ST. LOUIS — David Ortiz is front and center for the Red Sox at the moment, but ace Jon Lester is also carving himself out a pretty special October.
The lefty outlasted and outpitched Adam Wainwright in a compelling duel of elite pitchers in Monday night’s 3-1 victory in Game 5 of the World Series at Busch Stadium.
That gives Boston a 3-2 lead over St. Louis in this riveting Series, and sets up Fenway Park for a possible World Series clincher in Game 6 on Wednesday (7:30 p.m. ET air time on FOX, 8:07 first pitch).
Though Big Papi had three more hits in his Fall Classic for the ages, it was David Ross who broke the tie with a double into the corner in left with one out in the seventh.
With a slight offensive attack at his back, Lester went to work and put together a dominant performance. He went 7 2/3 innings, allowing four hits and a run, walking none and striking out seven.
In five starts this postseason, Lester is 4-1 with an 1.56 ERA, giving up two earned runs or fewer each time out. His only loss was 1-0 in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series against the Tigers.
Presumably, his run is over, unless the Red Sox need him in relief in a potential Game 7.
Meanwhile, no matter which team wins, Fenway Park will be where the World Series ends for the first time since 1975. The Red Sox are aiming for their third World Series title since 2004, while trying to prevent the Cardinals form winning their third since ’06.
The last time the Sox won a World Series at home? That would be 1918.
Through the first six innings Monday, it seemed neither ace was going to blink. The only difference was that Wainwright came into the seventh with 86 pitches while Lester was only at 69.
And perhaps that helped the Boston bats seize control in the top of the seventh. Xander Bogaerts started the rally with a one-out single up the middle. Then came a critical at-bat, as the slumping Stephen Drew was able to work a walk.
Ross followed with a big hit, a ground-rule, RBI double into the corner in left that scored Bogaerts and gave the Red Sox the lead. After Lester tapped out to the mound, Jacoby Ellsbury, who has had a quiet Series, smacked an RBI single up the middle that scored Drew. Ross was thrown out at the plate to end the inning, but Lester had a 3-1 lead.
The Red Sox came out with a quick burst of offense in the first, as Dustin Pedroia rifled a one-out double into the corner in left and Ortiz brought him home with a double down the line in right.
Aside from the pair of doubles, Wainwright was nasty in the early going. The first six outs he recorded were all on strikeouts.
Lester had his good stuff early as well, limiting the Cards to two singles over the first three innings.
But in the fourth, Matt Holliday hit a towering solo blast onto the berm in center to tie the game. Carlos Beltran nearly made it back-to-back homers, but his shot to left was flagged down by Jonny Gomes in front of the wall in left-center. The inning ended on a bullet by Yadier Molina that Drew made a tremendous leaping catch on.
Meanwhile, Wainwright made some news simply by retiring Ortiz on a lineout to center in the sixth. That ended Ortiz’s streak of reaching in nine straight plate appearances, which tied the Yankees’ Joe Gordon (1939-41) and the Reds’ Billy Hatcher (1990) for a World Series record.
Koji Uehara relieved Lester in the eighth and retired all four batters he faced for his second save of the Series and his fourth save of at least four outs this postseason.