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Closing Time: Jon Lester dominates, pitches Red Sox within win of title

10.28.13 at 11:19 pm ET
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ST. LOUIS — Red Sox left-hander Jon Lester further cemented his place as one of the most dominant postseason pitchers of this generation, allowing one run on four hits in 7 2/3 innings to lead the Sox to a 3-1 victory over the Cardinals in Game 5 of the World Series. With the win, the Sox are now up, 3-2, in the best-of-seven championship, needing just one win to secure their third title in the last 10 years.

Lester relied on an overpowering fastball and cutter to collect seven punchouts and walk none. Though he gave up a fourth-inning solo homer to Matt Holliday (snapping his scoreless innings streak in the World Series at 16 2/3, the second longest ever by a player to start his career in the Fall Classic), he otherwise shut down St. Louis completely. He was so dominant, in fact, that the Sox elected to commit to him even when the game was tied, 1-1, in the top of the seventh. With two on and one out, Lester remained in the on-deck circle (with no activity in the bullpen) when David Ross batted.

But Ross delivered a key double to plate the go-ahead run, and after Lester grounded out, Jacoby Ellsbury dropped a single to center for an insurance run against Cards starter Adam Wainwright, putting the Sox in position to cruise to their win.

Lester now has a 1.97 career ERA in 11 postseason starts, the third best mark ever as a starter with 10 or more playoff starts. This October, he’s been even better, with a 1.56 mark in his five starts. He became the fifth Red Sox pitcher ever to have three or more starts in which he pitched into the eighth in a single postseason, and the first since Bruce Hurst in 1986. (The others: Bill Dineen and Cy Young in 1903; Luis Tiant in 1975; and Hurst in 1986.)

He has been, in short, a force, a huge reason for the Sox’ progression to the brink of a title.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

David Ortiz continued his absurd World Series performance, going 3-for-4 with an RBI double in the first and a pair of infield singles. When he lined out in the sixth, it broke a string of nine consecutive plate appearances in which he’d reached, tied for the longest such run in World Series history. For the World Series, he’s now 11-for-15 with a line of .733/.750/1.267. He has a career .465 average in the World Series, the highest ever by a player with 50 or more career plate appearances in the World Series.

Koji Uehara retired all four batters he faced, two with strikeouts, to earn his seventh save of the postseason. That ties the record for the most saves in a single postseason, matching John Wetteland (1996), Troy Percival (2002), Rob Nen (2002) and Brad Lidge (2008).

Xander Bogaerts had two hits against Wainwright, becoming the 13th player ever with two multiple-hit games in the World Series at the age of 21 or younger.

– Ross continued his key contributions with his third double of the playoffs and his excellent signal-calling. The Sox are 5-1 in his six starts while yielding an average of 1.83 runs per game in his starts.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

Jonny Gomes and Daniel Nava combined to go 0-for-8 with five strikeouts and a double play grounder.

Lester may have injured himself in the seventh inning plate appearance. He ended up walking gingerly off the field when he exited the contest after his 7 2/3 innings. While a healthy Lester might have been a consideration in a potential Game 7, it is now unclear whether that might be a possibility.

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