ST. LOUIS -- When David Ortiz talks, people listen. That was the case in the Boston Red Sox dugout on Sunday, when the designated hitter turned first baseman for a few days offered some inspirational words to his teammates before the sixth inning of Game 4, telling his teammates to relax and play the game the way they have all season. They went out after that and scored three runs that inning to take the lead.
After Game 4, Ortiz had some words of guidance for the throng of media that surrounded his locker. With the series tied 2-2, no one was in the driver's seat. But the winner of Game 5, that team would be in good shape.
"If you win tomorrow, you're getting closer," Ortiz said. "All you've got to do is win one more game."
The Red Sox moved into that driver's seat on Monday night, beating St. Louis Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright for the second time, 3-1, to take a three games to two lead with the series resuming in Fenway Park on Wednesday. And the Red Sox did it in a way that matched their entire season. They got another big night from the King of October, Ortiz, another great pitching night from ace Jon Lester, and a combination of hits from the otherwise unheralded bottom of the order. In the star-of-the-day roulette, which had found Jonny Gomes in Game 4, it landed this time on the unlikely quartet of Xander Bogaerts, Stephen Drew, David Ross and Jacoby Ellsbury.
Those four Red Sox had not accounted for much in the Series, having gone 8 for 49 (.163) at the plate coming into the game. The two-run inning that group put together has put the Red Sox a win away from the World Series title.
"We're going home," manager John Farrell said. "Going back to a place that our guys love to play in, in front of our fans. This atmosphere here, their three games have been phenomenal. We know it's going to be equal to that, if not better. And we're excited about going home in the position we are."
"It's exciting," said Drew. "We're going to take this and celebrate tonight. It's 3-2. We've still got to go out there and get one more win."
"This is a good feeling," said second baseman Dustin Pedroia. "Just got to win one more. We've put ourselves in a great position and we're still grinding."
The Red Sox have touted their depth, how on any night anyone could end up being the star of the game. Gomes stepped into the lineup when Shane Victorino got hurt to hit the decisive three-run homer in Game 4. In Game 5, Bogaerts singled, Drew walked, Ross doubled in Bogaerts and Ellsbury singled in Drew. That won it. "We had some huge at-bats," Pedroia said. "We did some good things to turn it over and get (Ellsbury) up there."
Ortiz is coming to the conclusion of one of the great series in postseason history. His single to right in the fourth inning was the ninth consecutive plate appearance he had reached base safely and the 14th time he had reached safely in 16 at-bats. (His previous out was a ground ball to Matt Adams at first in the second inning of Game 3.) The nine consecutive times reaching first tied a World Series record set by Billy Hatcher of Cincinnati in 1990. The double was his ninth career extra-base hit in the World Series, breaking the club record. Among active players, only Derek Jeter, with 13, has more extra-base hits in the Series. The RBI was his 14th in the World Series, tying Dwight Evans for the Red Sox record, and the most among active big-leaguers.
He's hitting 20 for 43 (.465) in 13 World Series games, the best average ever among 277 players with at least 50 career World Series plate appearances. His first of the game, a double in the first, put the Red Sox up 1-0.
Ortiz's historic hitting was matched on the mound by Lester. Lester was sailing along in the fourth until he gave up a game-tying home run to Matt Holliday. That snapped Lester's World Series scoreless string at 16 2/3 innings, the second-longest streak by a pitcher at the start of his World Series career, behind only Christy Mathewson (28 innings).
Lester looked to be in trouble when Holliday's home run was followed by a shot to the wall in left by Carlos Beltran that Gomes caught on the run and then a line shot by Yadier Molina that shortstop Drew leaped to grab. All of a sudden, the Cardinals were getting some solid swings against Lester. But Lester regained his form in the fifth and retired the side in order in the fifth, sixth and seventh. He finished with allowing just one run and four hits in 7 2/3 innings while striking out seven.
"Given the stage, given how strong he's been throughout the course of the year, and particularly in the second half," Farrell said, "and what he's doing in his own right career-wise in the postseason, yeah, this was a big game. ... Jon Lester was fantastic tonight."
Lester came to the plate with runners on second and third in the seventh, but Farrell said he never considered pinch hitting for him.
"No. No," he said. "Even if that game was tied. (The Red Sox had just gone ahead 2-1.) Where his pitch count was, as effective as he was, we were looking for at least one more inning. We were able to do that."
As the postgame interview session dragged on, Ross, in his 12th year in the majors but first World Series, was having the time of his life. Told that he had to get going because the Red Sox had a bus waiting to take them to the airport, the unlikely hitting star didn't move.
"They'll hold that plane, I promise," he said.
(c)2013 St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Visit the St. Louis Post-Dispatch at www.stltoday.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services