ST. LOUIS, Mo. (AP) Koji Uehara emerged from the dugout, walked onto the field at Busch Stadium and gazed at the gleaming Gateway Arch.
The World Series scene shifted Friday. And far from the Green Monster and Fenway Park, the Boston closer and many of his Red Sox teammates were eager to look around.
“I’ve only been in St. Louis since I got off the bus, so I haven’t got much to say,” outfielder Daniel Nava said. “But I’ve heard a lot about it.
“I’ve heard the fans are amazing. I’ve heard the fans are truly knowledgeable. The stadium’s unreal. It’s beautiful. They’ve done a great job of just constructing it and making it fan friendly and hopefully player friendly.”
From the Charles River to the mighty Mississippi, from clam chowder to toasted ravioli, St. Louis was now home with the Series tied at 1-all.
“We love Cardinal country,” ace Adam Wainwright said.
For good reason, too. After a split in Boston, Dustin Pedroia and the rest of the Red Sox will get to see what makes this place so special.
Especially in October.
“Well, we love playing here at Busch Stadium. Like I said, it’s a sea of red,” pitcher Joe Kelly said.
The free-spirited Kelly was set to start Game 3 on Saturday night against Jake Peavy.
“This is what I’ve lived for my whole life — my whole baseball career, I should say,” Peavy said. “I’m as prepared as I’ll ever be — physically, mentally.”
Also warmed up: A team of eight Clydesdales, ready to pull a red beer wagon around the warning track before the first pitch. It’s also a tradition for fans to gather early at the Musial statue — there are two honoring Stan the Man outside the stadium, actually.
The Cardinals rely on a lot more than pomp when they play in their own park.
They led the NL in scoring while going 54-27 at Busch, and then let pitching take over in the postseason. St. Louis is 5-1 at home in the playoffs; in those five wins, opponents scored a total of five runs.
Boston has hit just .188 so far in the Series, with David Ortiz providing the biggest bop. He’s homered in both games and is 4 for 6 overall with five RBIs.
With no designated hitter in the National League park, Ortiz will switch to first base. Manager John Farrell wouldn’t say whether Ortiz would start there for every game in St. Louis, but it’s a good guess regular first baseman Mike Napoli will be on the bench for a while.
“Obviously David’s bat, at all costs, needs to be in the lineup,” Peavy said. “David is a game-changer. He’s as clutch as anybody I can remember playing with or against.
“It just seems like he has a flair for the dramatic. When the situation is the biggest, he’s at his best.”
Ortiz hit a two-run homer off rookie sensation Michael Wacha in Game 2 that put Boston ahead 2-1 in the sixth inning, but St. Louis rallied in the seventh for a 4-2 win.
Farrell also said the lefty-swinging Nava would start in left field instead of Jonny Gomes, who is 0 for 7 so far.
While Nava was new in town, a lot of local sports fans got to see him. A clip of Nava striking out against fireballing rookie Trevor Rosenthal to end Game 2 was played on the video board at the St. Louis Blues’ hockey game Friday night.
The NHL crowd cheered the highlight, and got even louder when Daniel Descalso and Jon Jay were shown sitting in the seats.
The Red Sox will spend this weekend at the park a few blocks from the Mississippi River. The Arch is clearly in view, hovering high in the distance beyond the center-field wall
“I believe our ballpark is very fair. I don’t think there’s one thing that would make our team any more effective in this park than any other,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. “It’s not like there’s the oddities, like a Green Monster or deep corners and gaps.
“But you can’t help but buy into the atmosphere, especially when you’re at home and every single thing you do gets such a positive response.”
Kelly is glad to be home, all the way around.
“You get to sleep in your own bed. You get to do what you normally do on a regular basis,” he said. “If you get coffee in the morning, you go to your coffee shop. It’s just a comfort level to know that it’s your home away from your offseason home.”
For the Red Sox, this is their first visit to St. Louis since Ortiz hit a home run on June 8, 2005, in a win at the previous Busch Stadium. The new park opened the next year.
Kelly also had some friendly advice for Boston’s first-time visitors. It involved a local favorite, a food that many are certain started in this city.
“Find some toasted raviolis, eat some. Those are good, especially in St. Louis,” he said.