David Ross caught Jon Lester‘s pitches into the eighth inning, then talked about the toss that really impressed him in Game 5 of the World Series.
A big paper airplane flung by a fan that floated so far, Lester stepped off the mound to retrieve it.
“We were all kind of in awe,” Ross said.
Loose? The Red Sox sure sounded that way after Lester outpitched Adam Wainwright once more, Ross delivered a go-ahead double in the seventh inning and Boston beat the St. Louis Cardinals 3-1 Monday night for a 3-2 edge.
A whisker away from yet another championship, this bearded band now goes back to Fenway Park.
“Pretty special time,” Lester said.
David Ortiz delivered his latest big hit, too, putting Boston in position to capture its third crown in a decade. Not since 1918 have the Red Sox clinched the title on their own field.
“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,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said.
Added Ortiz of Boston’s century-old bandbox: “It’s going to get loud out there.”
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.
“It will be legendary if we go into Boston and win two games,” Wainwright said.
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.
“I was born for this,” Ortiz said, grinning.
The slugger left in a double switch, shortly after legging out a hit in the eighth. He was OK, plus he’d already done enough damage to the Cardinals.
“What planet’s that guy from?” Ross said.
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.
Lester won again while working with Ross, a journeyman catcher.
“I think the biggest thing is me and Rossy have had a good rhythm,” Lester said.
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 while retiring 12 in a row.
He tweaked his back late, but said he was all right. In fact, Lester’s biggest brush with major trouble came well before his first pitch.
Lester was getting loose near the warning track when a team of eight Clydesdales pulling a beer wagon came trotting by — it’s a tradition at Busch Stadium and Lester moved aside to watch the horses.
He also took a brief break with two outs in the seventh when the paper airplane appeared. Some fans cheered its flight as it almost glided to the mound. Lester handed it to a ballboy, and retired Molina to end the inning.
“Me, Yadi and the umpire were pretty impressed. That was a nice throw,” Ross said. “We were all talking about that.”
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. Ortiz became the first baseman, putting slugger Mike Napoli on the bench.
The Red Sox lead the Series despite a .205 team batting average. Ortiz has one-third of the team’s 33 hits.
Ross, a graybeard on a team led by scraggly veterans, broke a 1-all tie when he hooked a drive just inside the left-field line, and the ball bounced into the seats for a go-ahead double.
Jacoby Ellsbury later hit an RBI single, and Ross was thrown out at the plate trying to score on the play.
A day after Ortiz delivered a stirring, in-game pep talk to rev up the Red Sox, the Cardinals could’ve used some inspiration themselves — perhaps a visit from the good-luck Rally Squirrel from their 2011 title run.
Holliday shook St. Louis’ slumber and broke Lester’s string with his second home run of the Series. Lester had pitched 16 1-3 scoreless innings in his first three World Series starts before Holliday tagged him.
Wainwright struck out 10 in seven innings, becoming the first Cardinals pitcher to reach double digits in the Series since Bob Gibson did it twice in 1968 against Detroit. Wainwright fanned five in a row early.
It was a big sports night in St. Louis, with an NFL game between the Rams and Seattle eight blocks away at the Edward Jones Dome. This is a baseball town, clearly: Football tickets sold for $10 on StubHub as kickoff approached, and fans inside the dome loudly booed when the World Series game was taken off the video board.
Copyright © 2013 Capitol Hill Blue
Copyright © 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.