Aced out: Cards Wainwright loses again
The St. Louis Cardinals are in a 3-2 World Series hole and done for the year at home where they've been so good, too, after their second look at Red Sox lefty Jon Lester was no better than the first. They managed just four hits in a 3-1 loss in Game 5 on Monday night, a meager output that's become all too familiar.
Getting Allen Craig back as a full-time starter for the first time since early September didn't help, either. Wainwright had 10 strikeouts, gave up three runs in seven innings and never pitched with the lead.
"Waino battled, pitched good," leadoff man Matt Carpenter said. "We just couldn't score any runs for him."
Since winning 5-4 on the first game-ending obstruction call in World Series history to take a 2-1 series lead with a chance to finish off the Red Sox at home, the Cardinals have totaled three runs.
In 16 postseason games, they've scored three or fewer runs nine times.
They're batting .218 and averaging 2.6 runs in the World Series, in need of a quick turnaround. The Cardinals overcame a 3-2 series lead against the Texas Rangers to give manager Tony La Russa a very nice going-away present in 2011, but the last two victories came at home.
To match that in Mike Matheny's second season, they'll have to come up big twice at Fenway Park.
"I think our guys are going to see it as a good challenge," Craig said. "It's going to be tough. Anything can happen. We can do it."
Unless the bottom half of the batting order comes to life, the pressure will be on rookie Michael Wacha, the NLCS MVP who's 4-0 with a 1.00 ERA in the postseason, to hold Red Sox hitters down a second time in the Series.
"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."
The offensive slump prompts unpleasant memories of last season's flameout when they totaled one run the last three games in the NLCS against the Giants.
"I think pitchers have been pitching us tough all playoffs," Craig said. "You try not to expand the zone. The last few games they've done a good job not leaving much over the plate."
The Cardinals had the second-best home record in the majors but finished the year with consecutive losses at Busch Stadium for the first time since mid-August.
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.
The 19-game winner was much closer to himself after a Game 1 all-around mismatch, when all three phases were sorely lacking. Wainwright was sharp after giving up an RBI double to red-hot David Ortiz in the first inning, at least until the Red Sox scored the go-ahead runs.
"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.
Matt Holliday's 427-foot home run to straightaway center in the fourth was the lone run against Lester, who permitted one run in 15 1-3 innings in two superb starts.
Three straight Cardinals hit Lester hard in the fourth. But the last two were outs: Carlos Beltran's warning track drive was run down 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 with two homers and five RBIs. Otherwise, there's not much.
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.
Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press
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