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Three keys for the Cardinals in Game 6

Three keys for the Cardinals in Game 6

Three keys for the Cardinals in Game 6

BOSTON -- Not since 1979, when the Pirates stunned the Orioles, has a club captured a World Series championship by winning Games 6 and 7 on the road. Such is the task looming for the St. Louis Cardinals, who are in a 3-2 hole after back-to-back losses at Busch Stadium.

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The setting shifts back to Fenway Park, where the Cardinals look to regain traction in a matchup that once seemed to favor them. As they seek to deny the Red Sox the opportunity to celebrate a World Series clincher in front of their home fans for the first time since 1918, here are three keys for the Cards going into Game 6 and a possible Game 7:

Start the offense: After leading the National League in runs scored during the regular season, the Cardinals' productive offense has gone mostly missing this postseason. The club is hitting .213 in October and has gotten 24 of its 49 RBIs from two players -- Matt Holliday (10) and Carlos Beltran (14). After averaging nearly five runs per game during the season, the Cards have hit that total just four times in 16 postseason games. It has happened once against the Red Sox.

Compared to the Cardinals' regular-season totals, the strikeouts are up (one per every 4.4 at-bats) and the walks down (one per every 12.4 plate appearances). And of particular concern is the bottom portion of the lineup. Spots Nos. 6-9 have combined to go 11-for-67 with no RBIs in the World Series. St. Louis' pitching in Games 4 and 5 (both losses) was good enough to set the club up for a win. It was the offense that kept the Cards from capitalizing.

Looking for a positive harbinger? The Cardinals did have some success against the starters the Red Sox have lined up for Games 6 and 7. St. Louis had at least one hit in five of the seven innings John Lackey started last Thursday in Game 2 and scored three times. Against Jake Peavy (Boston's probable Game 7 starter) in Game 3, the Cards mustered plenty of hits, but they just could not maximize turning those into runs. St. Louis' two wins came against these two pitchers.

Searching for six-cess
The Cardinals are 6-7 in Game 6 of a World Series
Year Opponent Game 6 Series result
2011 Rangers 10-9 W Cardinals in 7
1987 Twins 11-5 L Twins in 7
1985 Royals 2-1 L Royals in 7
1982 Brewers 13-1 W Cardinals in 7
1968 Tigers 13-1 L Tigers in 7
1967 Red Sox 8-4 L Cardinals in 7
1964 Yankees 8-3 L Cardinals in 7
1946 Red Sox 4-1 W Cardinals in 7
1944 Browns 3-1 W Cardinals in 6
1934 Tigers 4-3 W Cardinals in 7
1931 Athletics 8-1 L Cardinals in 7
1930 Athletics 7-1 L Athletics in 6
1926 Yankees 10-2 W Cardinals in 7

One more rookie rise: The Cardinals needed rookie assistance to get them this deep into October, and they are going to be relying on it with the World Series championship on the line at Fenway Park. Of particular importance will be Michael Wacha, who will be starting Game 6 and seeking his fifth win of the postseason. Wacha pitched in an elimination game against the Pirates back in the NL Division Series and took a no-hitter into the eighth. It was the beginning of what has been a special postseason for the 22-year-old former first-round pick.

Wacha has a 1.00 ERA and is just the 17th pitcher in history to win at least four games in a single postseason. Opponents are hitting .127 off of him, the fourth-lowest batting average against a pitcher with at least 20 innings in a single postseason. Wacha fared well facing Pittsburgh twice within a month's span. He defeated the Dodgers twice in the NL Championship Series. Now, he'll have to again stop the Red Sox, who will be getting their second look at him.

The Series outcome, though, could also hinge on the performances of other rookies. Though key in the Cardinals' success this year, the youth has been exposed at times in this Series -- from Kolten Wong being picked off, to Seth Maness giving up a deflating home run, to Kevin Siegrist and Carlos Martinez dealing with base traffic. The Cards need these rookies to play beyond their years for two more nights.

If the Cardinals are going to mount a comeback against the Red Sox, the young relievers, especially, will have to stand tall. Manager Mike Matheny has trusted no one more in big situations than the quartet of rookies -- Siegrist, Maness, Martinez and Trevor Rosenthal.

Tough task to tackle
Only two teams since 1968 have rallied from a 3-2 World Series deficit by winning Games 6 and 7 on the road
Year After Game 5 Game 6 Game 7
1979 Orioles 3, Pirates 2 Pit, 4, Bal. 0 Pit. 4, Bal. 1
1968 Cardinals 3, Tigers 2 Det. 13, Stl. 1 Det. 4, Stl. 1

Stop David Ortiz:  Ortiz is having a World Series for the ages, and the Cardinals have got to find a way to stop him from getting on base and driving in runs. Through five games, Ortiz is 11-for-15 with six RBIs and four walks. He has collected exactly one-third of the Red Sox's total hits off the Cards, and his RBI total is double that of anyone else on the club.

Adam Wainwright tried to challenge him and was hurt. Lance Lynn pitched around him and was stung. How St. Louis plans to pitch Ortiz -- if at all -- will be worth watching as the Series continues. Pitching around Ortiz just got tougher with the change of venue, too. Now that the DH is back in play, Mike Napoli can return to the lineup and serve as protection behind Big Papi. If the Cardinals do not want to face Ortiz, Napoli will present plenty a challenge.

To this point, the Cards have done relatively well hushing the rest of Boston's offense. Take out Ortiz's numbers and the Red Sox are hitting .151 in this World Series. Of course, key hits by Jonny Gomes and David Ross loomed largely in the last two losses. But Ortiz did, too.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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