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Wednesday’s Red Sox-Cardinals World Series Game 6 matchups: John Lackey vs. Michael Wacha 10.30.13 at 8:56 am ET
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On Wednesday night, John Lackey has the opportunity to go from one of the Red Sox’ most vilified, criticized players to an indelible postseason hero.

John Lackey

John Lackey

But in order to complete that transformation, he must get past the Cardinals and starter Michael Wacha on Wednesday night in Game 6 of the World Series at Fenway Park. Boston finds itself one game away from baseball’s most coveted honor, after the Sox took a 3-2 series lead with a 3-1 win in Game 5 on Monday at Busch Stadium.

In addition to his shot at a full revitalization, Lackey receives the chance to redeem a Game 2 loss against Wacha, after the rookie outdueled his elder counterpart in St. Louis’ 4-2 win.

Last Thursday, Lackey and Wacha nearly matched each other pitch-for-pitch through 5 1/3 innings. The Cardinals led 1-0, thanks to a RBI groundout by Yadier Molina in the top of the fourth inning that scored Matt Holliday, who tripled to begin the inning.

In the bottom of the sixth, David Ortiz finally got to Wacha and struck with his second home run of the series, an opposite-field two-run shot that put Boston ahead 2-1.

After allowing the RBI groundout in the fourth, Lackey cruised through the next two innings, and manager John Farrell opted to send him out for the seventh. The decision looked to pay off initially as Lackey struck out Allen Craig for the first out. However, David Freese walked, Jon Jay singled, and with Lackey’s pitch count at 95, Farrell pulled him in favor of lefty reliever Craig Breslow.

St. Louis went on to score three runs in the inning and took a 4-2 lead that Boston could not overcome. Lackey ended the start with three runs allowed, five hits, two walks and six strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings.

After the sixth inning, when he allowed the two-run home run to Ortiz, Wacha gave way to young relievers Carlos Martinez and Trevor Rosenthal, who shut the door on the Sox.

Wacha pitched six innings, allowing two earned runs, three hits and four walks with six strikeouts. He moved to 4-0 in the postseason.

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Read More: Allen Craig, David Freese, David Ortiz, John Farrell
How David Freese almost became a member of the Red Sox 10.29.11 at 1:11 pm ET
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World Series hero David Freese was almost a member of the Red Sox organization. (AP)

Cardinals third baseman David Freese capped off a remarkable postseason by earning World Series MVP honors after hitting .348 with three doubles and seven RBIs as the Cards beat the Rangers in seven games. Freese also had an incredible performance in Game 6 as he kept the Cardinals alive with a game-tying two-run triple in the ninth inning when they were down to their final strike and later hit the game-winning home run in the 11th.

Freese also was named MVP of the National League Championship Series, making him the sixth player to win both honors in the same season.

A native of Missouri, Freese is now a hometown hero after a circuitous route in which he gave up the game for the year — as well as a scholarship offer from the University of Missouri –  before enrolling at an area junior college.

Freese later attended the University of South Alabama, and that’s when Jason McLeod, the Sox former director of amateur scouting, took note.

As the blog Inside the Padres recounts, McLeod tried to sign Freese to a contract before the draft for a bonus of $90,000. As a fifth-year senior, Freese would have been eligible for such a deal.

But the Jaguars reached the College World Series regional playoffs, extending their season through the so-called closed period. The deal was ultimately rejected by the commissioner’s office, making Freese once again eligible for the draft.

McLeod’s mentor, Bill Gayton, also had his eye on Freese, and the Padres drafted him in the ninth round, 10 spots before McLeod was set to make his selection. As McLeod tells writer Tom Krasovic in the post, his mistake was not taking Freese earlier in the draft. The difference in bonus money for Freese was over $80,000.

The Sox wound up taking Ryan Kalish, who reached the big leagues at age 22 in 2010, hitting .252/.305/.405 with four home runs and 11 doubles in 163 at-bats. Kalish had surgery in September to repair a bulging disc in his neck ending a disappointing injury-marred 2011 season.

Kalish played just two weeks for Triple-A Pawtucket before suffering a partial tear of the labrum in his left (throwing) shoulder while diving for a ball. Kalish was able to return in August, but he developed neck pain during his rehabilitation, which ultimately prompted the surgery. If he is able to recover in time for spring training, Kalish could be part of the competition in right field with Josh Reddick.

While Kalish remains full of potential, the 28-year-old Freese reached his this past season when he claimed the starting job at third base with the Cardinals and hit .297/.350/.441 with 10 home runs and 55 RBI in addition to his postseason dramatics.

As it turns out, the Padres also missed on his potential. They traded him for Jim Edmonds, who hit .178 in 2008 before the team released him in May. Of course, so did the other 29 teams that let Freese last until the 273rd pick in the draft.

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