ST. LOUIS – Jon Lester pitched the Boston Red Sox within a whisker of yet another World Series championship.
Now, this bearded band goes back to Fenway Park just one win away.
“Pretty special time,” Lester said.
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, putting Boston in position to capture its third crown in a decade. Not since 1918 have the Red Sox clinched the title at their century-old bandbox.
“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,” Farrell added.
Said Ortiz: “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 more success in Game 5, moving up from cleanup to the third slot. He is 11 for 15 with two homers, six RBIs and four walks in this series.
Ortiz left in a double switch, shortly after legging out a hit in the eighth. He was OK, and 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 opening game.
“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 while retiring 12 in a row at one point.
He tweaked himself 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 Busch Stadium tradition – and Lester moved aside to watch the horses.
He also took a brief break in the seventh. A giant paper airplane floated down from the stands, and some fans cheered its flight as it landed near the mound. Lester handed it to a ballboy, and retired Molina to end the inning.
“It was a tough loss. It was 1-1 in the seventh – that was obviously the game. Tip your cap to Ross, he hit a double to take the lead,” Wainwright said. “Their guy Lester did a good job.”
Lester did it without any flap over his glove. During Game 1, a Cardinals minor league pitcher posted a picture on Twitter of discoloration on Lester’s mitt and wondered if some foreign substance was there.
Lester said he merely used rosin for a better grip, and Major League Baseball said it didn’t see anything wrong.
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.
St. Louis went quickly in the ninth, and now needs 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 … the right way.”