It was already clear what David Ortiz does with mistakes.
So when Michael Wacha made one on a 3-and-2 pitch in the sixth inning, no one was more upset than he was.
Wacha had weaved 5⅓ scoreless innings up to that point, but the St. Louis Cardinals’ one-run lead over the Red Sox Thursday night was still fragile.
Dustin Pedroia had managed to work him for a five-pitch walk.
Things only got more tense with Ortiz, who turned his nose up at Wacha’s stray fastballs and changeups until the count was full.
Wacha fired four straight changeups at Ortiz. The last one was stubborn.
It hung out on the corner of the plate looking for trouble.
Ortiz smacked it to the opposite field, over the Monster for his fifth home run of the postseason.
Wacha hadn’t allowed a run since Game 4 of the Division Series against the Pittsburgh Pirates. After giving up Ortiz’s homer, Wacha fanned Mike Napoli, got Jonny Gomes to ground to third, and came back to the dugout fuming.
“With that lineup Boston has, you can’t make mistakes,” Wacha said. “A good hitter like Ortiz, I made a mistake, a 3-2 changeup in the zone, and he made me pay.
“I was pretty mad coming in.”
His catcher, Yadier Molina, calmed him down.
“Yadi came up to me and was like, ‘Just hold them here. We’re going to score in the top of the seventh.’ ”
Wacha not only got backup from the Cardinals offense, which capitalized on a pair of Red Sox errors to score three runs in the seventh inning of a 4-2 win in Game 2, but also from a bullpen that turned the lights out on a late Sox rally.
Just 22 years old on baseball’s biggest stage, Wacha went six strong innings, striking out six and giving up just the two runs. The Cardinals evened the World Series at a game apiece.
“Everyone was starting to feel good,” Wacha said. “Everyone came in, had all the confidence in the world that we were going to put up runs and they really picked me up.”
What has impressed his teammates is that at no point, be it in spring training or the postseason, has Wacha looked star-struck.
“The guy pitches beyond his years,” said infielder Daniel Descalso. “He’s showed great poise and maturity on the mound. He’s embraced those big spots. And he went out and he did a real good job for us again tonight. The guy just competes out there.”
Outfielder Jon Jay added, “He’s been incredible. We saw it in spring training, his first time around us. A lot of guys were really impressed with him. Saying that he could pitch right now in the big leagues.”
What happened on the mound after Wacha left it was just as crucial in Game 2.
Carlos Martinez, a 22-year-old righthander who just two months ago was blowing his 98-mile-per-hour fastball by Triple A hitters in Memphis, pitched two lights-out innings to build a bridge to Trevor Rosenthal in the ninth.
He retired five of the first six batters he faced, striking out Shane Victorino (looking) and Dustin Pedroia (swinging), but then came Ortiz, who stepped to the plate with Jacoby Ellsbury on.
Martinez and Molina had a long meeting at the mound.
“I’m always talking to him,” Martinez said through an interpreter. “He gives me a lot of confidence in myself. He tells me to trust myself.
“He just told me not to get lost and not to think about any situations,” Martinez said. “Just basically keep on doing what you’re doing, keep pitching and execute down in the zone.”
Ortiz ripped a ground ball into the fringes of the shift, but second baseman Matt Carpenter was able to make a diving stop and hold Ortiz to a single.
The next batter, Mike Napoli, softly lined to short to end the threat.
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said he trusted his young pitcher, especially after giving him a chance to get his feet wet in Game 1.
“It’s not an easy decision,” Matheny said. “Knowing that we have a lefthander up and ready to go. A lot of it has to do with what we see, how the ball is coming out of Carlos’s hand at that time. Not an easy call, but we liked the way Carlos was throwing the ball at that particular time.”
“Carlos gave up the run [in Game 1]. He wasn’t happy with how he went about it. He was very animated about how badly he wanted to pitch again and get back out there. And he proved that it wasn’t just a lot of talk. He went out and did a great job.”Julian Benbow can be reached at email@example.com.