ST. LOUIS — Adam Wainwright was much better in his second start of the World Series. Still, the St. Louis Cardinals needed a lot more from their ace.
The 19-game winner was outpitched again by Jon Lester, losing to the Red Sox 3-1 in Game 5 on Monday night.
“It’s never easy,” Wainwright said. “A loss is a loss. In the seventh inning they made some good swings, that’s really there is to it.”
Despite an impressive 10 strikeouts Monday, Wainwright has put the Cardinals in a 3-2 hole. To win the World Series for the second time in three years, they’ll have to rally on the road without him.
“It will be legendary if we go into Boston and win two games,” Wainwright said.
Two years ago, the Cardinals beat the Texas Rangers in Games 6 and 7 at home to give manager Tony La Russa a nice retirement present. To accomplish the feat for manager Mike Matheny in Boston, St. Louis will first turn to rookie Michael Wacha, the team’s best pitcher this postseason at 4-0 with a 1.00 ERA. The way the Cardinals’ offense has struggled, they’ll likely need another lights-out performance from the 22-year-old NLCS MVP in Game 6 on Wednesday night against John Lackey.
“It’s a great opportunity for us to go in and prove the kind of team we are, how tough we are mentally,” Matheny said. “We’ve got to have Michael come out and throw a big game.”
Wainwright is the first Cardinals pitcher to reach double-digit strikeouts in the World Series since Hall of Famer Bob Gibson did it twice against the Detroit Tigers in 1968, one a Series record 17.
In the opener, Wainwright was roughed up and lasted just five innings in an 8-1 loss. This time, he gave up an RBI double to David Ortiz in the first inning and was sharp until the Red Sox rallied for two runs in the seventh inning.
The Cardinals never considered walking Ortiz, who’s batting .733 (11 for 15) in the Series.
“He hit a good pitch, he’s out of his mind hot right now,” Wainwright said. “That was my call before the game, I said `I’m not pitching around Ortiz today, I’m going to get him out.'”
Aided by Daniel Nava’s double-play ball ending the fourth that cancelled out Ortiz’s second straight hit, Wainwright retired 11 in a row including a run of five straight strikeouts.
But Boston had three hits in the seventh, the go-ahead drive coming on David Ross’ ground-rule double. Jacoby Ellsbury added an RBI single.
“It was a game of inches, Ross’ ball was a couple inches fair,” Wainwright said. “There’s a lot of different things that could have happened, but they didn’t.”
Wainwright was 4-0 in his postseason career before a tough-luck loss in Game 3 of the NLCS. Now he’s lost three in a row.
The Cardinals did little against Lester to help Wainwright.
They’re batting .218 in the World Series, totaling 13 runs, and several players have come up empty. Allen Craig went 0 for 3 in Game 5 without hitting a ball out of the infield in his first start at first base since injuring his left foot in early September.
“Honestly, you’ve got to give credit to the opposing pitcher,” Carlos Beltran said. “It’s not like we’re giving excuses. We just haven’t found the way to put it together.”
Matt Holliday’s 427-foot home run to straightaway center in the fourth was the lone run against Lester, who has permitted one run in 15 1/3 innings in two superb starts against St. Louis.
Three straight Cardinals hit Lester hard in the fourth – with Holliday’s long ball tying it, giving him four homers and 10 RBIs in the postseason. But the last two were outs: Carlos Beltran’s warning track drive was caught by left fielder Jonny Gomes and Yadier Molina’s liner was snared by shortstop Stephen Drew with a leap.
Molina is batting .316, Beltran is hitting .308 and Holliday has supplied plenty of punch. Otherwise, there’s not much.
Leadoff man Matt Carpenter led the majors with 199 hits but has yet to get it revved up in the postseason, batting .227 with five strikeouts against Boston. David Freese, Matt Adams, Jon Jay, Pete Kozma and Daniel Descalso have combined for zero RBIs.
Freese, the 2011 World Series MVP, is batting .200 with one extra-base hit. Adams is at .167 with six strikeouts. Jay is at .143 and the Kozma-Descalso shortstop duo is 0 for 16.
“It’s going to be tough,” Carpenter said. “We’re going to try to find a way to forget about this one and win two games.”