ST. LOUIS — The situation was playing out as well as the Cardinals could have asked for.
A day after scoring the chaotic and gutsy winning run, Allen Craig was again at the plate to pinch hit and his one-out, 370-foot single off Koji Uehara gave life to the Cardinals, who were down two runs in the ninth.
There was no way Cardinals manager Mike Matheny was going to ask him to run the bases again.
Instead, he sent Kolten Wong to pinch run for him.
A Matt Carpenter fly ball made it two outs, but with Carlos Beltran at the plate, the Cardinals still liked their chances.
Beltran saw two pitches and before he could even swing, the game was over.
Uehara hadn’t picked a runner off all season. He had only done it twice in his career. But he caught Wong drifting — and slipping.
“Once I went to plant and go back, my back foot just gave out and I ended up falling short,” Wong said.
The Cardinals had to swallow a 4-2 loss with the bat still in their best hitter’s hands.
“He knew, we had meetings early on, we go over all these guys,” Matheny said. “We talk very clearly about a very good pickoff move. He was reminded once he got on base, and also reminded that run didn’t mean much, be careful, shorten up. And he got a little extra, then he slipped and the slip cost him.”
It wasn’t a matter of dozing off at the wheel, Wong said, he was just trying to get a head start if Beltran got a hold of one.
“I’m aware of what’s going on,” Wong said. “Just got a little too far off and my back foot slipped out. Just being ready to go first to third if Carlos drive me in, but I just got too far off and he made a good throw.”
After giving up five runs (three earned) in as many innings in Game 1 of the World Series, the only word Adam Wainwright could think of to describe his stuff was “garbage.”
“I honestly don’t know why my mechanics were as bad as they were, my delivery was off as much as it was,” he said.
The five runs were the second-most he’s allowed in 17 playoff appearances going back to 2006, but he’s putting it behind him.
He eventually settled down, but his first Series appearance since 2006 lasted five innings.
Going into his Game 5 start on Monday, he’s already started to put it behind him.
“It’s a pretty clean slate,” Wainwright said. “I feel like I’ve made a lot of good adjustments to be ready for this next game to throw some quality pitches. I threw maybe four or five quality pitches the whole time I was pitching. Luckily to come away with just a few runs; it could have been 10 instead of five.”
Pitching in the Series has added meaning for Wainwright, who was sidelined after Tommy John surgery when the Cardinals won it in 2011.
“There’s no bitterness to that,” Wainwright said. “I do wish I could have been a part of it. But it was still pretty sweet to be there, to experience that.
“But it does add motivation for this year, the importance of bringing it home here in St. Louis or in Boston, wherever we do it. We are very confident. I’m very confident. I do have more excitement going into this series because of that experience that I got to watch it. It’s one thing to watch it and that’s cool, but it’s another to be a part of it.”
A day later, the Cardinals were still trying to wrap their heads around the chaotic final moments of their Game 3 win.
“I think our fans didn’t even know what to do,” said Cardinals manager Mike Matheny. “We were wanting to celebrate, but we see a guy laying there and it’s all confusing. And we see the umpires come together, and that didn’t work out real good for us last time.
“We’re all kind of cautiously celebrating, and then we get inside and actually we got inside the clubhouse, and it was still kind of that somber mood. And Chris Carpenter yelled out real loud, ‘Hey, boys, we just won a World Series game.’ So that changed it a little bit.”
The obstruction call that gave Allen Craig the deciding run in the 5-4 win was confusing on all sides.
“There was lots of noise, first of all, through the whole stadium and then our dugout the same thing,” Matheny said. “You could hear, ‘He’s in his way. He tripped him.’ You could see the conversations all starting to happen. But as the ball went past, it looked to me even as he got tripped up, I thought he was going to be in pretty safe. They did a good job of getting the ball in and making it more of an issue than it really could have been.
“We were all kind of in conversation yelling the same thing, at the same time, everybody is pointing around at what they saw. But fortunately the umpires, it’s left in their hands and they did what they needed to do.”
From the dugout, Wainwright was trying to put things together.
“As a baseball fan, you hate to see a game end like that,” Wainwright said. “Obviously I’m on the Cardinals, so I’m fortunate the rule is the way it is. And you hate to say it, but he impeded the process of running home. But I totally understand why Red Sox players would be upset about that. That is just a horrible way to lose a baseball game, no question about it, especially after such a great play by Dustin [Pedroia] at second.”
Holliday red hot
Matt Holliday’s quietly done a number on the Sox, hitting .294 with a double, a triple, a home run, and four RBIs for the Series.
“It seems like when there’s men on base, he’s standing in the batter’s box,” Sox manager John Farrell said. “It’s one of those uncanny things, you look up and here’s Holliday walking to the plate with a couple of guys on.”
Holliday was also 2 for 3 with runners in scoring position heading into Game 4 and he had left two runners.
In the Cardinals' 4-2 Game 4 loss, Holliday, went 0 for 4 and left three men on base, including one in scoring position.
“He’s always been an aggressive hitter,” Farrell said. “Obviously to have the success he’s having, he’s extremely talented, and he’s in the middle of all their rallies, it seems like, so far in these last three games. How we manage that and we look to attack — what we need to do is keep the guys off base leading up to him and minimize the potential damage he might create.”
Craig had X-rays and was still sore, but pinch hit again in the ninth inning in Game 4. Craig delivered off Sox closer Koji Uehara, lining a base hit to right field. “He’s been working with the doctors to try to get everything loose again,” Matheny said. “The defensive work is really kind of secondary to have him being available to come in and do what he did [Saturday] night.” Matheny didn’t let the mobility Craig showed going from home to second on his ninth-inning double get lost in the game-deciding sequence. “Yesterday he looked very good going home to second,” Matheny said. “He ran extremely well, as good as we’ve seen him. Didn’t think that we were going to do much more running, but that changed quickly.” In Game 4, however, Kolten Wong ran for Craig after his base hit and was promptly picked off by Uehara for the game's final out. Craig worked his way back from a foot injury he suffered in September just to play in the World Series and is 4 for 9 . . . Matheny tinkered slightly with the lineup, hitting Jon Jay sixth, David Freese seventh, and Daniel Descalso eighth. The trio is a combined 3 for 31.Julian Benbow can be reached at email@example.com.