Dial Series all the way to seven

As wild Series heads back to Boston, the only sure bet is that it'll go the distance

Originally Published: October 28, 2013
By Jim Caple | ESPN.com

ST. LOUIS -- You do realize there is no way this World Series ends Wednesday, right?

After we've seen a game-changing reversed umpire's call, a game-ending obstruction call and a game-ending pickoff, you know this series will not end oh-so-simply in six games. This series absolutely has to go the distance and it will do so with a Game 6 that plays out in Jack Buck-worthy "Go crazy, folks! Go crazy!" fashion.

[+] EnlargeAllen Craig
Rob Grabowski/USA TODAY SportsAllen Craig was a late addition to the Cardinals' lineup, but he couldn't help his team either at the plate or in the field.

Two out in the ninth, bases loaded, Red Sox one out from the world championship. Koji Uehara throws over to first base to try and pick off Kolten Wong. But wait!!! The Rally Squirrel just emerged from hibernation inside Mike Napoli's beard! He grabbed the ball in his teeth before Napoli could apply the tag! Now the Rally Squirrel is scurrying across the outfield with it! The Red Sox outfielders are chasing after him while the Cardinals race around the bases to take the lead! The Rally Squirrel crawls under the bullpen fence and up officer Steve Horgan's outstretched arms! I can't believe what I just saw!

See? There is no need to worry, St. Louis fans, let alone panic. Sure, your team is trailing 3-2 and heading to Boston for an elimination game. But the Cardinals have been here before. They had to win two elimination games against Pittsburgh in the division series. They did. And they had to win two against Texas in the 2011 World Series. They did that, too. They can do it again.

"The good thing about this team is the experience that we've had in the past years," right fielder Carlos Beltran said after the Cardinals' 3-1 Game 5 loss Monday night in St. Louis. "A lot of guys have been here before me and in recent years, when things looked tough, they have pulled it off. No one said it was going to be easy."

Plus, the Cardinals have that Wacha Wacha kid on the mound for Game 6. Rookie Michael Wacha has allowed just three runs in four postseason starts, winning each, including a win-or-go-home game in Pittsburgh. He's allowed just 12 hits in his past five starts.

"That's the good news," second baseman Matt Carpenter said. "If you can take a positive out of this, we've got a guy that we've got a lot of confidence going into Game 6. If you can get to Game 7, anything can happen. We're going to come out with all the confidence in the world in him and hopefully we can score some runs for him."

Yes, scoring runs would most definitely help, given that the Cardinals haven't been doing that particularly well this series.

St. Louis manager Mike Matheny tried to shake some things up a bit in Game 5 by inserting Shane Robinson into the No. 2 spot in the order and starting the hobbled Allen Craig at first base. It didn't help. St. Louis' only run scored on Matt Holliday's solo homer in the fourth inning. Beltran and David Freese were the only other Cardinals to reach base. The Cards are batting .218 with a .274 on-base percentage for the Series.

[+] EnlargeMatt Holliday
David Durochik/MLB Photos/Getty ImagesMatt Holliday's solo home run in the fourth was all the St. Louis offense could muster.

On the positive side, though, at least no one got picked off first base Monday.

"They're executing pitches, there's no doubt about that," Beltran said. "And I think we're not having consistent at-bats. I think when we are consistent at the plate, we put ourselves in position where we work the counts, and right now we're not having consistent at-bats."

While the Red Sox continue to wear down pitchers by grinding out at-bats, the Cardinals made it relatively easy on Boston starter Jon Lester. Throwing a nasty cutter, Lester dominated the Cardinals again, needing just 80 pitches to get through the first seven innings.

Carpenter acknowledged that the Cardinals might be swinging at the pitches Boston wants them to, rather than working the count so they get the pitches they want to hit.

"That certainly can happen," he said. "Any time you feel your at-bats are getting dictated by him, that's not a good spot. There have been times in this postseason where that's been the case. And part of that is being pitched to and part of that is just on yourself for not being confident and in control of what you're doing."

The Cardinals also need to figure out a way to keep David Ortiz from hitting, perhaps by giving him the Barry Bonds intentional-walk routine. Ortiz had three more hits Monday, lifting his series average to .733. His first-inning double scored Dustin Pedroia to give Boston an early lead.

It's important to note that both Ortiz's double and David Ross' go-ahead double in the seventh were just barely fair down the respective foul lines. And other than Ortiz, the Red Sox aren't exactly mashing the ball, either. Take away Ortiz, in fact, and the Red Sox are batting just .151 in this Series.

So while the Red Sox are just one victory from winning it all, they aren't exactly dominating the proceedings.

"Our guys have been backed up against the wall before and this is something that isn't foreign to them," Matheny said. "They know what we have to do. We just play our game. If we go about it the right way, we'll be right where we want to be."

I'm not saying the Cardinals will win the series. I'm just confident that it will go the distance. After all, there is a rich history of teams coming back in wild sixth games. Carlton Fisk waving his home run fair in 1975. Don Denkinger ending any chance of ever being welcome in Missouri with his blown call in 1985. Bill Buckner's error in 1986. Kirby Puckett's "Jump on, I'm driving this bus" all-around game and home run in 1991. Freese's game-tying triple and game-winning home run in 2011.

This Game 6 is setting up to join those.

The only question is how long it will take the umpires to huddle and rule on that Rally Squirrel ball.

Jim Caple | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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