Through six innings of Game 5 of the World Series between the Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals, there were approximately three bad pitches made by starting pitchers Jon Lester and Adam Wainwright. By the time the seventh inning was over, there were probably only four. But that extra one was enough to give the Red Sox a 3-2 lead in the series.
Wainwright in the first inning hung a curveball to Dustin Pedroia, who ripped it into left field for a one-out double. That set the table for Boston's first run, which came on a double off the bat of the unstoppable David Ortiz:
Wainwright hit Yadier Molina right where he was set up, but he could have thrown the ball anywhere and Ortiz likely still would have hit it, as evidenced by his outrageous .733 batting average in the series.
The Cardinals' ace settled in and eventually recorded each of his first six outs of the game via strikeout, including blowing away David Ross to end the second inning.
While Wainwright had people wondering about the all-time record for strikeouts in a World Series game, Lester was keeping the Cardinals off the board with help from his own defense. First, Lester knocked down a hard-hit ball off the bat of Shane Robinson that looked destined for center field. Instead, Dustin Pedroia stayed with it and got the out:
Two innings later, Lester hustled to field a well-placed bunt by Pete Kozma and retired the Cardinals shortstop in what proved to be a key play:
David Freese advanced to second on the sacrifice, but that left the pitcher Wainwright at the plate in a big RISP situation. Lester found his strikeout touch at the right time, getting Wainwright swinging and Matt Carpenter looking to end the inning.
Lester did a wonderful job locating his pitches while staying inside of the strike zone. Proof that that is in the numbers; he struck out seven batters, allowed only four hits and didn't walk a batter. However, he did miss badly in the zone on one pitch to Cardinals slugger Matt Holliday:
Ross set up low and in, but Lester's 93 mph fastball ended up belt-high and over the middle of the plate. Holliday did not miss, and suddenly the game was tied, 1-1.
Lester nearly found himself down a run when he made the exact same mistake to Carlos Beltran that he did to Holliday. Fortunately for the Sox, the ball landed in the glove of Jonny Gomes in front of the wall, and Lester escaped the inning a batter later.
Wainwright found himself in some trouble in the next inning, but used a couple of strikeouts to get out of the jam without any damage. He and Lester exchanged 1-2-3 innings until the seventh, when Wainwright followed Xander Bogaerts' single with a free pass to Stephen Drew. It was the first walk of the game by either pitcher. In the next at-bat, Wainwright missed his location in a situation where that couldn't happen, and the Cards once again found themselves down by a run.
Wainwright did right to keep his curveball down, but Molina was set up outside and the pitch backed up to the inner half of the plate. Two batters later, Wainwright made a good pitch to Jacoby Ellsbury, jamming the Red Sox outfielder on a fastball. However, Ellsbury got enough of it to loop it into shallow center, giving the Sox a two-run lead that would stand.
It wasn't just the pitchers who displayed impeccable control. Check out this paper airplane toss shortly after the game:
Now that takes talent.