It was a recurring theme in the 2013 World Series: Boston’s starting pitching, which was no great shakes during the regular season, rose up and dominated the St. Louis Cardinals in a six-game championship round.
The Red Sox starters compiled a 1.73 ERA in their six World Series starts, holding the National League’s highest-scoring team in 2013 almost powerless to do anything against them (and yet, the Most Valuable Player award went to Boston designated hitter David Ortiz, instead of lefty ace Jon Lester with his two dominant starts and wins over Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright).
That was really the story of the 2013 World Series, and don’t let anyone else try to tell you anything different.
The Cards scored 4.83 runs per game in the regular season, and in this Series against the Red Sox, they were able to manage just 14 runs in six games. Simple math tells you that St. Louis simply could not score anywhere near enough runs to win this Series.
Strangely, Boston made more errors than St. Louis did in this Series, eight to five, and recorded four fewer hits than the Cardinals did, too. Yet the Red Sox outscored the Cardinals 27-14 in the six games.
With all those hits, the NL champs just couldn’t deliver in the clutch: after hitting .330 in the regular season with runners in scoring position, St. Louis hit just .214 in the World Series in those situations, going a mere 9-for-42 with a man on second or third base.
So the Cardinals had their chances – but the Red Sox pitchers, and specifically the starters, didn’t give up much in those moments.
And that was the Series, right there.
Overall, Ortiz did have a tremendous offensive impact for the Boston lineup, as he seemed to be the only Red Sox hitter producing in all six games. He hit .688 in the Series, and no other Boston player hit higher than .250 against the St. Louis pitching staff. Outfielder Shane Victorino had the big hit in Game Six and drove in four runs overall on Wednesday night, but he hit only .154 in the Series. Game Four hero Jonny Gomes hit only .118 in the Series.
In contrast, the St. Louis batting order was an interesting mix of success and failure: the first five hitters in Game Six – Matt Carpenter (.296), Carlos Beltran (.294), Matt Holliday (.250), Allen Craig (.375) and Yadier Molina (.304) – produced significantly in this Series, while the bottom four hitters – Matt Adams (.138), 2011 World Series MVP David Freese (.156), Jon Jay (.167) and Daniel Descalso (.100) – did not.
Again, it comes down to the fact the Cardinals had their chances, and the Red Sox pitching staff didn’t let them take advantage. Like one of those “bend-but-don’t-break” defenses in football, the Boston pitchers were toughest when it mattered most.
That explains, perhaps somewhat, how the Red Sox staff was so “average” during the regular season yet somehow became dominant in the postseason. Boston ranked 14th in the majors this season in team ERA, and its starters posted a 3.84 ERA throughout the year. Cutting that number by more than half in October simply defies expectation, logic or reason, but doing the unexpected is how October is won.
That’s postseason baseball, and that’s what happens quite often in the World Series. Everyone remembers crazy upsets in the Fall Classic, whether it was the 1988 Los Angeles Dodgers or the 2006 Cardinals. This was not an upset, by any means, nor was it really even a classic in the true sense of the word.
What it was and what it should be remembered for is the effort of pitchers like Jon Lester and John Lackey, Boston starters who took the Cardinals by the wings and clipped them tightly on their way to a World Series title in 2013.