There are big stages in the regular season, but absolutely nothing like the big stage in the World Series. Not all players can succeed when the lights are shining down on them and that is why most World Series teams have a core group of veterans leading the way.
This Red Sox team is no different as led by their veterans, they won Game 5 on the road in St. Louis, 3-1, and now hold a 3-2 series lead as the series shifts back to Boston.
“Yeah all of our big guys are stepping up and playing right now,” rookie reliever Brandon Workman said. “They are playing big-time baseball.”
Monday night it all started with left-hander Jon Lester on the mound as he continued his postseason dominance going 7 2/3 innings, allowing one run on four hits while striking out seven and not walking a batter. The one real mistake he made was allowing a solo home run to Matt Holliday in the fourth inning, but after that he quickly settled down and got even sharper, retiring 12 straight batters, before allowing a double to David Freese in the eighth.
“I think anytime you give up a homer you want a pitch back, regardless of the situation,” Lester said. “But the guy next to me (David Ross) did a good job of keeping me calm, keeping me in the game. The next batter flies out deep to left and (Jonny Gomes) makes a great play and you’re kind of looking around going, woah, what’s going on now? We settled back in and got back into a rhythm and things were good after that.”
Lester has shined when the games have mattered most as in 12 career postseason appearances he is 6-4 with a 2.11 ERA. In three World Series starts he is 3-0 with an 0.43 ERA spanning 21 innings. He picked up his sixth career postseason win, which is the most by a Red Sox left-hander and tied for the most overall in club history with Pedro Martinez and Curt Schilling.
“He was pretty good in Game 4 back in 2007 (World Series clincher), but given the stage, given how strong he’s been throughout the course of this year and particularly the second half, and what he’s doing in his own right career-wise in the postseason, yeah, this was a big game,” manager John Farrell said.
Another veteran who came up big in the win was 36-year-old catcher David Ross as his one-out, RBI double in the seventh inning broke a 1-1 tie and proved to be the game-winning hit. Ross was 1-for-9 in the World Series before singling in the fourth and then his double in the seventh, which was undoubtedly the biggest hit of his career.
“He came up big tonight,” Farrell said. “He does such a great job running the game. The key double in that seventh inning for the go-ahead run. We’ve talked a lot about how he and (Lester) have worked well in the last six or seven times they’ve been paired up. He was big for us tonight.”
Veteran performances for Boston cannot be mentioned without David Ortiz these days as he continued to put the Red Sox offense on his back, going 3-for-4 with an RBI and even running hard down the first base line for an infield hit. In the series, he is hitting .733 (11-for-15) with five runs scored and five RBIs. He has also walked four times. Not including Ortiz, the Red Sox are hitting just .151 (22-for-146) as a team.
“I’ve said it before, this guy right here, I haven’t played with many superstars, but this guy right here is the epitome of a superstar and a good teammate,” Lester said. I don’t think you could ever ask for more out of an individual than what he does on and off the field. The guy’s got a heart of gold and goes out there every single night and competes.”
Monday night was another example that when the lights shine brightest, veterans step. For many of their MLB careers, time is running out quickly. Another World Series trip is no guarantee.
“The time is now, we’ve got to win now and that’s all you can really do,” Lester said.
Follow Metro Red Sox beat writer Ryan Hannable on Twitter @Hannable84.