- David Schoenfield, SweetSpot blogger
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In a World Series already replete with craziness, we get a little bit more of it for Game 5:
1. Shane Robinson will start and bat second for the Cardinals.
2. Jonny Gomes will hit cleanup for the Red Sox.
The biggest move, however, the one that isn't so strange, is that Allen Craig is back in the starting lineup for the Cardinals and playing first base, bad foot and all. That move makes sense since Matt Adams hasn't been hitting and with Jon Lester starting you get the right-handed Craig back in there instead of Adams. He'll bat sixth, presumably because he can barely run. Still, you can argue that if he can play, why not put him higher in the lineup?
"We ended up kind of holding back on him, making sure he's going to be ready to DH those games [in Boston]," Mike Matheny said before the game of Craig. "But yeah, he felt better yesterday, much better than what he thought he was going to feel, and even better today. So that's continued to move forward."
Matheny's choice to not hit Craig cleanup has a ripple effect: With no Adams and Craig well below 100 percent, he needed a cleanup hitter, so he moved Carlos Beltran down from the No. 2 slot to the No. 4 slot, and moved Robinson into the starting lineup and batting second.
Playing Robinson makes some sense. Again, it gets another right-handed bat in there against Lester instead of Jon Jay. Robinson, in limited duty as a reserve this season, did post a .345 on-base percentage, although just .319 against left-handers. He has next to no power, his home run against the Dodgers more of a fluke than a sign of real ability. Hitting Robinson second is something Matheny rarely did during the season, however; Robinson started 30 games and hit second just nine times (and leadoff twice). When he started, he normally hit seventh because he's a No. 7 or 8 type of hitter.
Fine, Craig can't run. Why not keep Beltran second and simply move Yadier Molina up to the cleanup spot, hit Craig fifth and David Freese sixth? Molina hit .333/.374/.509 against left-handers. No, he can't run either. But ask yourself this: Ninth inning, down a run, you have your 2-3-4 hitters up. Would you rather want Beltran and/or Molina to be assured an at-bat that inning ... or Shane Robinson? Team speed isn't really in the St. Louis playbook, but it appears Matheny became overly fixated on that with this lineup.
As for Gomes hitting cleanup, he's in there because Shane Victorino is again unable to play. And because he hit a terrible pitch from Seth Maness over the fence in left field in Game 4. But Gomes versus Wainwright is a poor matchup, the strikeout-prone Gomes against a good strikeout pitcher in Wainwright. Gomes hit .167 against curveballs from right-handed batters this season, but that's only 18 at-bats; over the past three seasons, he's hit .145 against curveballs, with 33 strikeouts in 58 plate appearances. Good luck.
I do like that John Farrell was willing to move David Ortiz up to the third spot. He clearly wanted to alternate his left- and right-handed hitters to make Matheny's late-game relief substitutions more difficult, going Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, Ortiz, Gomes and Daniel Nava (a switch-hitter, but much more potent from the left side). As with the Cardinals, I would have stacked my best hitters together. You could have gone Ellsbury, Nava, Ortiz, Pedroia (if you wanted a right-hander to protect Ortiz), or just stayed with the Game 4 order -- Ellsbury, Nava, Pedroia, Ortiz, Gomes. At this point, it doesn't really matter who hits behind Ortiz: If there's an open base, the Cardinals are likely to pitch around him.
The bigger problem with the Red Sox's lineup is Stephen Drew, David Ross and Lester in the 7-8-9 slots. Drew is 4-for-49 in the postseason with 17 strikeouts and one walk and looks helpless (or is it hopeless?) at the plate. But he's understandably in there for his defense. So is Ross, who has become Lester's personal catcher. But Ross hit .216 and struck out in 37 percent of his plate appearances. It's difficult to imagine the bottom of this lineup doing any damage against Wainwright.
So everything is pointing to a low-scoring game.
Which means the final score will probably be 8-7.