ST. LOUIS (AP) ― Jon Lester pitched the Boston Red Sox within a whisker of yet another World Series championship.
Lester bested Adam Wainwright once again, journeyman David Ross hit a tiebreaking double in the seventh inning and the Red Sox downed the St. Louis Cardinals 3-1 Monday night to take a 3-2 Series edge.
David Ortiz delivered his latest big hit, too, sending this bearded band of Red Sox back to Fenway Park with a chance to clinch their third crown in a decade. Not since 1918 has Boston won the title at its own ballpark.
“The fact is we’re going home,” manager John Farrell said. “Going back to a place that our guys love to play in, in front of our fans.”
“This atmosphere here, these three games, has been phenomenal. We know it’s going to be equal to that, if not better. And we’re excited about going home in the position we are,” he said.
John Lackey gets the first chance to win it Wednesday night against St. Louis rookie sensation Michael Wacha. A Cardinals victory would set up a most spooky proposition for both teams ― Game 7 on Halloween night.
Ortiz enjoyed even more success in Game 5 after moving up from cleanup to the third slot. He is 11 for 15 (.733) in this Series with two homers, six RBIs and four walks. He left after legging out a hit, and Farrell said the slugger is OK.
Lester enhanced his reputation as an October ace with every pitch. He allowed one run and four hits in 7 2/3 innings, striking out seven without a walk. Nearly the same line he had in beating Wainwright in the opener.
“I think the biggest thing is me and Rossy have had a good rhythm,” Lester said. “Early on, we just went back to our game plan from Game 1 and just fell back on that and really just tried to make them swing the bats early, and we were able to do that.”
The lefty who’s won all three of his career World Series starts had just one scary inning, when Matt Holliday homered in the fourth, Carlos Beltran flied out to the wall and Yadier Molina hit a liner. Other than that, Lester was sharp as a knife.
“He’s just a stud,” said Ross, the backup catcher who gets paired with Lester. “We rely on him. That’s why he’s the ace of our staff, because he goes out and pitches like that.”
Lester’s biggest brush with major trouble came well before his first pitch. He was getting loose near the warning track when a team of eight Clydesdales pulling a beer wagon came trotting by ― it’s a Busch Stadium tradition and Lester stood aside to watch the horses.
Koji Uehara got four outs for his second save. No crazy endings this time, either, following one night with an obstruction call and the next with Uehara’s game-finishing pickoff.
The Cardinals went quickly in the ninth, and now need two wins in Boston. They overcame a 3-2 deficit at home to beat Texas for the 2011 title.
“The guys know what we have to do,” manager Mike Matheny said. “We have to play the game. They have to lock arms, trust each other and play the game the right way. Most of it is going to be the mentality of not buying into any kind of stats, any kind of predictions, any kind of odds. And go out and play the game.”
Ortiz put Boston ahead with an RBI double in the first, hitting the first pitch after Dustin Pedroia doubled on an 0-2 curve. Ortiz singled the next time up and tied the Series record by reaching base in nine straight plate appearances.
Big Papi and the Red Sox took two of three at the NL park despite playing without a designated hitter.