ST. LOUIS — This one didn't end with an obstruction call. This one didn't end with anybody getting picked off first base.
This wasn't another one of those "first time in World Series history" games.
This one wasn't decided by anybody throwing the ball into the left field stands or anybody watching an infield pop-up drop in front of him. This one wasn't decided by the umpires. This was no freak show.
This was ace on ace.
In another classic October performance, Jon Lester out-dueled Adam Wainwright.
And, oh yeah, Lester got some help from his graybeard buddy behind the plate.
"Jon is our backbone, he's our horse, our stud," said catcher David Ross, whose ground-rule double off Wainwright drove in the game-winning run in the seventh inning of this 3-1 Red Sox victory over the Cardinals in Game 5 of the World Series. "He's pitching like the ace he is. He is pitching great."
If you put David Ortiz in his own super-human category — "what planet is he from?" Ross asked — Lester would be the World Series MVP right now. He threw 7¿2/3¿ scoreless innings in a Game 1 rout at Fenway to beat a mysteriously sub-par Wainwright. Lester's encore? He allowed only a fourth-inning Matt Holliday home run to beat a sharp Wainwright on Monday night.
And, oh yeah, he got some help from his graybeard buddy, too.
Early in the year, the feeling was maybe Clay Buchholz was going to be the Boston ace and maybe Lester was No. 1 or No. 2. For much of the season, John Lackey was putting in the most consistent starts.
Forget all that. Lester not only emerged as the ace, what he did Monday night at Busch Stadium to push the Red Sox to within one win of their third world championship in a decade was something even better.
"It was expected," Ross said.
"He was he same pitcher that we saw last time," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said.
Asked if he saw any clues Lester would throw as well as he did, manager John Farrell said simply, "Well, the clues have been every time he's walked out in the postseason."
And that's probably the scariest thing of all to opponents and the sweetest thing of all to Red Sox fans.
It was, as Ross said, expected.
"The fire Jon brings is second to none," Ross said. "His bullpen before the game was phenomenal. His cutter was as good as I saw all year. I knew he had a chance to do something special. He doesn't take any pitches off. He puts as much emphasis on his first pitch as the last. That's what impresses me the most. That's what makes him a really good pitcher."
Lester didn't give up a run when he clinched the Red Sox title in Game 4 of the 2007 World Series. And, until a suddenly shaky fourth, he was riding a World Series shutout sequence of 16¿2/3¿ innings. It was the third longest in history to start a career, behind Christy Mathewson [28 innings] and Jim Lonborg .
Holliday jumped on an elevated fastball and crushed a 415-foot home run to center. Carlos Beltran drove a ball to the left-field fence that Jonny Gomes pulled in and Stephen Drew leaped to spear a scorching Yadier Molina to end the inning.
"It got really loud in here," Ross said.
"But then I got it back together again," Lester said.
He surely did.
"My job for Jon is just to keep his emotions in check," Ross said. "Being the guy with all the gray in the beard, I've been in certain situations, and I can see his body language when he's frustrated. So just slow him down a little bit, talk to him."
All that stuff about greasing the ball, all that stuff about "the giant booger" on his glove from Game 1, none of it distracted Lester. He allowed one run on four hits, walking none and striking out seven. He is 3-0 in his World Series career. That's ace stuff.
"We felt like this was going to be a classic pitcher's duel; it was shaping up to be that way," Farrell said. "Fortunately, we were able to break through in the seventh inning. Jon Lester was fantastic tonight."
And, oh yeah, Lester got some help from his graybeard buddy.
Ross has been being praised for doing such a good job handling Lester's backdoor cutter that it almost became a backhanded compliment. The guy helped out in a huge way with the bat Monday night, too. Through six innings, Wainright was just as sharp as Lester, striking out 10, including seven with his curveball. But after Xander Bogaerts singled and Drew walked, Ross ripped a Wainwright curveball down the left-field line for a ground-rule double to make it 2-1.
"It felt really good," said Ross, the 36-year-old journeyman who came over from Atlanta in another nifty Ben Cherington pickup. "The trip I've taken this year, I never thought I'd be here. There were times I was questioning if my career was over."
Ross stayed up on the post-game podium for more than 15 minutes. He said he'd talk all night if everybody wanted. He said he was willing to hold up the team flight to Boston.
"I'm just in awe of being in the World Series!" Ross said. "I'm stoked."
Ross took two foul tips off the mask earlier this year. He got home and Ross' wife told him he wasn't right. He tried to come back fast, too fast. He had headaches and dizziness. Symptoms got worse in the car or crowded place.
"And I stunk for a good two, three weeks," Ross said.
His wife told Ross that if he didn't talk to the doctor, she was going to do it. They did some more tests, sent Ross to a specialist.
"There's no cast, there's no surgery," Ross said. "It's hard to look your teammates in the eye when you're going through something like that. I used to be like that, concussion, you're not tough enough, push through it."
He learned a hard lesson. He missed two months before returning in mid-August. He and Lester were 1-2 as a tandem before reeling off six wins in seven games together.
"It took David probably 25 at bats once he was activated to finally get his timing," Farrell said. "Once he's gotten it, he's swung the bat through the month of September and in the postseason better than anytime in the year.
"He came up big tonight. He does such a great job of running the game. The key double in that seventh inning for the go ahead run. We've talked a lot about how he and Jon have worked well in the last six or seven times they've paired up, the rapport they've built. David was big for us tonight."
Not bad for a journeyman sidekick, who was having the time of his life.
"I think the biggest thing is me and Rossy have had a good rhythm," Lester said. "Early on, we just went back to our game plan from Game 1 and just fell back on that and really just tried to make them swing the bats early, and we were able to do that."
The ace was played.