Rookie Kolten Wong's first multihomer game of his career came at an opportune time for Adam Wainwright and the St. Louis Cardinals.
Wong clubbed his eighth and ninth homers of the season and Wainwright battled through seven innings as the Cardinals outscored Boston 5-2 on Thursday to complete a 4-2 homestand and remain one game out of first place.
"I didn't do it in the minor leagues at all," Wong said of his two-homer outburst, part of a 3-for-4 game that included a stolen base. "The biggest thing is (I'm) not trying to swing super-hard. I've been telling myself every at-bat not to swing too hard. If I feel myself swinging too hard, I step out. People think I'm crazy because I'm talking to myself at home plate.
"But I understand if I swing too hard, I'm not going to do anything with it. I'm just being quicker to the ball and swinging at good pitches. They're taking off right now."
All of the Cardinals' runs came with two outs.
Wong hit bases-empty home runs in the fifth against Brandon Workman (1-5) and in the seventh against Craig Breslow. Six of Wong's homers and 25 of his 31 RBIs, or 81 percent, have come with two outs, when he's batting .338 (26-for-77).
"We needed them," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said, complimenting Wong for his "short, compact strokes."
"He's got really impressive bat speed. He always has," he said. "We've talked about that since the day he got here. There's an ability for the ball to jump when you have bat speed like that and you don't have to cheat. You just take the head of the bat to the ball and watch it jump. He had a couple of nice swings today."
Wainwright (14-6) permitted two runs (earned) on seven hits, with two walks and seven strikeouts. He matched Milwaukee's Wily Peralta for the major-league lead in victories.
Wainwright threw a season-high 122 pitches, 78 for strikes. It was his highest pitch count since Aug. 23 of last season when he used 128 pitches in a complete-game 3-1 win over the Atlanta Braves.
"Just another grind, another battle," said Wainwright, who was coming off two shaky performances in his last three starts. "I'm just going to keep going out there and make as many pitches as I can until I get through this. I think I've finally made some good adjustments that will help me in the long run."
With Trevor Rosenthal unavailable after pitching in four of the last five days, Pat Neshek worked the ninth for his third save. Neshek's ERA fell to 0.76 after a nine-pitch outing.
The Cardinals were clinging to a 4-2 lead in the seventh when Wainwright walked Dustin Pedroia to put Boston runners at first and second with two outs.
Matheny paid a visit to Wainwright, who remained in the game to face Yoenis Cespedes.
"He just came out, gave me a little pep talk and didn't even talk about taking me out," Wainwright said. "He believed I was going to get us out of that spot right there."
Wainwright fell behind 3-0, but got back into the count with a curveball. Cespedes then fouled off a cutter to make it 3-2, and with the fans on their feet, Wainwright recorded the strikeout with a curveball that froze the power-hitting Cespedes.
A fired-up Matheny simulated umpire Gary Cederstrom's third-strike call in the dugout, then pumped his fists.
"That was huge," Matheny said. "I know I was pretty happy. That was the game right there. That's his last pitch; that's his last guy. There's nothing I wanted to see more than to see him get through that and get out of it."
Wong's first home run of the game, a 384-foot shot into the bleachers in right-center, put the Cardinals ahead 4-2 in the fifth and ended Workman's string of retiring nine in a row.
Wong's second home run, a 423-foot drive into the right-field seats, made it 5-2. It was his second long ball in 41 at-bats against a lefty.
The Cardinals put the hurt on the slow-working Workman in the first, pulling ahead 3-0 on Jhonny Peralta's two-run double and an RBI single by rookie Oscar Taveras, who extended his hitting streak to seven games. Peralta leads the team with 27 doubles.
Workman, however, settled in nicely. He retired Tony Cruz on a popup to end the first, part of a streak in which he set down 10 of 11 hitters. The lone blemish was a second-inning walk to Matt Carpenter, who was wiped out trying to steal second.
The Red Sox got back in the game in the fourth on RBI singles by Mike Napoli and Christian Vazquez. Napoli was a late addition to the lineup when slugger David Ortiz was scratched following a second consecutive rain delay before a game.
The game Wednesday was delayed by 1 hour, 3 minutes. On Thursday, a crowd of 44,570 waited 1:04.
After Vazquez's single, Wainwright rolled through the next 11 hitters until Daniel Nava's one-out single in the seventh.