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WS2013 Gm5: Lester, Wainwright face off in key Game 5

ST. LOUIS -- Cardinals third baseman David Freese knew it before, and this World Series has only reinforced that knowledge.

"Baseball can change in 24 hours," Freese said. "So just keep working. It's obviously not a good time not to be productive. But we're still in a good position. That's the way I look at it. I understand that we're 2-2 in the World Series, so you come to the yard happy."

St. Louis' players tripped all over themselves in Game 1. Boston returned the favor the next night. The Red Sox lost a heartbreaker in Game 3 when the winning run was awarded on an obstruction play. Some doubted that they could come back. But with the help of a big Jonny Gomes home run, they won Game 4, 4-2. And Cards pinch-runner Kolten Wong was picked off first base to end it, with postseason stalwart Carlos Beltran at the plate, representing the tying run.

Both teams have missed chances to grab the wheel. So we arrive at a crucial Game 5 at Busch Stadium on Monday night (7:30 p.m. ET airtime on FOX, 8:07 p.m. first pitch) with the winner one win away from celebrating a World Series championship, the loser pushed to within one more loss of elimination.

The only thing certain is that the Series will return to Boston's Fenway Park. The Sox had the home-field advantage to start, lost it when they split the first two games at home, but they have now seized it back again. And they could position themselves well with another victory. But it won't be easy. The Cardinals haven't lost two in a row at home since they were beaten by the Cubs Aug. 9 and 10.

Given the importance of this game, it's appropriate that the pitching matchup will be left-hander Jon Lester for Boston and right-hander Adam Wainwright for St. Louis.

"It's going to a fun one. They have their horse on the mound. We have our horse on the mound," said Beltran. "So it's going to be even for everybody, and as a team, we have to find a way to go out and score runs for him."

On paper, this projects as a low-scoring game. The Cards are batting just .235 as a team this series. The Red Sox are even worse at .189.

And each starting pitcher comes in with a back story.

Lester is the only lefty starter either team is using, and that's been a problem for the Cardinals this year. Against right-handers, St. Louis was third in the Major Leagues in OPS at .755. Against southpaws, the club ranked 26th (.672).

Beyond that, Lester is simply Boston's most established big-game pitcher. Even though he's just 29 years old, he's made 12 postseason appearances, 10 of them starts. Lester has a 2.22 career postseason ERA, 1.67 this year.

"His physical strength and endurance is unique," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "I think the one thing we all recognize is that power stuff wins in the postseason. He's got it. He maintains it. And in addition to his physical strengths, there's a degree of concentration that he's capable of maintaining that gives him the ability to execute consistently."

In two World Series starts, Lester has yet to allow a run, including pitching 7 2/3 shutout innings against the Cards in Game 1. That's where the fun starts.

It was during Game 1 that a Cardinals Minor League pitcher tweeted a picture of Lester with what appeared to be some sort of green goo in his glove. As the story began to spread, video appeared online that showed Lester touching the spot before delivering his pitches.

As quickly as the story flared up, it went away. Cards general manager John Mozeliak declared it a non-issue. Lester said it was only rosin, that baseballs become slippery in cold weather and that he was only using it to get a better grip. It was a safety issue, he added, not an attempt to throw illegal pitches.

Still, Lester is aware that the issue won't go away entirely, and he knows that he'll be under additional scrutiny when he takes the mound Monday.

"I'm sure there's going to be a focus on my glove and focus on my hands and what I'm doing, but I've got to worry about the Cardinals," the lefty said. "If I'm worried about what people are looking at, I'm worried about the wrong things. I'm going to go out and pitch my game."

Of course, the Cards are just as confident with Wainwright, their ace, on the mound, even though he struggled in the opener, allowing five runs (three earned) in five innings.

"I honestly don't know why my mechanics were as bad as they were, why my delivery was off as much as it was," Wainwright said. "But I feel like I've put in a lot of good reps in front of the mirror and watching film and feeling my delivery, learning the basics all over again. I feel like I've made a lot of good adjustments to be ready to throw some quality pitches the next time. I threw maybe four or five quality pitches the whole time I was pitching [in Game 1]."

To this point, the 109th World Series has been a model of unpredictability. The only thing surprising in Game 5 would be if something surprising doesn't happen.

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