ST. LOUIS — This was baseball the old-fashioned way. None of this nonsense about a quality start. None of this feel-good stuff about keeping your team in the ballgame.
These were two of the finest pitchers in baseball taking the reins and not letting go. Pitch count be damned, these aces were in it to win it.
This was one for Bob Gibson, one for Curt Schilling. This was October as its crispest.
Adam Wainwright and Jon Lester already are certified World Series heroes. Wainwright saved the clincher for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2006. Lester won the 2007 clincher for the Boston Red Sox.
Wainwright and Lester dueled in Game 1, a sloppy mess for Wainwright and the Cardinals, the only game in this World Series devoid of tension.
The rematch was an instant classic. For the first time in three years, both starters lasted seven innings in a World Series game. The last time it happened, Tim Lincecum clinched the series for the San Francisco Giants, with a 3-1 victory over Cliff Lee and the Texas Rangers.
On Monday, the final score was 3-1 as well. Lester pitched 7 2/3 innings, so dominant that the Cardinals never put consecutive batters on base against him.
Wainwright provided the power. He struck out the side in the first inning, and again in the second. He struck out 10 in all.
He gave in to no one. In the first inning, with an open base, he pitched to David Ortiz, who is batting .733 in the World Series. He said the decision was his.
“I don’t like walking anybody,” Wainwright said.
Ortiz smoked a double, and the Red Sox had a run.
The Cardinals nicked Lester for one run, in the fourth inning, on a home run by Matt Holliday. The Cardinals have two home runs in this World Series, both by Holliday.
That was the last time a St.Louis player reached base against Lester until the eighth inning. The Red Sox do have setup men, but they gave the eighth inning to starter John Lackey on Sunday, and they let Lester start the eighth Monday, on his way to a 91-pitch outing. Then they called on Koji Uehara for a four-out save.
Six innings and turn it over to the ‘pen? “As pitchers, we all expect a little bit more than that,” Lester said.
Wainwright too. But, after five Boston batters had reached base against him in the first six innings, four reached within the span of five batters in the seventh. The one who did not reach base was Lester, who is 0 for 36 in his career.
David Ross doubled in one run, to break the 1-1 tie, and Jacoby Ellsbury singled home another. That, as they say, was the ballgame. Wainwright finished the inning — at 107 pitches — even with rookie flamethrower Carlos Martinez warming in the bullpen.
Lester was spectacular, allowing four hits, walking none and striking out seven. He has started three World Series games in his career, won them all, and given up a total of one run. He pushed the Red Sox within one victory of their third title in a decade, not that Wainwright was any less competitive about it afterward.
“It will be legendary if we go into Boston and win two games,” he said.
In a world where analysis moves at the speed of social media, the thought would be that the momentum is with the Red Sox.
Not so much, at least going by recent history. Of the last 10 World Series in which the teams split the first four games, the team that won Game 5 ended up losing the series seven times. The Red Sox will try to clinch at home for the first time since Babe Ruth played for them.
So momentum takes Tuesday off, and so do the teams. See you at Fenway Park, for the conclusion of a Fall Classic that has lived up to its nickname.