More: Game 6 preview
The Boston Red Sox have taken a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven World Series after a 3-1 win over the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 5. They did so behind excellent pitching and timely hitting. Let's take a peek.
Hero: Just like Game 1, Red Sox lefty Jon Lester stymied the Cardinals offense. This performance was perhaps even more impressive, given that the Cardinals had already seen him and he's usually worse away from home. Instead, Lester looks every bit a postseason ace right now. This time around, he went 7 2/3 innings, allowing only four hits and one earned run while striking out seven and walking none.
Goat: This is a difficult decision. Adam Wainwright was mostly outstanding but kind of fell apart in the seventh inning. Did Mike Matheny stick with him too long? That's tough. Had Wainwright been able to get David Ross and Jon Lester out -- no tall task -- the game stays tied, 1-1. But then Matheny left him in to face Jacoby Ellsbury, which cost them another run. Also keep in mind, master of command Wainwright walked struggling Stephen Drew before Ross, so some signs of fatigue were there. Kevin Siegrist was ready in the bullpen, too. Outside of this decision-making, I'm hard pressed to come up with anyone else. The offense didn't do much at all, but Lester was dominant. Sometimes you have to tip your cap. So I'm going with the skipper here even if the decision-making wasn't necessarily egregious.
Turning point: David Ross' ground-rule double with one out in the top of the seventh. This was a classic pitcher's duel until that inning. And, sure, the Red Sox already had two runners on base with one out, but if Ross is retired, Wainwright only needs to get opposing pitcher Lester out to end the inning.
It was over when: Dominant Lester or no, a two-run lead with these Cardinals is too close for comfort. It was over when it was literally over, though Ellsbury's single to provide insurance -- giving the Red Sox a 3-1 lead in the seventh -- definitely provided some breathing room.
Next: Tuesday is a travel/workout day. Wednesday, it's Game 6 at 8:07 p.m. ET in Boston's Fenway Park. The pitching matchup will be a replay of Game 2 in the same venue, with Michael Wacha taking on John Lackey. A Red Sox win clinches the World Series championship just one season removed from last place. A Cardinals win means we'll get a Game 7 and possibly one of the better World Series in the last 25-30 years.