By Ronald Blum
BOSTON: Just when it seemed Michael Wacha had cracked, the St. Louis Cardinals began scooting around the bases and tied the World Series.
Wacha beat John Lackey in a matchup of present and past rookie sensations, and this time it was the Cardinals’ turn to take advantage of sloppy fielding as St. Louis topped the Boston Red Sox 4-2 Thursday night to even the Series at a game apiece.
David Ortiz put Boston ahead in the sixth inning with a two-run homer just over the Green Monster in left, ending Wacha’s scoreless streak at 18⅔ innings — a rookie record for a single postseason.
But then Lackey, who in 2002 with the Angels became the first rookie in 93 years to win Game 7 of a World Series, faltered in a three-run seventh. St. Louis went ahead when Matt Carpenter hit a sacrifice fly that led to a pair of runs, with the second scoring on errors by catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia and reliever Craig Breslow.
Carlos Beltran, back in the lineup after bruising ribs in the opener, followed with an RBI single.
“I wanted to be in the lineup. I worked so hard to get to this point,” Beltran said. “Somebody would have to kill me in order for me to be out of the lineup.”
Wacha, a 22-year-old right-hander, wasn’t quite as sharp and allowed two runs, three hits and four walks in six innings with six strikeouts. But he improved to 4-0 in four outings this postseason, matching the amount of regular-season wins he has in his brief career.
“He pitched outstanding,” Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina said. “Just one pitch, to a great hitter like Big Papi. We take our hat off to him, but I mean, he pitched good tonight.”
His parents and sister made the trip from Texarkana, Texas, and sat bundled in cold-weather clothes in the stands to watch Wacha, the 19th pick in last year’s amateur draft.
The Cardinals’ hard-throwing bullpen combined for one-hit relief, with Trevor Rosenthal striking out all three batters in the ninth for a save. He whiffed Daniel Nava with a 99 mph fastball to end it.
All three St. Louis pitchers Thursday night were 23 or younger.
“It doesn’t surprise me. Those guys got talent,” Molina said. “Like I said many times before, they’re not afraid to pitch.”
St. Louis improved to 7-0 this postseason when scoring first and stopped Boston’s Series winning streak at nine.
A night after the Cardinals made three errors in the opener and allowed the Red Sox to romp 8-1, the fielding failures were on the other side.
Given a 2-1 lead, Lackey walked David Freese with one out in the seventh and allowed Jon Jay’s single. Breslow relieved, and the Cardinals pulled off a double steal as pinch-runner Pete Kozma swiped third.
It was an uncharacteristically aggressive move for the Cardinals, who ranked last in the National League with 45 stolen bases this year.
Daniel Descalso, who started at shortstop after Kozma made two errors in the opener, loaded the bases with a walk. Carpenter followed with a fly to medium left, and Jonny Gomes’ throw home was slightly to the first-base side of the plate as Kozma scored the tying run.
Saltalamacchia allowed the throw to glance off his glove as Jay took off for third. Backing up the plate, Breslow hesitated before throwing to third, then sailed a high throw into the stands as Jay scored the go-ahead run. Beltran singled to right for a two-run lead.