By JIM SALTER, Associated Press
ST. LOUIS (AP) _ With at least one game remaining, the Red Sox hitters have already set a dubious record: Most postseason strikeouts.
Not that they care after a 3-1 win put them within a victory of winning the World Series as it heads back to Boston.
The Red Sox struck out 14 times in Game 5 of the World Series on Monday, giving them 150 for the postseason and shattering the record of 142 set by the San Francisco Giants in 2010.
They certainly got off to a swing-and-miss start Monday. Seven of the first nine hitters struck out _ three looking, four swinging.
Overall, Wainwright struck out 10, reliever Carlos Martinez one and Trevor Rosenthal struck out the side in the ninth.
Red Sox catcher David Ross credited the Cardinals’ pitchers.
“We’re facing the best pitching _ we’ve faced the best pitching that baseball has to offer right now,” Ross said. “They’re game planning, they’re switching things up. It’s tough. Hitting is tough, period.”
That’s little consolation for the Cardinals, who had their own trouble making contact. St. Louis hitters struck out nine times _ seven by starter Jon Lester and two by closer Koji Uehara.
CRAIG AT FIRST BASE: Matheny made a late decision to put Allen Craig at first base against left-hander Jon Lester, subbing for left-handed hitter Matt Adams. But Craig was essentially a non-factor, going 0 for 3 while batting sixth and seeing little action at first base.
Craig was the Cardinals cleanup hitter and hit .315 with 97 RBIs before spraining a ligament in his left foot on Sept. 4. He didn’t play again in the regular season, or in the postseason, until he was activated for the World Series.
Craig was 4 for 9 before Monday, playing as the DH in Boston and as a pinch-hitter in St. Louis. He scored the winning run in Game 3 on the game-ending obstruction call.
Against Lester he grounded into a double play, grounded to second and grounded to third, seemingly limping on each run to first. Still, Matheny was pleased with the way Craig looked.
“Everything seemed to respond well today,” Matheny said. “We’ll see. We’ll evaluate him tomorrow and get a look at him, but most likely I imagine he’ll be in there as a designated hitter.”
SLUGGING PAPI: Maybe the St. Louis Cardinals should give David Ortiz the Barry Bonds treatment and just stop pitching to him.
The Red Sox slugger is on a tear in the World Series. He went 3 for 4 with an RBI double on Monday night as Boston won 3-1 to move within one game of its third title since 2004.
Ortiz doubled home Dustin Pedroia in the first, singled in the fourth and singled again in the eighth. His lone out was a smash to center caught by Shane Robinson.
Ortiz is hitting .733 with two homers, two doubles and six RBIs in the series. The Cardinals have intentionally walked him just once, though they’ve pitched around him for four other walks.
“What planet is that guy from?” Red Sox catcher David Ross asked.
First base was open in the first after Pedroia’s one-out double, but Wainwright went after Ortiz and Big Papi lashed a hit down the right-field line.
Matheny said the plan was to make “tough pitches” rather than walk Ortiz.
“And sometimes we get more of the plate than what we’re looking to get,” Matheny said.
“Right there, it was the idea of making it tough. And unfortunately he found the spot.”
“That was my call before the game,” Wainwright said. “I said, `I’m not pitching around Ortiz today. I’m going to get him out.”’
So much for that idea.
Ortiz is on pace for one of the best World Series hitting performances ever. Not that his manager is ready to anoint him MVP of the series.
“The one thing we won’t do is get too far ahead of ourselves, whether that’s what we achieve collectively or what any individual’s performance suggests,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “But he’s in a really good place, obviously.”
Billy Hatcher of the Reds hit .750 with an .800 on-base percentage in the Reds’ sweep of the Oakland Athletics in 1990, a performance that included seven straight hits. Both the average and on-base percentage are all-time highs for qualifying World Series players. Ortiz has an on-base percentage of .750 so far in this series.
It isn’t just this October. In three World Series, Ortiz is hitting .465, best-ever among players with at least 50 plate appearances.
“I was born for this,” Ortiz said with a smile.
Babe Ruth had the second-highest batting average, .625 in 1928, followed by Hideki Matsui’s .615 for the Yankees in 2009.
FINDING THEIR WAY: A wealth of young talent is a big reason the Cardinals are in the World Series. But rookie mistakes were critical in Game 4.
The first came in the sixth when groundball specialist Seth Maness took over for starter Lance Lynn with two on and two outs. No grounder this time: Jonny Gomes crushed one into the Boston bullpen for a tiebreaking three-run homer.
Kolten Wong became the first player picked off to end a World Series game. And it came with Carlos Beltran, one of the greatest postseason hitters, representing the tying run at the plate.
Wong said he just wanted to get a good jump. The dejection showed after the game when he was red-eyed in the clubhouse.
Wong also apologized to fans on Twitter: “All i want to say is i’m sorry (hash)CardinalNation,” he wrote. “I go out everyday playing this game as hard as I can and leaving everything on the field.”
Before Game 5, the Cardinals had put the play behind them.
“Those things happen,” leadoff man Matt Carpenter said. “We are human. We make mistakes. And let’s not make it more than it is.”
The 23-year-old Wong was a first-round pick in 2011 and could be the starting second baseman next year. His major league career isn’t exactly off to a scintillating start _ he hit just .153 in 59 regular-season at-bats.
Matheny said Wong would rebound from the mistake and added, “Yeah, it affected him because he’s human and he cares.”
Wong did not play in Game 5.
HITLESS WONDERS: American League pitchers rarely hit, and boy has it showed in the World Series.
From 1976 to 1985, the designated hitter was applied to an entire World Series _ switching off every other year.
Starting in 1986, the DH has been used in the American League city and the pitcher hits in the NL city. It has proven to be a big disadvantage for the AL representative.
According to the website Sportingcharts.com, AL pitchers hit .096 entering this World Series, and Boston pitchers were 0 for 7 with four strikeouts in the three games in St. Louis. Prior to this year’s Series, NL pitchers had batted .154 since 1986 and the Cardinals’ pitchers were 0 for 4 in the St. Louis games.
In American League parks, the DH has favored the home team _ especially this season. AL DHs hit .241 from 1986 through 2012, and their NL counterparts hit .217. In the first two games in Boston this year, Ortiz was 4 for 6 with two homers and four RBIs. Craig, the Cardinals’ DH, was 2 for 6, but he did not score a run or have an RBI.
HAPPY RETURN: Former St. Louis outfielder So Taguchi is back at Busch Stadium, this time as a member of the Japan-based NHK Television Network.
Taguchi, who played in St. Louis from 2002-07, serves as an analyst for the network.
“It’s fun to be back,” he said. “Always loved it here.”
The 44-year-old Taguchi has been overwhelmed by the fans’ reaction to his return. He said he can’t walk down the street without being recognized.
“They were great to me,” he said. “I appreciated them and I’m glad they still appreciate me.”
Taguchi’s biggest thrill with St. Louis came in Game 2 of the 2006 NL championship series when he hit a tiebreaking homer off New York reliever Billy Wagner. Taguchi fondly recalls being on the field when Adam Wainwright clinched the World Series that year by striking out Detroit’s Brandon Inge.
“So fun, everybody jumped on everybody on the field,” he said. “It was great.”
Taguchi lives in Kobe, Japan, but owns a house in St. Louis and usually stays there the month of December. He hit .279 in his eight-year major league career with 19 homers and 163 RBIs.
“This is fun,” Taguchi said. “I like being around baseball.”
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