ST. LOUIS — Kolten Wong hadn’t touched the field in nearly two weeks.
He last played in Game 6 of the NLDS, pinch-hitting for pitcher Michael Wacha and popping up behind home plate.
But when Cardinals manager Mike Matheny called on him in the eighth inning of the Cardinals’ 5-4 win over the Red Sox in Game 3 of the World Series, Wong immediately made an impact.
He made a diving snare on a Daniel Nava ground ball, twisting and throwing David Ortiz out at second, just missing on an inning-ending double play. In the bottom of the inning, he came through with his first hit of the postseason, then proceeded to swipe second base for good measure.
“It was a great play,” Matheny said. “I think it’s probably going to get overlooked. Not an easy play, let alone coming right off the bench as you’re initiated into the World Series. So it was a very nice play.
“We’re hoping to get it turned on the backside, but it didn’t end up happening. He put a good at-bat together. We know he’s a good player. It’s just a matter of continuing to work on small things in his game and giving him opportunities.”
Matheny was moving chess all game, whether it was sliding Matt Carpenter from second to third to make room for Wong, to pinch-hitting Allen Craig in the ninth and watching him score the winning run on an obstruction call.
Matheny used five relievers, but went with his closer Trevor Rosenthal for the final 1⅔ innings, and watched him give up just one hit and record a pair of strikeouts.
“I thought they did a good job, as well. Kevin Siegrist comes in and throws a very good inning. Carlos [Martinez], who we asked so much of the other day and threw two strong innings today, had a little more trouble today. But you’re going to have that. You got to have somebody come in and pick him up. We were close to having Trevor come in and get the double play; didn’t work out. Next thing you know another bouncer gets through. It can happen fast.
“Once again, overall the way that they’ve been able to handle some of the struggles has been very impressive. They get back out there and pitch. And just like they’ve been able to handle the success, too. They’ve been very even-keeled, very down the middle and not going too high or too low all the time.”
The Cardinals left 12 runners on base, but the moves made up for some missed opportunities.
“Typically against a very good team you start giving away opportunities like bases loaded, no out — we had a man on third with less than two outs later and we weren’t able to capitalize on,” Matheny said. “And typically in these kind of games, you’re going to have to come through. But we also live on the big hit. And fortunately we got that big hit by Matt Holliday. He gave us some breathing room. And then just a little bit of trouble closing the door at the end.
“Typically those things don’t lead toward a win. But the guys weren’t distracted by the things that didn’t happen tonight and kept their nose down and tried to make something happen afterwards. It took a couple of base hits and the guys making something happen there at the end. Allen Craig with a big hit for us. Jon Jay putting the ball in hard, and trying to take our chances.”
Matheny said he wouldn’t shy away from using relievers for multiple innings as he did with Martinez in Game 2. “I think we have multiple pitchers that can throw multiple innings,” Matheny said. “We saw that with Carlos Martinez in Game 2 and I think right down the line. Right now, they’ve had enough rest, they’re all able to do whatever we need them to do.” . . . Carlos Beltran of the Cardinals was the winner of the Roberto Clemente Award for community service. “I decided to use all the blessings God gave me through baseball to help other families,” said Beltran, whose charitable endeavors have included building a baseball academy and school in his native Puerto Rico. “When I was a kid I always wanted to be like [Clemente], to play baseball and to give back. He was a role model for all Puerto Rican players.”
Peter Abraham of the Globe staff contributed. Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.