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Wednesday, October 30, 2013
W2W4: World Series Game 6

By Kyle Brasseur, Special to ESPNBoston.com

Where and when: Fenway Park, Wednesday at 8:07 p.m. ET

Starting pitchers: Michael Wacha (4-1, 2.78 ERA) vs. John Lackey (10-13, 3.52 ERA)

Wacha
Scouting report on Wacha: With their season on the line, the Cardinals will turn to 22-year-old rookie Michael Wacha in Game 6 of the World Series at Fenway Park, a building that hasn’t seen a title clinched within its walls since 1918. And St. Louis is completely OK with that.

“It seems like with every situation that everybody tries to build up around him, the better he pitches,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. “We’re just anticipating him to stay the course ... do what he’s been doing and hope his stuff will be good enough. And I believe that it will with what he’s been doing.”

Wacha has been doing things that few others have so far this postseason, going 4-0 in his four starts and allowing just three runs in 27 innings pitched. In Game 2 against the Red Sox, Wacha pitched a postseason-low six innings and allowed a postseason-high two runs, all while throwing a career-high 114 pitches.

“I don’t think anything will be much different,” Wacha said Tuesday. “We know the next two games are must-wins. It all starts with me tomorrow night.”

Wacha has pitched a second start against the same major league team only twice in his career, and both of those second starts have come this postseason: Game 4 of the NLDS against the Pittsburgh Pirates (one run on one hit in 7 1/3 innings) and Game 6 of the NLCS against the Los Angeles Dodgers (no runs on two hits in seven innings).

Lackey
Scouting report on Lackey: Handed the ball with the World Series on the line in 2002, Lackey, then a 24-year-old rookie, pitched the Anaheim Angels to a Game 7 win and their first World Series title. Now, 11 years later and on the mound for what could be Boston’s chance at its eighth world championship, Lackey doesn’t remember much besides the veteran pitchers behind him and the directive he had in getting to them.

“My job was just basically not to screw it up,” Lackey said.

Lackey threw five innings that night, allowing one run on four hits in the win. Since then, the 35-year-old has won an ERA title (2007), led the league in shutouts on three separate occasions and undergone Tommy John surgery on his pitching elbow, shelving him for the entire 2012 season. Although he's a different pitcher than he used to be, Lackey plans to treat his start Wednesday night as though it were win-or-go-home like it was in 2002.

“You’ve got to treat all [your starts] like that at this point in the year,” Lackey said. “They're all big games. It’s tough to put one above any other when it comes to the World Series.”

In Game 2 against the Cardinals, Lackey went 6 1/3 innings, allowing only three runs on five hits, albeit in a loss. Lackey’s four combined postseason appearances (three starts) have seen him go 2-1 with a 3.26 ERA. Although he was needed to pitch the eighth inning out of the bullpen in Boston’s 4-2 win in Game 4, Lackey said the 18 pitches that he threw shouldn’t be a factor in Game 6.

Three Cardinals players to watch

Holliday
Matt Holliday, LF: Holliday accounted for the Cardinals' only run off Jon Lester with his solo homer in Game 5. Holliday (two homers) is the only Cardinal to hit a home run in the series. He tripled and struck out twice in three Game 2 at-bats against Lackey.

Matt Adams, 1B: With the designated hitter spot again available at Fenway Park, Adams should regain his starting role at first base for St. Louis in Game 6. Adams has only three hits in 18 at-bats during the series, one coming off Lackey, and the Cardinals will need his left-handed bat to get going against the right-hander.

Carlos Beltran, RF: Beltran worked his way into the lineup in Game 2 against Lackey a night after being hospitalized with a rib contusion and had the team’s most productive day at the plate, going 2-for-4 with an RBI. The 36-year-old figures to be a tough out facing elimination from his first World Series appearance. He remains homerless in the series through five games, something he’s done only twice before in the eight postseason series he’s played in (2006 NLDS, 2013 NLCS).

Three Red Sox players to watch

Napoli
Mike Napoli, 1B: Given three games off in St. Louis thanks to the red-hot play of normal designated hitter David Ortiz, Napoli will return to Boston’s lineup at first base looking to improve upon his 0-for-2 effort against Wacha in Game 2. Napoli struck out in Game 4 in his only plate appearance against the Cardinals at Busch Stadium.

David Ortiz, DH: There isn’t much more to say about how well Ortiz has been hitting in this series. His 11 hits are two shy of the World Series record owned by Bobby Richardson (1964 Yankees), Lou Brock (1968 Cardinals) and Marty Barrett (1986 Red Sox), while his slash line of .733/.750/1.267 has contributed to a ridiculous 2.017 OPS. For comparison's sake, Detroit Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera led the league this year with a 1.078 OPS. Ortiz hasn’t struck out in his past 30 at-bats, good for his longest such streak in postseason play (11 previously) and third-longest streak in his career (38 in 2011, 32 in 2004).

David Ross, C: Having effectively taken over the starting role from Jarrod Saltalamacchia after Game 3, Ross projects to be the only Red Sox starter Wednesday night without an at-bat against Wacha. The 36-year-old is 2-for-8 since taking over the starting role, and he drove in the game-winning RBI with a ground-rule double Monday night.

Three key considerations

• Red Sox manager John Farrell said Tuesday that Shane Victorino is expected to return to the lineup in Game 6 after missing Games 4 and 5 with lower-back stiffness. He’s 0-for-10 in the World Series. Meanwhile, Jonny Gomes will draw the start over Daniel Nava in left field again.

Speaking via teleconference Tuesday, Matheny released few specifics for his lineup but said the Cardinals will continue to make “little adjustments” as they deem fit.

• Japanese relievers Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara are the first Red Sox with more than 11 appearances in a postseason, having each appeared in 12 games this postseason. Uehara is tied with five others for most saves in a postseason with seven, while Tazawa has five holds, one hold short of the MLB record in a postseason. Both have appeared in six of Boston’s past seven games.

• A win for the Red Sox in Game 6 or, if necessary, Game 7 would be Boston’s first World Series clincher at Fenway Park since Sept. 11, 1918. The 2013 Red Sox also would join the 1991 Minnesota Twins as the only teams to go from finishing in last place to World Series champs in a year.