Here are five storylines to watch for in Game 6 of the World Series tonight on FOX (7:30 ET, first pitch 8:07):
It's been 95 years -- and more than a couple of disappointments -- since the Red Sox have clinched a championship in Fenway Park. They get a shot this year. Game 6 and, if necessary, Game 7 of the World Series will be played at Fenway. The Red Sox go into Wednesday's Game 6 with a 3-2 edge on the Cardinals.
How long has it been? That 1918 team closed out the Cubs in six games. Babe Ruth started and won Games 1 and 4, posting a 1.06 ERA, and Carl Mays won Games 3 and 6. The regular season was cut short, ending on Sept. 1 that year because of World War I, and the 1918 World Series is the only one played entirely in September. "The Star-Spangled Banner" was played during the seventh-inning stretch of Game 1, a tribute to American troops battling in World War I, the first time the song was played at a baseball game.
The Red Sox scored only nine runs in the six games, the fewest for a championship team. Not only was Ruth in Boston's starting rotation during the regular season, but despite playing in only 95 games, he led the team with a .300 average, 11 home runs and 66 RBIs. None of the Red Sox's position regulars hit .300, and the eight primary position players combined for only three home runs.
That championship was tainted a bit when Eddie Cicotte, one of the Black Sox, suggested the 1918 World Series was fixed. In a '20 deposition made public when it was placed on display by the Chicago Historical Museum in 2011, Cicotte insinuated that members of the '19 White Sox got the idea about throwing the World Series from members of the '18 Cubs.
Party time in Beantown?
Location of Red Sox's World Series-clinching wins
Bos. 4, Col. 3
Bos. 3, Stl. 0
Bos. 2, Chi. 1
Bos. 4, Bro. 1
Bos. 5, Phi. 4
Bos. 3, NYG 2
Bos. 3, Pit. 0
Hunt. Ave. Grounds
Boston has won only two championships since -- both on the road -- sweeping St. Louis in 2004 and Colorado in '07. The Red Sox have, however, lost four World Series, and twice the Fenway faithful witnessed the deciding Game 7 at Fenway. Bob Gibson pitched his third complete game in the 1967 World Series to claim the title for the Cards, and in '75, the night after Carlton Fisk's magical moment, the Reds finished off the Sox in Game 7. Boston also lost in seven games at St. Louis in '46 and to the Mets at Shea Stadium in '86.
St. Louis turns to rookie right-hander Michael Wacha in Game 6 to extend the World Series. Wacha is 4-0 in four postseason starts, which equals the postseason record for wins by a starting pitcher. Randy Johnson was 5-1 in 2001 with Arizona, but his fifth victory came in Game 7, when he came on in relief to get the final four outs the night after he had gone seven innings in Game 6. Francisco Rodriguez also was 5-1 for Anaheim in '02, but he worked solely in relief.
Michael Wacha's past five starts, including his regular-season finale against the Nationals
There have been 17 starting pitchers to win four games in a postseason (including Johnson in 2001), and Wacha is one of 11 to go 4-0. Wacha, Josh Beckett with Boston (2007), Dave Stewart with Oakland (1989) and David Wells with the Yankees ('98) are the only ones who did it in just four starts.
Wacha, who gave up two runs (a David Ortiz home run) in six innings of the Cardinals' Game 2 win at Fenway Park, has a 1.00 ERA in his four postseason starts, tied for 17th all-time for a starting pitcher in a postseason. Gibson in 1967 with St. Louis and Hippo Vaughn with the Cubs in 1918 also had 1.00 ERAs.
Wacha's ERA is the fourth-lowest among pitchers with at least four starts. Blue Moon Odom had an 0.71 ERA in four starts with Oakland in 1972. Burt Hooton, in five starts with the Dodgers in '81, posted an 0.82 ERA, and John Smoltz notched an 0.95 ERA in five starts with Atlanta in '96.
Boston won Game 5 at St. Louis to take a 3-2 lead in the World Series, and STATS Inc., points out that the winner of Game 5 in such situations has won 26 of 40 World Series. Since 1982, however, in a World Series in which the two teams split the first four games, the winner of Game 5 had won it all only three times.
In 1996, the Yankees won Game 5 at Atlanta and finished off the Braves at Yankee Stadium in Game 6. The next year, the Marlins won Game 5 to go up 3-2, and after losing Game 6, beat the Indians in Game 7 for the title. And in 2003, the Marlins got the Yanks, winning Games 4 and 5 in Miami and then beating New York at Yankee Stadium in Game 6.
Of the seven teams to lose Game 5 and rally to win the final two games, none did it on the road.
St. Louis has rallied from a Game 5 loss twice since 1982, beginning with its win over Milwaukee that year, and also against Texas in 2011. The Red Sox were the victims against the Mets in 1986, when they went to Shea Stadium for Games 6 and 7 having won three of five, but lost back-to-back games.
Minnesota overcame the Game 5 loss in both 1987 against St. Louis and '91 against Atlanta , In both of those series, the home team won all seven games. And Arizona, in 2001, lost Game 5 at Yankee Stadium, but returned home to win Games 6 and 7, with Johnson earning both of those victories.
Both the Red Sox and Cardinals can welcome the DH back to the lineup for the rest of the World Series in Boston. Ortiz was able to get through the three games in St. Louis at first base, which was a no-brainer in light of the way he's been swinging the bat.
Allen Craig, meanwhile, came off the bench twice for the Cards and had a hit in both Game 3 and 4. He started at first base in Game 5 despite the sprained left foot and was 0-for-3. Now Craig can DH like he did the first two games of the World Series and lessen the demands on his foot.
Ortiz is on an amazing pace in the World Series. He has hit .733 in the first five games, putting him line for the highest average in a Series in excess of four games. Hideki Matsui hit .615 in six games for the 2009 Yankees, and Phil Garner hit .500 for the 1979 Pirates in seven games. The highest overall average for one Series was by Billy Hatcher, who hit .750 in Cincinnati's four-game sweep of Oakland in '90. Babe Ruth is second at .625 in four games with the '28 Yankees.
With 11 hits, Ortiz is two shy of the record for a World Series. It is shared by Marty Barrett of Boston in 1986, Lou Brock of St. Louis in '68, and Bobby Richardson of the Yankees in '64. All three played in seven games.
The Red Sox are 3-0 when David Ross catches in the World Series. Manager John Farrell is going with the hot hand. Yes, Jarrod Saltalamacchia has been John Lackey's primary catcher, but Ross is tabbed to be Lackey's batterymate in Game 6.
Ross only caught Lackey twice in the regular season. Lackey lost both starts, but didn't pitch poorly. He allowed two runs in 4 1/3 innings of a 5-0 loss to the Blue Jays in his April 6 season debut, then gave up five runs (one earned) in seven innings of a May 9 start against Minnesota that Boston lost, 5-3.
Sidelined twice during the season because of concussions, Ross delivered the game-winning RBI double in the Red Sox's 3-1 win in Game 5, but more than that, he provides strong defense. He threw out 13 of 32 potential basestealers this year. Saltalamacchia is more of an offensive player, but along with critical misplays in the postseason, he has struck out in 19 of 32 at-bats.
Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.