road so this is kind of like a sneak preview. He’s had 11 plate appearances in the playoffs and drawn five walks while going 3-for-6. How can a kid have such a mature approach at the plate?
8. Cardinals relievers. Speaking of kids, the Cardinals’ top four relievers right now — Trevor Rosenthal, Carlos Martinez, Kevin Siegrist and Seth Maness — are all rookies. Teams have won before with rookie closers — Bobby Jenks of the White Sox in 2005, Wainwright in 2006 — and the Cardinals had some inexperienced relievers in 2011. But four rookie relievers in key roles? (Five if you include starter Shelby Miller working out of the bullpen.) How can you not be pumped watching Rosenthal and Martinez throwing 100 mph in the eighth and ninth innings?
9. Koji Uehara’s splitter. It’s the most dominant 81 mph pitch in baseball history, a force of nature that breaks the natural laws of baseball, a pitcher who turns skilled batsmen into helpless amateurs. Including the postseason, batters are hitting .134 off Uehara. Against the splitter, they’re hitting .096. Since the All-Star break, they’re hitting .074 against the splitter, just 6-for-81 with 37 strikeouts and no walks. He’s 38 years old and basically the opposite of the gas-throwing Rosenthal and Martinez. The contrast in styles should make for some exciting late-game drama. One more thing: In what other sport could a 38-year-old guy, who while a good pitcher was never to be confused with Mariano Rivera, suddenly have a year better than any season Rivera ever had?
10. The best against the best. For the time since 1999, the teams with the best records in the majors will face off in the World Series. For the time since 2004, the teams with the best run differentials will face off. The rejuvenated, bearded Red Sox against the youthful, talented Cardinals. Players trying to create postseason legacies, others trying to add to existing ones. Big stars and future stars on the rise. It’s a World Series that has the elements for a classic duel. I think we’re going to get one.
• Starting pitchers: Adam Wainwright (19-9, 2.94 ERA) vs. Jon Lester (15-8, 3.75 ERA)
• Scouting report on Wainwright: To win the ALCS, the Red Sox had to overcome one of the best starting pitcher trios ever seen in the form of Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and Anibal Sanchez of the Detroit Tigers. Now, Game 1 of the World Series has them facing one of the best starting pitchers they’ve never seen in the form of Wainwright.
“I know I’ll have my work cut out for me,” Wainwright said. “One of my favorite things to do in the world is game plan for a game. I’ll spend a good amount of time today and tomorrow coming up with a nice plan.”
If it’s anything like the plan Wainwright has had in place for his three postseason starts so far, the Red Sox may be in trouble. The 32-year-old has gone 2-1 with a 1.57 ERA in those starts, including the only complete game thrown of the postseason (Game 5 of the NLDS against the Pittsburgh Pirates).
Despite the unfamiliarity with Boston, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny believes the team is similar to his own.
“You hear some of the things that they say and it’s a lot of similar things that have been preached in our clubhouse,” Matheny said. “Grinding out at-bats and playing tough, playing hard, playing all the way through nine. Those are the things that I believe set good teams apart and that’s what they’re all about.”
Grinding out at-bats will be tough against Wainwright, who walked only 35 batters in 241 2/3 innings pitched during the regular season and has walked only one batter in the postseason (23 innings pitched). However, the right-hander also allowed a NL-high 223 hits.
• Scouting report on Lester: Unlike Wainwright, Lester has faced his opposition before, throwing 7 1/3 innings and allowing two runs on nine hits in a June 2008 start against St. Louis at Fenway Park. The only remaining Cardinals hitter from that game is Yadier Molina, who started at first base and went 0-for-3 against Lester.
“I’m a visual person so I like to prepare for a team by watching what I’ve done against them in the past,” Lester said. “That’s going to be a little tough [with the Cardinals] but that’s where you rely on your scouting department.”
The most blaring statistic Boston’s scouts will tell Lester? St. Louis’ batting average with runners in scoring position is a robust .330. Considering that reliable RISP statistics started being kept in 1961, the total easily topped the previous high set by the 2007 Detroit Tigers (.311)
“You just have to bear down in those situations,” Lester said. “The biggest thing is don’t let it turn into a big inning, that’s where you get into some trouble in the postseason.”
Lester has gone 2-1 with a 2.33 ERA in three postseason starts for Boston so far. The 29-year-old was on the mound for Boston’s last World Series win, Game 4 of the 2007 sweep against the Colorado Rockies.
Three Cardinals players to watch
• Allen Craig, DH: The leading candidate for player to watch during the entire series, Craig hasn’t played in a game since Sept. 4, a result of a foot injury. Before going down, the 29-year-old was considered a candidate for the NL MVP, hitting .315 with 13 home runs and 97 RBIs. Craig’s .454 batting average with runners in scoring position was the best in the majors during the regular season. Matheny expects to keep Craig limited to designated hitting at Fenway and pinch hitting at Busch Stadium for the time being.
• Matt Holliday, LF: Part of the 2007 Rockies team that lost to the Red Sox in the World Series, Holliday has been up-and-down the past two months. September saw the 33-year-old hit .378 in 23 games before slumping to a .244 average in 11 October games. Holliday has found success in his six games at Fenway, hitting .346 with a home run and three doubles. Holliday has faced Lester six times, getting two hits in the process.
• Carlos Beltran, RF: Oft-described as the Cardinals’ postseason inspiration, Beltran will be playing in his first World Series. With 45 playoff games already under his belt, the 36-year-old should be no stranger to the big stage as he has hit .337 with 16 home runs in his previous postseason experience. Beltran has faced Lester three times without being retired, going 1-for-1 with two walks.
Three Red Sox players to watch
• Jacoby Ellsbury, CF: All eyes figure to be on Ellsbury for the Red Sox this series as the speedy outfielder takes his 92.8 percent stolen-base success rate up against Cardinals catcher Molina’s 43 percent caught-stealing rate. Ellsbury has stolen six bases in seven attempts so far this postseason.
• David Ortiz, DH: Wednesday will mark Ortiz’s ninth career World Series game as this is his third time playing in the Fall Classic. In his previous eight games, the left-handed slugger hit .321 with a home run and eight RBIs, four coming each year (2004 and 2007).
• Stephen Drew, SS: After a poor performance in the ALCS that saw Drew collect one hit in 20 at-bats while striking out 10 times, the World Series will represent a clean slate for Boston’s shortstop. Unfortunately Drew’s numbers against Wainwright don’t bode well for him as he’s collected only two hits in 21 plate appearances against the Cardinals ace.
Three Key Considerations:
• The Red Sox and Cardinals have met three times in the World Series before (1946, 1967 and 2004), with the Cardinals winning the first two matchups in seven games and Boston sweeping St. Louis in 2004.
• Farrell said Monday that he plans to utilize Ortiz at first base when the Red Sox play with NL rules at Busch Stadium. Farrell is unsure how many games Ortiz will play, but the move will shift regular first baseman Mike Napoli out of the lineup.
• Starters John Lackey and Clay Buchholz were once again flipped in the rotation, as Lackey will draw the start in Game 2 and Buchholz will pitch in Game 3. Farrell said the move was motivated by the chance to get Lackey to pitch as soon as possible from his last start Oct. 15 in Game 3 against Detroit.
The 2010 Boston Red Sox probable line-up card as proposed by Boston.com…
1. Jacoby Ellsbury
2009 defensive stats: 150 starts (center), .994 FPCT, 2 errors.
Ellsbury played only center field last season, but he started 36 games in 2008 in left field and 15 in ’07. Francona said Ellsbury was initially disappointed about his switch, but he’ll be entering the season never having committed an error in left.
As the leadoff hitter, he improved his on-base percentage from .336 in ’08 to .355 last year. The Red Sox would like to see another such leap this year.
2. Dustin Pedroia
2009 defensive stats: 154 starts, .991 FPCT, 6 errors.
Pedroia said last year he hoped to play 162 games; he played 154 after playing 155 in his MVP season in ’08. In other words: Good luck convincing him to take a day off, Tito.
Offensively, Pedroia is as good as it gets as a No. 2 hitter, batting .296 with 15 homers and 72 RBIs last season in his follow-up to his AL MVP-winning campaign in 2008.
3. Victor Martinez
2009 defensive stats: 82 starts, .982 FPCT, 4 errors.
Martinez, who was sensational after coming over from the Indians at the trading deadline last July, will get the majority of the starts behind the plate, with captain Jason Varitek serving as the capable veteran backup.
Neither is a particularly adept defensive catcher — they combined to throw out 13 percent of basestealers last season — but both are respected by pitchers, and the switch-hitting Martinez’s offensive prowess will give the Sox far better production from the position over a full season than they had a year ago.
4. Kevin Youkils
2009 defensive stats: 77 starts, .998 FPCT, 1 error.
Youkilis, a Gold Glove winner in 2008, started most of his games at first base a season ago and was nearly flawless. With the defensively brilliant Adrian Beltre signed to play third base every day, Youkilis won’t have to shuffle between corner infield positions this season.
At the plate, he should remain one of the premier offensive players in the AL. Last year, he hit .305 with 27 homers, 94 RBIs, and a .961 OPS.
5. David Ortiz
2009 stats: 150 games, 541 at-bats, .238 average.
Ortiz will start the majority of games at DH, but it’s possible Mike Lowell, if he’s somehow not traded once he recovers from thumb surgery, will see starts against lefthanded starters.
The Red Sox, who have lost Jason Bay’s 36 homers and 119 RBIs, are counting on Ortiz to have fewer peaks and valleys than he did last season, when he hit .238 with 28 homers and 99 RBIs despite starting the season in a horrific slump.
6. J.D. Drew
2009 defensive stats: 124 starts, .992 FPCT, 2 errors.
Drew isn’t flashy, but he plays a very steady right field, has an accurate arm, and rarely makes a mistake.
Last season, he batted .279 with a .392 on-base percentage, a .914 OPS, and 24 home runs. While he not known as durable, he did play 137 games last season.
7. Adrian Beltre
2009 defensive stats: 110 starts, .959 FPCT, 14 errors.
Beltre, a tremendous, spectacular defensive player, takes over for the popular Mike Lowell, who lost most of his range last season as he recovered from hip surgery.
Beltre, 31, hit 25 or more home runs from 2006-08 with the Mariners, but fell to eight last year as he was hampered by injuries. The Sox believe his power will be enhanced by playing half of his games at Fenway rather than cavernous Safeco.
8. Mike Cameron
2009 defensive stats: 146 starts, .990 FPCT, 4 errors.
Cameron, a two-time Gold Glove winner with a knack for the spectacular and excellent range even at age 36, bumps Ellsbury to left field, meaning the Sox should have all the gaps covered.
He is a lifetime .250 hitter who batted — yep — .250 last season. But he has legitimate power — he has hit at least 19 homers in all but one season since 1998.
9. Marco Scutaro
2009 defensive stats: 143 starts, .984 FPCT, 10 errors.
All of Scutaro’s starts came at shorstop, but if need be he can play second base. Scutaro committed 10 errors at short, but that’s still 15 fewer than the number of errors combined from Red Sox shortstops in 2009.
Jon Lester: 32 starts, 15 wins, 203.1 IP
John Lackey 27 starts, 11 wins, 176.1 IP
Josh Beckett 32 starts, 17 wins, 212.1 IP
Clay Buchholz 16 starts, 7 wins, 92 IP
Daisuke Matsuzaka 12 starts, 4 wins, 59.1 IP
Both Buchholz and Matsuzaka had their ups and downs in 2009. Both pitchers might be top three starters on any other team, but it’s probable that Matsuzaka will be the fourth starter, and Buchholz the fifth. Both have a high upside, but both also have a lot to prove.