Only one team has a chance of winning the World Series tonight in Game 6 at Fenway Park: the Boston Red Sox. The St. Louis Cardinals have a chance to lose the series — or they can kick off a two-game sweep to win it all on the road. For Boston fans, this is the first time they would be able to celebrate a home World Series win since 1918.
Game 6 begins at 8:07 p.m. ET; it's being televised by Fox. Here are the big storylines we're seeing:
Fans are paying high prices for the chance to see the Sox clinch at home. Ticket prices have risen sharply; as of Wednesday afternoon, the average asking price was $2,317, according to the ticket-aggregating site TiqIQ.
"Bleacher seats to Wednesday's Red Sox-St. Louis Cardinals game, which could have been had for $300 last week, were selling for $1,100 on Tuesday," ESPN reports. "On Monday night, someone who wanted two of the best seats in the house paid $24,000 on StubHub for a pair in the first row in a dugout box between home plate and one of the on-deck circles."
Tonight's starters will be two right-handers, the Cardinals' Michael Wacha and the Red Sox's John Lackey, who was the Game 7 starter and winner when the Anaheim Angels clinched the 2002 World Series. As you might expect, both men are bearded.
Lackey was a rookie back then, just as Wacha is now. In their Game 2 matchup in Boston, the Cardinals prevailed, 4-2, with Wacha giving up only a David Ortiz homer. Against the Dodgers in the NL Championship Series, Wacha didn't allow a run in either Game 2 or Game 6.
Many fans will be watching Lackey closely for any ill effects of his relief appearance in Game 4 Sunday. He threw 17 pitches in a scoreless inning of work on what would reportedly have been his normal day to throw between starts.
If you're into stats, you'll be rewarded by visiting BrooksBaseball, which can tell you how often Lackey and Wacha throw certain pitches, and what their results are.
A seven-hour flight delay on Tuesday means that tonight's game will begin less than 24 hours after the Cardinals' team plane took off for Boston. Extensive computer problems forced the team to switch a different plane; team manager Mike Matheny was forced to hold a planned ballpark news conference by phone from the tarmac.
The players reportedly remained on the plane for much of the delay, accompanied by their families. The team arrived at their hotel about an hour from Fenway "just before midnight," MLB.com reports.
Fans in Boston are also tired, reports NPR's Tovia Smith, as they have braved prime-time starts on consecutive weeknights. And nearly all of the games have lasted past three hours.
The loudest arguments for staying up, Tovia says, come from kids, who are prone to making what may be outlandish promises about doing homework early and getting up on short rest without a peep of complaint.
A doctor tells Tovia that he's cleared his kids to stay up — as long as the Red Sox win. But another father said it's just nice to have kids distracted by something positive.
"As one parent put it," Tovia says, " 'Six months ago, our kids were glued to the TV and not sleeping because the Boston bomber was on the loose. Now, if they're losing sleep over baseball,' he says, 'I'm fine with that.' "
For any baseball fan who's in a more contemplative mood, we recommend an essay in The New Yorker by former player Adrian Cardenas, who recently retired from baseball at age 24, despite making it to the big leagues.
Cardenas, who quit baseball to pursue his education, reminds us what the game means for players who might never feel the glare of the sport's brightest spotlight. It includes this passage:
"I came to realize that professional baseball players are masochists: hitters stand sixty feet and six inches from the mound, waiting to get hit by a pitcher's bullets; fielders get sucker punched in the face by bad hops, and then ask for a hundred more. We all fail far more than we succeed, humiliating ourselves in front of tens of thousands of fans, trying to attain the unattainable: batting a thousand, pitching without ever losing, secretly seeking the immortality of the record books. In spite of the torments—the career-ending injuries, the demotions, the fear of getting "Wally Pipped"—we keep rolling our baseball-shaped boulders up the impossible hill of the game, knowing we'll never reach the top. Baseball is visceral, tragic, and absurd, with only fleeting moments of happiness; it may be the best representation of life. I was, and still am, in love with baseball. But I quit."
Wally Pipp, as sports historians know, was the New York Yankee who was replaced — ostensibly just for one game in the 1925 season — because he had a headache, according to legend. Pipp's stand-in was a guy he'd helped get to the bigs, a fella who seemed to have a future: Lou Gehrig.