ST. LOUIS — The Red Sox were back at Busch Stadium on Tuesday night for the first time since winning Game 5 of the World Series last fall. Jon Lester pitched into the eighth inning and held the Cardinals to one run in that game as the Sox took a giant step toward a championship.
Only 10 players on the World Series roster remain were in uniform this time, the Red Sox having torn apart their team and started over again. But the results remained the same with a 3-2 loss before a crowd of 43,432.
Rubby De La Rosa pitched like somebody who is part of the solution, holding the Cardinals to one run over six innings. But the bullpen could not hold a 2-1 lead, twice giving up runs with two outs.
The Red Sox have lost three straight and 11 of their last 13 games.
It gets worse. Catcher A.J. Pierzynski, whom the Red Sox released last month, was 2 for 3 with a walk and scored the winning run.
Pierzynski singled on an 0-for-2 pitch with two outs in the eighth inning against Junichi Tazawa and scored on singles by Oscar Taveras and John Jay.
“It seemed like Junichi had the eighth inning well in hand,” manager John Farrell said. “Two outs, two strikes, nobody on base. Three base hits consecutively and that’s the difference in tonight’s game.”
Tazawa (1-3) was one pitch away from ending the inning quickly and missed his chance.
“The pitch to A.J. was not too bad of a pitch but it wasn’t low enough. I think I should have bounced it,” Tazawa said via translator C.J Matsumoto.
Pat Neshek (5-0) struck out the side in the eighth inning to get the win. Trevor Rosenthal picked up his 35th save. Yoenis Cespedes, who had three of the Red Sox’s five hits, singled to start the inning but did not advance.
De La Rosa came into the game 0-3 with a 6.04 earned run average in four starts on the road this season, a sharp difference from the 1.97 ERA he has in five starts at Fenway Park.
But the 25-year-old righthander was sharp against the Cardinals, allowing that one run on six hits over his six innings. He struck out three, walked three and threw 57 of 94 pitches for strikes.
De La Rosa left six runners stranded, making big pitches when needed, as St. Louis was 1 for 6 with runners in scoring position against him.
Farrell felt that De La Rosa was able to keep his fastball down, something he was not able to do in other road games.
“I’ve tried to be the same everywhere. Tonight was a good game,” said De La Rosa, who threw more two-seam fastballs in this start. “I tried to make my pitch and everything was good.”
The Cardinals scored against De La Rosa in the fourth inning. Matt Holliday doubled to center field and came in on a single to center by Matt Adams.
De La Rosa walked Jhonny Peralta and Pierzynski to load the bases. But Taveras swung at the first pitch he saw and grounded back to the mound. De La Rosa fired to the plate to start a double play and end the inning.
The Sox benefited from an error to tie the game in the fifth inning against St. Louis starter Lance Lynn.
Daniel Nava grounded to third and Matt Carpenter threw the ball away, allowing Nava to go to second. Xander Bogaerts grounded to third to advance Nava and Christian Vazquez came through with a sacrifice fly to right field.
Cespedes, who tripled in the second inning then was thrown out at the plate trying to score on a ground ball, led off the seventh inning with a single to center. Nava followed with a single to left field.
Bogaerts bunted the runners into scoring position and the Cardinals countered by intentionally walking Vazquez to load the bases.
Will Middlebrooks swung at the first pitch and grounded back to the mound. Lynn should have been able to start a double play but fumbled the ball and was only able to get an out at first base as Cespedes scored.
Middlebrooks was credited with his first RBI in the majors since May 15.
“He’s looking for a pitch on the plate and if he squares it up we have a different situation,” Farrell said. “We’re looking for a pitch he can handle and drive and unfortunately that didn’t happen in that case.”
The inning ended when pinch hitter Mike Napoli struck out looking at a pitch that appeared to be outside. Napoli, who rarely protests, barked at umpire Mark Ripperger.
Lynn allowed two runs, one earned, on four hits over seven innings. He struck out four.
Lefthander Tommy Layne, promoted from Triple A Pawtucket last week, started the bottom of the inning for the Red Sox.
He got one out before walking pinch hitter Shane Robinson. Carpenter grounded to first base and Robinson advanced to second. Layne got ahead of Kolten Wong 0 and 2 but couldn’t put him away. Wong singled to center and Robinson beat the throw of Brock Holt, who was starting in center for the fourth time in his professional career.
Holliday, facing righthander Burke Badenhop, was called out on strikes and ejected by Ripperger.Peter Abraham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.