Jon Lester gave the Boston Red Sox a one-game lead in his first start of the World Series. He's in a position to do it again in his second.
After evening the series Sunday, the Red Sox turn to the left-hander for Monday night's Game 5 in St. Louis with hopes of returning to Boston a win away from their third World Series title in 10 seasons.
Lester, 3-1 this postseason with a 1.67 ERA and with a 2.07 ERA in 10 career playoff starts, further boosted his October stature with 7 2-3 innings of scoreless work in an 8-1 Game 1 victory.
"I don't know what it is. I like this stage," said Lester, who went 15-8 with a 3.75 ERA in the regular season. "I like knowing that I've got to go out there and give everything I've got for my teammates, because tomorrow might be our last game. You don't know. I guess that just gives you that little extra focus."
There could be a little extra focus on Lester's glove when he makes his first career start at Busch Stadium. After Lester gave up five hits in the Game 1 win, Cardinals minor leaguer Tyler Melling tweeted a screenshot of a substance on the glove and referred to it as Vaseline.
Lester and Red Sox manager John Farrell said he uses rosin to combat heavy sweating, and Major League Baseball said Thursday nothing could be concluded from the video and that the Cardinals did not issue any complaints.
"I'm sure there's going to be focus on my glove and focus on my hands and what I'm doing, but I've got to worry about the Cardinals," Lester said. "If I'm worried about what people are looking at, I'm worried about the wrong things. I'm going to go out and pitch my game."
Boston won 4-2 Sunday, squaring the series at 2-all on Jonny Gomes' three-run home run in the sixth inning. The blast broke a 1-all tie and gave the Red Sox's bullpen the support it needed after an ailing Clay Buchholz left after four innings.
Gomes, 0 for 9 in the series before the at-bat, was inserted into Boston's lineup less than two hours before the first pitch when Shane Victorino was scratched due to a sore back.
"Since I signed up for this game, all I wanted was the opportunity," Gomes said. "I just wanted to be in the box."
The game ended when Red Sox closer Koji Uehara picked off rookie pinch-runner Kolten Wong at first base with Carlos Beltran at the plate. It was the second straight night with an odd ending after Saturday's game-ending obstruction call gave the Cardinals a 2-1 series lead.
"I feel bad for the kid. I know he's trying to steal a base or put himself in a position where he can score," Beltran said. "But the best way for us to pick him up is to come here tomorrow and get a win."
The last two games are the only of 1,404 postseason contests in major league history to end on an obstruction call and a pickoff.
Buchholz allowed three hits and an unearned run before Felix Doubront took over and earned the win with 2 2-3 innings. The Boston bullpen has worked 9 2-3 innings in the two games in St. Louis, with Farrell even opting to use projected Game 6 starter John Lackey to pitch the eighth inning Sunday.
While the Red Sox's starters haven't given them many innings in St. Louis and their defense continues to be an issue - Sunday was the third straight game Boston made two errors - David Ortiz isn't having any troubles in the batter's box. Ortiz went 3 for 3 with a walk and two runs scored in Game 4 and is batting .727 in the series with eight hits and four walks.
"I think they're all watching and realizing that he's tough to get out right now," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said of his pitching staff.
Lester will again be up against Adam Wainwright (2-2, 2.25 ERA), whom the Red Sox tagged for five runs - three earned - in five innings of Game 1.
Wainwright went 19-9 with a 2.94 ERA in the regular season. Wainwright had given up one or two runs in six of his first seven career postseason starts prior to allowing all five runs in the first two innings of Game 1.
"I honestly don't know why my mechanics were as bad as they were, my delivery was off as much as it was," Wainwright said of his first career World Series start. "But I feel like I've put a lot of good reps in in front of the mirror, and watching film and feeling my delivery again, learning the basics all over again.
"I feel like I've made a lot of good adjustments to be ready for this next game to throw some quality pitches. I threw maybe four or five quality pitches the whole time I was pitching. Luckily to come away with just a few runs; it could have been ten instead of five."
Wainwright is 4-0 with a 1.07 ERA in eight postseason games - four starts - in St. Louis. He went the distance in his most recent start there, a 6-1 clinching win over Pittsburgh in Game 5 of the NL division series.