ST. LOUIS — A 3-1 loss to Boston in Game 5 of the World Series on Monday night has the St. Louis Cardinals staring at elimination.
David Ross' RBI ground-rule double and Jacoby Ellsbury's run-scoring single against Adam Wainwright in the seventh broke a 1-1 tie and lifted the Red Sox before 47,436 at Busch Stadium.
"It was a tough loss," said Wainwright, who permitted three runs (earned) on eight hits in seven innings, with one walk and 10 strikeouts. "It was 1-1 there in the seventh. That's the game there. You tip your hat to Ross. He hit a double to take the lead and their guy, (Jon) Lester, did a great job.
"We'll be ready to win two tough games in Boston."
The Red Sox, who took two of the three games in St. Louis, grabbed a 3-2 lead in the series, with Game 6 scheduled for 7:07 p.m. Wednesday at Fenway Park in Boston. Rookie sensation Michael Wacha, who is 4-0 with a 1.00 ERA in four postseason starts, will pitch against Boston's John Lackey.
Lester was problematic for the Cardinals for the second time in the series. He defeated St. Louis 8-1 in Game 1 on Wednesday at Fenway Park, and was even better in the rematch with Wainwright.
Lester surrendered one run (earned) on four hits in 7 2/3 innings, walked none and struck out seven to improve to 4-1 with a 1.56 ERA in the playoffs.
"I think the biggest thing is just the team played well all the way, top to bottom," said Lester, who earned praise from his catcher, Ross.
"His cutter was probably as good as I've caught it this year," Ross said. "He really had a good cutter and he got out of some jams. ... He doesn't take any pitches off. He puts the same emphasis on the first pitch he throws as the last pitch he throws, and that's what makes a really good pitcher."
Cardinals right fielder Carlos Beltran didn't dispute that point.
"He was good. No doubt about it," Beltran said. "Watching the whole game, the way he pitched everybody, he was on the corners, in and out. He was executing pitches and leaving them in the bottom of the strike zone."
Matt Holliday's fourth-inning homer to center, a 427-foot shot, knotted the game at 1. But the Cardinals had just three other hits, and Red Sox pitching faced three batters over the minimum.
"Both teams have really good pitching. That's why we're here," Holliday said. "In the postseason, you've got to score runs. ... They have a good team. They beat us. You move on and try to win the next game."
Koji Uehara relieved Lester and got the final four outs for the save, leaving the Red Sox feeling good about their chances.
"The fact is we're going home," Boston manager John Farrell said. "We're going back to a place that our guys love to play in --in front of our fans. This atmosphere here (in) these three games has been phenomenal. We know it's going to be equal to that, if not better. We're excited about going home in the position we are."
With one out in the seventh, Xander Bogaerts singled off Wainwright's body and Stephen Drew walked. Ross doubled inside the left-field foul line, and the ball bounced and hit a fan. Bogaerts scored to make it 2-1 and Drew was held at third base.
"Bogaerts hit a good pitch up the middle," Wainwright said. "Usually, I catch that ball. I'm a little disappointed I didn't catch that ball. But he put a good swing on it. More than anything, walking Drew hurt. That set the inning up for them."
After Lester tapped out to Wainwright, Ellsbury ended an 0-for-8 skid with a single to center to score Drew, putting the Red Sox ahead 3-1. Ross tried to scored on the hit, but he was easily thrown out at the plate by Shane Robinson.
The Cardinals, who were 19-23 against left-handers during the regular season, had one final opportunity against Lester.
With one out in the eighth, David Freese doubled to right. Pete Kozma, who is 0-for-10 in the series, flied out to left.
Matt Adams pinch-hit for Carlos Martinez, and Farrell summoned the right-handed Uehara to face the left-handed hitting Adams.
Uehara, who allowed a .116 average to lefties in the regular season, struck out Adams on three pitches, then worked a perfect ninth, striking out Matt Carpenter, getting pinch-hitter Jon Jay on a roller to first and retiring Holliday on a fly to right.
"It's one of those frustrating things. It's one of those things that's hard to swallow," Carpenter said. "(Lester) pitched extremely well. He had his cutter working on both sides of the plate, lefties and righties. He had command of all his pitches."
Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz hit back-to-back doubles with one out in the first to give Boston a quick 1-0 lead. Ortiz was 3-for-4 and is 11-for-15 (.733) with six RBIs in the series.
Wainwright struck out the side in the first, but threw 21 pitches. He struck out the side again in the second, retiring Boston in order.
The Cardinals' first hit against Lester came from Beltran to start the second. But it was wasted when Yadier Molina struck out looking and Allen Craig hit into a 6-4-3 double play.
Craig was a late addition to the lineup at first base. Craig, trying to recover from a sprained left foot, took grounders before the game and deemed himself fit enough to play.
The Cardinals hope they're fit for the major challenge they face in Boston.
"It's going to be tough, no doubt about it," Carpenter said. "But there's no quit in this team, just like there's no quit in that team over there. We're going to try to find a way to forget about this one and find a way to win two games in Boston."
Contact reporter David Wilhelm at email@example.com or 239-2665.