One win away…
One more win.
One win for it all. One win for their third World Series in 10 seasons. One win from one of the greatest turnarounds in history. One win from becoming one of the greatest baseball teams in a generation.
In what seemed to be their most complete game this World Series, the Red Sox took a 3-2 series lead over St. Louis on Monday night with a 3-1 victory. Boston will have two opportunities to clinch the title at home, starting Wednesday night. If they do so, it would be the first time since 1918 they've won it all at Fenway.
Jon Lester was aces again on Monday night. It was a dominant performance by most anyone's standards, except perhaps his own. He threw 7 2/3 solid innings, allowing just four hits while striking out nine. The one run he gave up came via the long ball from Matt Holliday in the fourth inning. It was the first run Lester has given up in 21 innings pitched in his World Series career, where he's now 3-0 with a 0.43 ERA.
Although, like they say, the success of one is not without the contributions of others. The reunion with his former pitching coach John Farrell has certainly been a positive for Lester. Knowing he has one of the hottest hitters in postseason history in his lineup with David Ortiz, coupled with a solid bullpen, makes him feel comfortable on the mound. But there's on guy who may have contributed to his success the most.
His name is David Ross. He's 36 years old. He's been a lifetime backup, a journeyman; averaging just 57 games played per year over his 12 year career, wearing six different jerseys in the process.
Dealing with series concussion issues he missed 65 games this season. It was bad. Bad to the point where the Red Sox sent him home to rehab, whereas most players would rehab with the team. Bad to the point where a simple jog could cause him to lose his balance and fall, where he couldn't ride in a car or be in crowded places. For a guy his age, missing all of that time, having never been a key player on a team, now dealing with a major medical obstacle, it would have been all too easy to call it quits.
At one point, he almost did.
"When I was in my concussion, there were a couple days I thought of shaving the beard," he said after the game Monday night. "But I knew I couldn't walk into the locker room. Those guys wouldn't let me back in if I shaved it."
The beard stayed. The gray hairs a sign of age and wear of a player. The length a sign of determination and will of a man to get back on the field with his teammates.
Since his return, Ross has been given a lot of credit for the turnaround of Jon Lester. Red Sox teammates commented that since Ross returned to the team, Lester has been the new Lester, the ace of the Red Sox rotation. Ross is now a staple in the lineup whenever Lester is pitching. His ability to diagnose a hitter's tendencies has been the key to success.
But it wasn't just his abilities behind the plate that propelled the Red Sox to within one game of their eighth World Series title.
A career .237 hitter, Ross is certainly not known for his offensive prowess. Yet, some things are just meant to be. With the game tied at 1 in the seventh inning, Ross ripped a curveball off Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright that hugged the left field line, eventually bouncing into the stands for a ground rule double. It would drive in rookie Xander Bogaerts, and prove to be the winning run in the game.
"Luckily I was able to put the barrel on it and just squeeze it inside that line down there," he told ESPN's Jon Sciambi after the game, grinning from ear to ear. "I was really happy about that."
So were we, David.
Heading back to Boston for some home cooking should prove beneficial for the Red Sox. With the DH back in play, we can expect Mike Napoli will return to first and provide an extra power bat in the lineup. John Lackey takes the mound in Game 6 against Cardinals rookie sensation Michael Wacha, who has been lights out.
While Wacha has been overall the best pitcher this postseason, this may be the biggest game he pitches in his entire career. He's 22-years-old with just nine career starts under his belt. Now, he's pitching to save his team's season, in the World Series, in enemy terrotiry. Maybe he's too young to feel pressure, but it's tough to imagine that when you take the mound on a cold October night in the heart of New England, 38,000 Fenway Faithful echoing around you, eager to see something none of them were alive for the last time it happened, you won't let the moment get to you.
While everyone loves a Game 7, fans love a World Series title that much more. There's something about this team. Something that I think we've finally seen click over the past two games. Something that will be incredibly tough to crack once the Boston air fills their lungs and the taste of champagne is waiting in the locker room.
Just one more win.
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