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World Series Game 6 Preview: John Lackey gets the biggest start of his life

Oct 30, 2013, 12:38 PM EDT

World Series Cardinals Red Sox Baseball

BOSTON — It’s certainly the biggest start of Michael Wacha‘s life too, but Wacha is 22 years-old and kids, God love ‘em, tend to think that they’re going to have the sun shining on them forever.

John Lackey is 35 and has pretty much seen it and done it all. He’s been that kid winning a World Series game, back in 2002 with the Angels.  He’s also been, far more recently, a whipping boy for Boston Red Sox fans. The recipient of a big contract many thought was too big. One of the public faces of the “chicken and beer” collapse of 2011. A Tommy John surgery casualty who missed the entire 2012 season.  Yet here he is starting what could be a World Series clincher. If he wins it, it will be the first time the Red Sox and their fans will get to celebrate a World Series win at home since 1918. One gets the sense that an older and wiser John Lackey is much more aware of his surroundings and the gravity of the moment than the young John Lackey was in 2002.

And it won’t be an easy task for Lackey. Yes, the Cardinals have looked anemic on offense of late, but their anemia is a bit more pronounced against lefties than righties, and Lackey throws with his right hand. The Cardinals line against lefties is .211/.268/.295 and against righties it’s a not-too-much-better .214/.289/.331, but St. Louis is 2-4 in the postseason when facing a left-handed starter, 7-3 otherwise.

If Lackey gets in trouble early it could make for a tough choice for manager John Farrell. He has lefty Felix Doubront at his disposal. Doubront can go multiple innings and has been fantastic this postseason, but he may be more essential to the Red Sox in a possible Game 7 given that Jake Peavy is slated to start that game and given that Peavy has been shaky at best. But as the old saying goes, you don’t save a guy for tomorrow because tomorrow it may rain, so expect Doubront to come in if Lackey isn’t up to the task.

As for St. Louis, Wacha is the best guy they could hope to have going. He was the NLCS MVP and is 4-0 with a 1.00 ERA and a .122 opponents batting average in the postseason. He out-pitched Clayton Kershaw twice and saved the Cardinals bacon when they trailed the Pirates in the Division Series. You never want to be down 3-2 in a World Series and playing on the road, but if you have to be, Wacha is who you want taking the start.

I would expect form to hold and the pitching, generally speaking, to be strong in Game 6. Offense has been hard to come by for everyone, and as such, whoever wins Game 6 is going to probably do so because of a hitter rising to the occasion.

To that end, John Farrell indicated yesterday that he is going with his hero-centric lineup, starting David Ross, Jonny Gomes and Shane Victorino. Ross is the backup catcher, but he had a big RBI in Game 5 and, more importantly, is unlikely to commit the sort of mental error starter Jarrod Saltalamacchia had in throwing a ball away to third base in Game 3. Gomes is not normally the threat that Daniel Nava is, but he hit that big home run in Game 4. Victorino has been hurt, but it’s hard to forget that he hit the grand slam that put Boston in the World Series in the first place.

For the Cardinals, there are not so many options. Mike Matheny’s biggest threats — Allen Craig and Carlos Beltran — are hurt, but they’d play Game 6 even if they needed Rascal scooters to take them up to the plate. What they really need, however, is for Matt Carpenter to remember how to hit and to show that they can score runs on plays that don’t involve a silly Red Sox error or obstruction call. Indeed, given their lack of offense this series it’s a wonder that the thing is still going on.

But on it goes. Into a Game 6 which is the hottest ticket in baseball history and, in all likelihood, the rowdiest and loudest crowd we’ve seen in ages.

Play ball.

  1. churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Oct 30, 2013 at 12:50 PM

    He’s been that kid winning a World Series game, back in 2002 with the Angels.

    He won G7 in the ’02 WS. The Sox still have another shot if they lose tonight. I really don’t see this start being the biggest of his life.

    • pastabelly - Oct 30, 2013 at 1:15 PM

      I don’t think that Craig was implying that this is a bigger game than G7 of the 2002 WS. I am pretty sure that Craig was putting this start as more of an imprint of Lackey’s career. His point about Lackey being the whipping boy in Boston for three years is correct. It is also true 2013 is really the first time that Lackey has been in shape since signing the deal with the Red Sox. It has been a year of redemption for Lackey. He had a strong regular season, won an epic 1-0 pitching duel opposite Verlander, and this is the final test. The personal stakes are heightened here because of history.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Oct 30, 2013 at 1:36 PM

        I don’t think that Craig was implying that this is a bigger game than G7 of the 2002 WS

        The headline says otherwise. And I’m disagreeing, saying that a G7 start as a rookie in the WS is bigger than a G6 start already with a WS ring.

      • j0esixpack - Oct 30, 2013 at 2:50 PM

        I agree with pastabelly

        If Lackey had retired before this year – or had another mediocre to bad season – despite the Game 7 win in ’02 he wouldn’t have exactly gone out with his reputation in good shape.

        The fact that he recognized the error of his ways, came back from Tommy John surgery, turned his reputation around 180 degrees and now could be the one on the mound to help the Sox win the World Series at Fenway for the first time since 1918 – that’s pretty huge.

        He’s already gone from Boston whipping boy/laughing stock (lots of comments last year suggesting he be thrown into the Dodgers trade for a bag of peanuts) to respected winning pitcher – but he ices that reputation turnaround by helping to win the Series for Boston at home.

        That’s big – and given what’s transpired for him since ’02, that makes this game the biggest of his career.

      • km9000 - Oct 30, 2013 at 5:57 PM

        Not only is it not an elimination game like it was in 02, but the Angels were after their first WS win. The Sox are going for their third in a decade.

      • crackersnap - Oct 30, 2013 at 7:57 PM

        I agree with Church. That is EXACTLY the implication. It’s a bigger deal because it’s a bigger stage. That is reinforced EXACTLY when Craig then adds: “”…it will be the first time the Red Sox and their fans will get to celebrate a World Series win at home since 1918. One gets the sense that an older and wiser John Lackey is much more aware of his surroundings and the gravity of the moment…”.

        The surroundings are different. More important now.
        The gravity of the situation is greater. More important now.

        Boston is more important than Anaheim.
        Boston fans are more important than Anaheim fans.
        Much more is at stake here than was at Anaheim.
        And, anyway, 2002 wasn’t as important because Lackey was to young to get it.

        The fact that a win would be Boston’s 3rd out of the last 10 doesn’t seem to temper that importance. This is more important than the other ones because it happens – at home. In Boston. In front of Boston fans. Who still cling to “1918”. Maybe next time it might be The Most Important because it’s the first WS clincher at home, in Boston, on a Sunday (or something). You know how things go with the Red Sox: cowboys and idiots and beards and such.

        Nope. My guess is that Craig is getting wrapped up in the hype and the growing narrative there amongst the excited hordes of New England. And what he wrote was poorly thought out. It was a slap in the face of a team and their fans that had finally won their first WS title since, well, infinity.

    • jarathen - Oct 30, 2013 at 2:41 PM

      I would think that having to face down BARRY BONDS and the rest of a Giants offense that would hit 14 home runs over seven games in a do-or-die game would qualify as bigger than Game Six of the World Series now, but there’s no doubt that this is a huge game for him, and I wish him well.

  2. rollinghighwayblues - Oct 30, 2013 at 12:53 PM

    This game has “going down to the wire” written all over it.

  3. peddealer - Oct 30, 2013 at 1:24 PM

    John Lackey bought D Bol and Testosterone from me while he attended UT-Arlington.

    No real steroid testing there huh?

    I think it paid off with the contracts he has received in his career.

    He Knows Who

    • rollinghighwayblues - Oct 30, 2013 at 2:04 PM

      What a handle….Jesus.

      • j0esixpack - Oct 30, 2013 at 2:51 PM

        Yes – and since his user name is “peddealer” you know he can’t be lying

  4. junglerat524 - Oct 30, 2013 at 3:14 PM

    I’m betting Cards fans are so against this. Tradition & all.

  5. peddealer - Oct 30, 2013 at 3:52 PM

    The Texas Rangers, for many a year, have turned a blind eye towards steroid use. A team, in a hitters stadium, their success for many years before Nolan Ryan depended upon power hitting.
    Also, are you aware Arlington is the home of Ronnie Coleman (Mr. Olympia) who also worked on the Arlington police department. Heck, Arlington’s police force is being investigated for rampant steroid use. Dallas-Fort Worth is a hot bed for bodybuilding. It comes as no surprise that A Rod started PEDs here, as well as Rafael Palmeiro.

    Guess who the only person who wasn’t surprised about Raffy’s PED use…

    HMMM I wonder why?!?!?

  6. gostlcards5 - Oct 30, 2013 at 4:17 PM

    I’ve called to send 10 buckets of chicken wings and 3 kegs of beer into the Sox locker room for tonight’s game…thanks for the reminder, Craig! :)

  7. tfbuckfutter - Oct 30, 2013 at 5:28 PM

    I know this makes sense….

    But I was kind of hoping they’d consider saving Lackey for Game 7.

    With Wacha going, it is likely to go one of two ways….either he dominates, or they figure him out early and he gets chased.

    If he dominates, you’re very likely looking at a Game 7 with very unattractive options. If he gets chased, Peavy can hold down the fort on a short leash.

    Either way, it’s been an awesome series.

  8. skerney - Oct 30, 2013 at 6:06 PM

    Tonight’s weird ending:

    Bottom nine. 3-1 Cards. Two on, two out. Rosenthal on the mound. Farrell pulls back Nava and the lights go nuts. A cyborg with a human head steps out of the dugout carrying a bat in his left hand. Sevendust blares through Fenway.

    Joe Buck: “WAIT! THAT”S TED WILLIAMS MUSIC!”

    • tfbuckfutter - Oct 30, 2013 at 6:10 PM

  9. drelms - Oct 30, 2013 at 7:47 PM

    calcatera doesn’t know what he’s saying half of the time, who cares?

    Stream p2p world series without the fox and joe buck bias. And McCarver, hang it up bro, you put your foot in your mouth way to often.

  10. j0esixpack - Oct 30, 2013 at 11:03 PM

    OK John

    NOW you can have that chicken and beer!

    You earned it!
    :)

  11. richwizl - Nov 1, 2013 at 11:43 AM

    The Cardinals did, in fact, go quietly. The game looked over after Victorino plated three runs early. Another prediction gone wrong.

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