Wednesday, April 23, 2014
ST. LOUIS — Good-bye Gateway Arch.
Hello Citgo sign.
The Boston Red Sox will be returning to familiar territory after leaving Busch Stadium Monday night, following a 3-1 win over the St. Louis Cardinals.
The happy – but not quite content – Red Sox fly back to Boston. They can settle in at Fenway Park, where the team hopes to be soaking the aged yard with champagne on Wednesday night.
It should be wild on Wednesday. Fans will be cramped in the cozy confines, and they will be loud.
“Playing in our home ballpark, you draw off the energy of the fans,” Boston Manager John Farrell said. “Our guys embrace that. They feel comfortable at Fenway.
“Knowing that we’re going back there is of some comfort.”
But not too comfortable. These Cardinals can make it interesting, especially with fastball/change-up maestro Michael Wacha pitching in Game 6.
It has been a while since Boston played a Game 6 in the World Series – and Red Sox fans would rather forget that October evening in 1986, when a 5-3 lead dissolved into a 6-5 10-inning loss at Shea Stadium.
A better memory might be the last Game 6 played at Fenway Park. That 1975 classic went 12 innings, ending with Carlton Fisk hopping up and down, waving his long fly ball to stay fair.
What kind of magic can the Red Sox count on in 2013?
To begin with, Boston will get a big bat back, now that Mike Napoli is allowed to play again (love these differing rules in major league baseball; maybe the NBA will ban 3-pointers in the Western Conference).
Napoli will, of course, be batting behind the one and only David Ortiz, who already has 11 hits in this series.
St. Louis pitchers have tried to pitch around Ortiz, and they have tried to challenge him. Neither strategy is working. Want to know how much St. Louis fans fear Ortiz? One of the biggest cheers Monday night in Busch Stadium was when Ortiz’s line drive to center field was caught in the sixth inning. The giant had been tamed, at least for the moment.
The Cardinals have also seen enough of Jon Lester, who beat St. Louis twice in this series.
But who knows? Lester might even be available for a little relief work if there is a seventh game on Thursday. It will be all-hands-on-deck, as they say.
A Game 7 would be intriguing because Farrell will have a decision to make. Should he start Jake Peavy or Felix Doubront?
Doubront has really come on, as has the 21-year-old third baseman from Aruba. Xander Bogaerts had two hits and, as he did on Sunday, played a part in the game-winning rally, this time in the seventh inning.
By the way, Bogaerts is one of only 13 players age 21 or younger with multiple hits in a World Series game. Some of the others include Ty Cobb, Jimmie Foxx, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays.
Yeah, the kid has a future.
After Ortiz, Boston’s leading hitters are Dustin Pedroia and Bogaerts (both with five).
Overall, the Red Sox are not pounding the ball with authority. They haven’t needed to. The combination of precision pitching and clutch hitting – along with a remarkable will to win – has propelled the Red Sox to within one game of a third world championship in 10 years.
Boston is not there yet.
But the Red Sox are so close.
Wednesday night? It will be electric.
Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or: