Good pitching beats good hitting, as the old baseball adage goes, and in this 2013 World Series, that’s been the truth of the matter.
But who would have guessed that a team with the 14th-best – or 16th-worst – staff earned-run average in baseball would be the one doing the stellar pitching?
The Boston Red Sox posted a 3.79 ERA over 162 games in the regular season this year, including just a 3.84 ERA from its starting pitchers. But in the postseason, it’s been another story for these guys from Fenway, specifically in this World Series against the hot-hitting St. Louis Cardinals – a team that set the all-time record in 2013 for hitting with runners in scoring position.
- Game One: Jon Lester limits St. Louis to five hits and no runs in 7 2/3 innings
- Game Two: John Lackey gives up three runs in 6 1/3 innings
- Game Three: Jake Peavy surrenders two runs in four innings
- Game Four: Clay Buchholz doesn’t allow an earned run in four innings
- Game Five: Lester again handcuffs St. Louis to the tune of one run in 7 2/3 innings
Lester’s efforts dominate this Series, so far, obviously, and he’s the primary reason the Red Sox head back to Fenway Park for Wednesday’s Game Six with a 3-2 edge and a chance to clinch the team’s first World Series title at home since 1918.
But the other guys have done their job, too, effectively enough to hold the National League’s top-scoring offense in check: the Cardinals have scored only 13 runs in five World Series games (2.6 per game) after plating 4.83 runs per game during the regular season – and 3.82 runs per game in 11 National League playoff games leading up to the Series.
Everyone expects a little regression in the playoffs, since you’re facing the best of the best. But when the opponents’ starting pitchers are posting a 1.82 ERA in the World Series, it may be time to start praying for some help from above.
Look at that number again: the Red Sox starters are giving up two fewer earned runs per nine innings in this World Series than they did during the regular season.
It’s hard to win games when the opposing guys on the mound are throwing like that, and the Cardinals are finding this out the hard way.
St. Louis hasn’t been pitching poorly either. The Cards have given up 18 earned runs in five games, for a solid 3.60 ERA in this World Series. That is slightly worse than the 3.42 mark the team posted in the regular season, fifth-best in the majors, but considering they’re facing the top-scoring offense in the major leagues, it’s been good enough to win.
But the Cards just haven’t been hitting well enough to earn enough victories: a team that hit .330 in the regular season with runners in scoring position is now managing just a .242 mark in those situations in the Series.
And that’s not good enough to win, clearly.
Yes, St. Louis is not out of it, not by any means, but no team has gone on the road to win Game Six and Game Seven in the World Series since the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates, and Boston posted a 53-28 record at Fenway Park during the regular season this year: they like being at home, and the Boston fans will be ready to celebrate something few alive (if any?) have ever seen at Fenway Park.
The place will be electric, and the Cardinals will need to diffuse that crowd early in Game Six if they want to even get to a Game Seven. Lackey will be on the mound for Boston on Wednesday, and we all remember his Game Seven effort in the 2002 World Series against San Francisco when he was a young rookie.
And with the way the Red Sox starters have been dealing in this matchup, it’ll be tough for St. Louis to match the 1979 Pirates incredible feat.