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Three keys for Red Sox in Game 6

Three keys for Red Sox in Game 6

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Three keys for Red Sox in Game 6

BOSTON -- The end goal is so close to being realized, the Red Sox can nearly taste it. But there is still work to be done.

As David Ortiz pointed out after Game 5, the close-out game can be the hardest.

The Cardinals will play like a desperate team in Wednesday night's Game 6, and the Red Sox are going to have to match that intensity, just like they did in the last round against the Tigers.

The scenario was eerily similar. The Red Sox forged in front of a thrilling series by pulling out a gritty Game 5 on the road. And then they came home and took care of business, helped by a Shane Victorino grand slam.

Here are the three keys for the Sox in making sure the Cardinals don't become the first team since the 1979 Pirates to win Games 6 and 7 of the World Series on the road.

Find some offense beyond Papi
In recent memory, the only player who carried a team as single-handedly in a World Series as David Ortiz has in this one was probably Barry Bonds in 2002.

It should come as a telling reminder for Boston that Bonds and the Giants lost that Fall Classic to John Lackey's Angels in seven games. Generally, an offense needs several players to step up in order to win the World Series.

Thanks to isolated hits by Jonny Gomes and David Ross, the Red Sox are in the position they're in -- with two chances to get the one win they need.

But they'll likely need some members of Ortiz's supporting cast to win the close-out game.

Six degrees of separation
The Red Sox are 4-3 in Game 6 of a World Series
Year Opponent Game 6 Series result
1986 Mets 6-5 L Mets in 7
1975 Reds 7-6 W Reds in 7
1967 Cardinals 8-4 W Cardinals in 7
1946 Cardinals 4-1 L Cardinals in 7
1918 Cubs 2-1 W Red Sox in 6
1912 Giants 5-2 L Red Sox in 7
1903 Pirates 6-3 W Red Sox in 8

Jacoby Ellsbury had an RBI single for an insurance run in Game 5, and if he could get hot, it changes the complexion of Boston's entire offense. Dustin Pedroia was a postseason star for the Sox in 2007 and '08, but he's been quiet by his standards this October. But there's still time for Pedroia to make a difference. The Red Sox also get Mike Napoli back for the final two games in Boston, and he has proved numerous times in this postseason that he can change a game with one swing.

Play clean defense
It should not be forgotten that the two games the Red Sox have lost in this World Series were largely because of defensive gaffes.

For a team that sports two freshly-minted Gold Glove Award winners in Pedroia and Victorino, not to mention two others who deserved strong consideration (Stephen Drew and Napoli), Boston hasn't played a high level of defense in this World Series.

Game 5 was the first error-free contest by the Red Sox in the Fall Classic.

Manager John Farrell has preached all year the importance of taking care of the baseball. To close out this World Series, Boston will need to do just that.

Regain aggressiveness on the bases
All year long, the Red Sox have created scoring opportunities with their running game. But it has become nearly invisible in the World Series. Pinch-runner Quintin Berry has the only stolen base for Boston in the first five games. That was also the only attempt by the Red Sox.

Sure, catcher extraordinaire Yadier Molina has a lot to do with that. But if Ellsbury can get on base more than he has in the first five games, he has the speed to out-run Molina's rifle arm. Victorino and Pedroia are also base-stealing threats.

At a time when their offense has been quieter than usual, the Red Sox might be able to gain some energy from their legs.

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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