BOSTON (AP) BOSTON -- After leaning upon rookie right-hander Michael Wacha to pitch them out of Pittsburgh, past Clayton Kershaw and into the World Series, the Cardinals' offense found a way to return the favor on Thursday night.
This time, they bailed him out.
On a night when Red Sox cleanup hitter David Ortiz marred an otherwise dominant effort from the 22-year-old Wacha with a sixth-inning blast, the Cardinals answered -- albeit with some help from the Red Sox defense -- with three runs an inning later. That provided the Cardinals' bullpen with a two-run cushion that they held to ensure St. Louis would leave Boston on a high.
With a 4-2 victory in front of 38,436 in Game 2 of the World Series, the Cardinals head home having split the pair of games at Fenway Park. It was a critical win for the Cardinals, who did not want to go back to Busch Stadium not having won at least once behind their top two pitchers.
The Cardinals also know the numbers: Of the last 16 teams to fall behind, 2-0, in the Fall Classic, only one (the 1996 Yankees) had come back to claim a championship. It's a feat they no longer will have to try to match.
Boston let an opportunity for a 2-0 Series lead slip away with a sloppy seventh, one day after St. Louis' defensive issues plunged them into an inescapable hole. Boston starter John Lackey carried a 2-1 lead into that inning courtesy of a two-run homer Ortiz had deposited over the Green Monster an inning earlier.
In the seventh, a one-out walk by David Freese put the potential tying run on base for Jon Jay, who moved him up with a single. Manager Mike Matheny replaced Freese with the quick Pete Kozma, a move that would be fortuitous minutes later. Craig Breslow relieved Lackey to face Daniel Descalso, who battled through a seven-pitch at-bat to draw a walk.
With the bases full, Cardinals third-base coach Jose Oquendo took a gamble and sent Kozma home on a Matt Carpenter flyout to left. The issue forced a wide throw from left fielder Jonny Gomes that catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia could not corral. Kozma slid home to tie the game, and Jay took off for third as the ball scooted away.
In his attempt to nab Jay, Breslow sailed his throw into the seats along the third-base line. Jay trotted home. Descalso moved from first to third, putting him position to score a key insurance run when Carlos Beltran dropped a single into right. Beltran, playing with a right rib contusion, finished 2-for-4.
"Somebody would have to kill me in order for me to be out of the lineup," Beltran said. "Like I said, [Wednesday] was a very scary moment for me. I thought for a second that I did something major in my ribs. Thank God, you know, it's a big bruise on my chest, but other than that, it's going to get better."
The timely offense rewarded Wacha with a win on a night when the Red Sox extended him to a career-high pitch count of 114. Facing an offense that prides itself in grinding at-bats, Boston had pushed Wacha's pitch count to 88 through five innings despite tallying only two hits.
"He pitched outstanding," catcher Yadier Molina said of Wacha. "He kept us in the game, that's what we what for. Just one pitch, to a great hitter like Big Papi, we tip our hat off to him. But I mean, he pitched good tonight."
The only serious bit of trouble Wacha faced leading up to that point came after Dustin Pedroia delivered a leadoff double in the fourth. Wacha walked Ortiz next, but navigated out of the jam by getting Mike Napoli to ground into a double play. The scoreless inning preserved a one-run lead provided earlier in the inning when Matt Holliday tripled and scored on Molina's groundout.
Wacha carried a postseason scoreless innings streak of 18 2/3 into the sixth, but was bitten by falling behind Pedroia, who drew a walk, and Ortiz, who homered on a 3-1 changeup left high. The two-run blast doubled the runs allowed by Wacha in his previous three postseason starts (21 innings).
A pair of rookie relievers preserved the win for the rookie starter with three scoreless innings. Carlos Martinez took care of the first two frames. He sent the Red Sox down in order in the seventh and stranded two while facing the heart of the order in the eighth. Trevor Rosenthal handled the ninth to seal his first World Series save. He has not been scored upon in seven appearances this postseason.
"Unbelievable," Molina said of Martinez. "This kid, he's not afraid, like I said. He threw his sinker, he threw it hard. He kept the ball hard, that's the key."