ST. LOUIS — The Red Sox are one win from their third World Series championship in a decade.
Jon Lester pitched 7.2 brilliant innings of one-run baseball, David Ortiz had three hits, and David Ross doubled in the go-ahead run in a two-run seventh inning as the Red Sox took Game 5 of the World Series by a 3-1 score.
Koji Uehara relieved Lester in the eighth and recorded the final four outs for the save.
The Red Sox won two of three games at Busch Stadium and return home Wednesday with a chance to complete their remarkable worst-to-first season with a victory in Game 6.
Lester improved to 2-0 in the World Series, outdueling Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright, whom he also beat in Game 1. He has pitched 15.1 innings in the Series, allowing just one run, Matt Holliday’s home run in the fourth inning Monday that tied the score at 1-1.
The Red Sox jumped to the lead in the first when Dustin Pedroia, moved to the No. 2 spot in the lineup, doubled to left, and Ortiz singled him home. After his three-hit performance, Ortiz is now batting .733 in the World Series.
The Red Sox took the lead against Wainwright in the seventh. Xander Bogaerts hit a one-out single, and Stephen Drew followed with a walk. Ross then roped a double to right field, scoring Bogaerts.
Lester grounded back to Wainwright for the second out as Drew held at third, but Jacoby Ellsbury, who came to the plate hitting .158 in the series, singled to center, scoring Drew. Ross was thrown out at the plate, but the Red Sox had a lead they would not relinquish.
End of the eighth, Red Sox 3, Cardinals 1: It’s not every day that a double-switch that removes your ace starter and your best hitter is the right thing to do, but John Farrell’s strategy works perfectly in the eighth inning.
With two outs in the inning and David Freese (double) on second, Farrell removed Jon Lester, who was masterful in his second matchup against Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright, as well as David Ortiz, who is hitting a mere .733 in the series.
In their place are Koji Uehara — who will hit in the No. 3 spot — and Mike Napoli, a defensive upgrade at first base. Uehara retired Matt Adams on three straight strikes to strand Freese.
The final line on Lester: 7.2 innings, 4 hits, no walks, 7 Ks, one earned run. As we said: Masterful.
End of the seventh, Red Sox 3, Cardinals 1: In his first three at-bats in Game 5, Jacoby Ellsbury looked close to hopeless against Adam Wainwright, striking out twice and popping up.
But in his fourth at-bat, he solved the Cardinals’ ace, lining a hard single to center with two out to score Stephen Drew with the third Red Sox run of the night. David Ross, who had doubled in Xander Bogaerts (single) with the go-ahead run, was out at the plate on a strong throw from Shane Robinson, but the damage was done.
The Red Sox built the threat against Wainwright with one out. Bogaerts singled up the middle, and Drew followed with a six-pitch walk, taking three straight curveballs for balls after falling behind 1-2.
Lester grounded to Wainwright for the second out, with the pitcher holding Drew at third, before Ellsbury delivered with his fourth — and most important — hit of the series so far.
Lester kept the Cardinals in check in the bottom half of the inning, retiring the heart of the order 1-2-3. Matt Holliday flew to left, Carlos Beltran popped to short, and Yadier Molina lined to second.
End of the sixth, Red Sox 1, Cardinals 1: Six batters, and not a baserunner between the two teams in the sixth inning.
Yes, we can probably call it a pitchers’ duel now, especially since Wainwright and Lester have 16 strikeouts between them, nine by the Cardinals’ starter.
Wainwright even managed to do the unthinkable with one out in the top of the sixth — he got David Ortiz out. Ortiz lined deep to center field in his at-bat, dropping his batting average to .714.
End of the fifth, Red Sox 1, Cardinals 1 The Red Sox let a decent opportunity slip away in their half.
Xander Bogaerts led off with a single up the middle. After Stephen Drew’s long fly out to right field, David Ross singled to left, putting runners at first and second with one out.
But Jon Lester, still hitless in his major league career, struck out after failing to execute a bunt, and Jacoby Ellsbury left the runners stranded with a strikeout. Ellsbury is now 3 for 19 in the World Series.
Allen Craig, David Freese, and Pete Kozma went in order in the Cardinals’ half of the inning against Lester.
End of the fourth, Red Sox 1, Cardinals 1: Matt Holliday’s been offense in a bottle for the Cardinals.
Whenever he’s stepped in the box, John Farrell’s antennae immediately go up, mostly because it means the Cardinals have a chance to put numbers on the board.
“It seems like when there’s men on base, he’s standing in the batter’s box,” Sox manager John Farrell said. “It’s one of those uncanny things, you look up and here’s Holliday walking to the plate with a couple of guys on.”
The bases were empty when he came up in the fourth inning. That didn’t change the results.
Lester tried to run a fastball inside and Holliday shot it out to center field to tie things up.
No stat says how much Carpenter’s done for the Cardinals that this one: Five of the Cardinals 11 RBIs this series are his.
Curious to see if he starts getting the Ortiz treatment from the Sox.
End of the third, Red Sox 1, Cardinals 0: Matt Carpenter’s tongue has to be bleeding. He had to bite it pretty hard after Brad Miller called a 3-and-2 cutter from Jon Lester the third strike.
Pitch track had it well inside.
It was the fourth time Carpenter’s struck out in the series and the third time he’s struck out looking.
But after throwing the cutter 11 times (seven for strikes), Lester may have earned the benefit of the doubt.
It was Lester’s fourth K of the night.
The most Carpenter seemed to mutter was an, “Oh, my God.”
More tough for the Cardinals than the call was the fact that David Freese was left stranded on second.
Freese’s leadoff single snapped an 0-for-9 stretch going back to his single in the ninth inning of Game 1. It was a rare hit from the bottom of the lineup, which has struggled all series.
End of the second, Red Sox 1, Cardinals 0: Through two innings, Adam Wainwright’s current K list is already six batters long. Here’s the roll call:
Ellsbury, looking, cutter
Gomes, looking, curveball
Nava, looking, fastball
Bogaerts, swinging, curveball
Drew, swinging, curveball
Ross, swinging, fastball
Pedroia and Ortiz tagged him for a pair of hard hit balls, but sawed through the Sox’s lineup. Wainwright said yesterday that he felt like over his five innings in Game 1, he only threw five, maybe six, quality pitches, but he made adjustments over his off days.
“I feel like I’ve put a lot of good reps in in front of the mirror, and watching film and feeling my delivery again, learning the basics all over again,” he said. “I feel like I’ve made a lot of good adjustments to be ready for this next game to throw some quality pitches.”
He’s got his curveball working and between his sinker, his fastball and his cutter, he’s got the the Sox guessing at which way his hard stuff is going to move.
Lester hasn’t made things any easier on the Cardinals lineup.
Carlos Beltran singled — with the bases empty. Behind him, Yadier Molina went down looking at a cutter (a feather in Lester’s cap when you consider Molina’s put 14 balls in play in 17 plate appearances), and Allen Craig grounded into a double play (just the second time the Cardinals have done so in the series (weirdly the other was that incredibly rare 1-2-3 double play in Game 1).
End of the first, Red Sox 1, Cardinals 0: The baseball has a weird radar. It always find the one person that’s probably trying to avoid it. It found Allen Craig.
After Dustin Pedroia laced an Adam Wainwright curveball into the left-field corner for a one-out double, David Ortiz stepped to the plate, and for all the jokes about not throwing a guy who came with Boeing-type numbers at the plate (he’s hitting .727 if you hadn’t heard), Wainwright fed Ortiz a cutter middle-in and Ortiz sent it slicing down the first-base line.
Craig, obviously less than 100 percent, tried to dive for it and came up well short. It bounced into right field and Pedroia wheeled around third to put the Sox up early.
Ortiz is now 9 for 12 in the series with six RBIs.
Wainwright didn’t let the inning get out of control, though. Even though Pedroia got a hold of his curveball, he used it to freeze Jonny Gomes on a 2-and-2 count. Then he caught Daniel Nava staring at a fastball down and in.
Meanwhile, Jon Lester put a match to Mike Matheny’s early plans, buzzing through the top of the Cardinals’ lineup and never letting Carlos Beltran get to the plate.
Matt Carpenter and Shane Robinson both bounced out and Matt Holliday waved at a fastball down and away.
Beltran will again come to the plate with no shot at driving in a run.
Pregame: As if this World Series hasn’t had enough plot twists, there are lineup changes galore going into Game 5.
If there’s a sign of how tense things are with the Red Sox and Cardinals tied at two games apiece, both Red Sox manager John Farrell and Cardinals manager Mike Matheny reworked their batting orders to put their big bats in position to produce runs.
With Shane Victorino out for the second straight game with lower back issues, Dustin Pedroia slid into the two-hole and the inferno that’s been David Ortiz will hit third with Jonny Gomes and Daniel Nava serving as his protection in the fourth and fifth spots.
“I feel like we need to lengthen out the lineup behind David,” Farrell said. “And we’ve made a subtle change, nothing dramatic. But it’s going to be required, as we’ve seen. We haven’t really put together many big innings, and that’s a credit to their pitching. We feel the more we can lengthen out and give ourselves chances up and down the lineup, that’s where we’re at today.”
On the flip side, Matheny had to do something about his cleanup hitter Mike Adams going 3 for 17 for the series with no RBIs, so he benched him, moved Carlos Beltran into the No. 4 spot and rolled the dice on a less-than-full-strength Allen Craig, who’s been the Cardinals’ best hitter in the series, going 4 for 9 as a DH and a pinch hitter. His solution for Jon Jay’s struggles (2 for 13 with only four quality at-bats) was to sit him and start Shane Robinson, who’s 2 for 5 in the series and 5 for 13 in the postseason.
“We’re trying to do some things in our lineup,” Matheny said. ‘We take everything into consideration and realize that trying to get some more depth. Also trying to get more traffic for the guys that can drive in runs.”
How it all plays out will be interesting.
It’s been a great series. Keep on enjoying it. Feel free to comment.