- Gordon Edes, ESPN Staff Writer
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• Lester doesn’t need any of that green stuff in his glove he so indelicately described last week as a “giant booger” to pitch great in October;
• Whoever that was wearing Wainwright’s uniform in Boston last week bore no resemblance to the St. Louis Cardinals ace who battled Lester pitch for pitch in Game 5 of the 109th World Series on Monday night.
A Series previously distinguished by never-before-seen finishes and a David Ortiz with his hair on fire remained status quo in one respect -- the Cardinals still haven’t figured out how to extinguish Big Papi’s smoking bat.
But it also took on a more traditional hue, a splendid pitchers’ duel between two aces at the top of their games, with runs at a premium and mistakes at a minimum. Lester was the one who emerged victorious, limiting the Cardinals to a Matt Holliday solo home run in a 3-1 win that gave the Sox a three-games-to-two lead, with the Series returning to Boston for Game 6 on Wednesday.
Lester, who went 7 2/3 scoreless innings in an 8-1 victory over Wainwright and the Cardinals in Game 1, went another 7 2/3 innings Monday night, allowing just four hits, walking none and striking out seven. Lester has now won all three of his career Series starts, allowing just one run in 21 innings. His streak of 16 2/3 scoreless Series innings to start a career is the third longest ever, behind Christy Mathewson (28 innings) and Jim Lonborg (17 innings).
Koji Uehara, who replaced Lester with two outs and David Freese aboard second after a double, struck out pinch hitter Matt Adams on three pitches to end the eighth, then set down the Cardinals in order in the ninth for his second Series save in two nights and his seventh save of the postseason.
Wainwrong: Wainwright hung an 0-and-2 curveball in the first inning to Dustin Pedroia, who doubled and scored on a double by Ortiz.
Lester elevated a fourth-inning fastball to Holliday, who hit it into the left-field seats for his second home run of the Series, the only two hit by the Cardinals in five Series games.
The sequence that Wainwright long will rue came in the seventh inning, right after he’d disposed of Daniel Nava as his 10th strikeout victim of the night. The next batter was Xander Bogaerts, the 21-year-old rookie who before the game noted how much his presence in the Series has wreaked havoc in his native Aruba.
"It’s hectic down there," he said. "It’s something else. So many people wearing my jerseys, I can’t even imagine. Everybody, they are watching the game and expecting you to do good. The first two games I got two strikeouts each game. Everyone was like, 'Bogaerts, what’s going on?' I was like, 'Don’t panic. Relax.'"
The kid obviously has followed his own advice. Two hits in Game 3, a walk and hit in Game 4 and two more hits in Game 5, including a ground-ball single in the seventh. Up to the plate came Stephen Drew, who has continued to play terrific defense (a leaping catch of Yadier Molina's liner in the fourth) but has been historically bad at the plate, 4-for-49 when he stepped in against Wainwright.
The Cardinals pitcher, ahead in the count 1-and-2, threw Drew three straight curveballs -- and missed with all three, walking him. To the plate came catcher David Ross, who has become Lester’s personal catcher during the postseason -- four consecutive starts with Lester on the mound -- and also has been making more contact at the plate than Jarrod Saltalamacchia (19 Ks in 32 postseason at-bats).
This was one of those times. Ross laced a line drive into the left-field corner for a ground-rule double that scored Bogaerts. Lester tapped out to Wainwright for the second out, but Jacoby Ellsbury flared a single to center that scored Drew to make it 3-1. Ross was thrown out at the plate by Shane Robinson on the play, but Lester had a two-run cushion.
Wainwright was beaten for the second time in the Series, even though he struck out 10 and did not walk a batter until he lost Drew.
En fuego: Ortiz doubled and singled before lining out deep to center, the first out he had made since he grounded out to first in the second inning of Game 3. He had reached nine straight times before making an out, then beat out a ground-ball single to short right field for his third hit of the night in the eighth. Ortiz is batting an outrageous .733 in the series (11-for-15) and with four walks has an on-base average of .750 (15-for-20).
Lineup change pays off: It wasn’t as dramatic as Shane Victorino pulling up lame and fill-in Jonny Gomes hitting a game-winning home run in Game 4, but Farrell’s decision to slide up Pedroia and Ortiz in the second and third spots, respectively, paid immediate dividends with their back-to-back doubles in the first.
Odds favor Sox, sort of: The winner of Game 5 in a Series tied at 2 has gone on to win the Series 27 of 42 times, 64.3 percent. But that has been the case only three times in the past 10 such situations: the Yankees in 1996, the Marlins in ’97 and the Marlins in 2003. The ’82 Brewers, ’86 Red Sox, the ‘87 Cards, the ’91 Braves, the ’01 Yankees, the ’02 Giants, and the ’11 Rangers all won Game 5 and lost the Series.
1dScott Barboza, Special to ESPN.com