After odd and unprecedented finishes with the obstruction call in Game 3 and the pickoff in Game 4, the popular question was what interesting circumstances would Monday's fifth game of the World Series end under. • Well, how about this: The Red Sox winning 3-1 and heading back to Fenway Park needing only one more victory in two chances to celebrate a third championship in the past 10 years. • "The fact is we're going home, going back to a place that our guys love to play in, in front of our fans," Sox manager John Farrell said. "This atmosphere here, these three games has been phenomenal. We know it's going to be equal to that, if not better. And we're excited about going home in the position we are." • As eventful as the Series had been, the Sox actually got there Monday in the least surprising way, as starter Jon Lester and slugger David Ortiz both extended their remarkable World Series careers.
Lester held the Cardinals to a solo homer among four hits while pitching into the eighth, improving to 3-0 with an 0.43 ERA in Series games, joining Babe Ruth as the only Red Sox pitchers to win their first three starts.
"I don't know what else to say about Jon Lester that hasn't already been said,'' catcher David Ross said. "The guy, he's our backbone. He's our horse when he's out there. We expect a lot out of him. He's pitching like this ace he is.''
And Ortiz had three more hits, knocking in the first Boston run, making him 11-for-15 — that's a .733 average — for this Series, having reached base nine consecutive times in one stretch and in 14 of 19 appearances thus far. He's 20-for-42 overall —that's a .476 average — in Series play.
"This game, it's not that easy," Boston Game 4 star Jonny Gomes said. "I can only imagine the reports and the meetings about that guy. … The crowd was chanting 'Get Ortiz Out!' It's the World Series, that's pretty special.
"He keeps a guy like myself grounded. I hit a homer. All I have to do is look over at Ortiz and my feet are right back on the ground. This guy is building an unbelievable resume for the next meeting in Cooperstown. This guy's still active and he's knocking on the door."
Game 6 will be Wednesday night in Boston, with Cardinals rookie Michael Wacha facing Sox veteran John Lackey in a Game 2 rematch. Game 7 would be Thursday, Halloween night.
Of the previous 42 Series tied at 2, the Game 5 winner went on to celebrate the championship 27 times — 64.3 percent — though in just three of the past 10 instances.
The Red Sox had reason to be confident after taking two out of three at Busch Stadium, where the Cardinals not only had the traditional homefield advantage but the benefit of the no-DH rule.
But as dejected as the Cardinals were, they insisted they were not defeated.
"You know, our guys have been backed up against the wall before, and this is something that isn't foreign to them," manager Mike Matheny said. "They know what we have to do. We just play our game. If we go about it the right way, we'll be right where we want to be.
"Now, would it be in a better position if we won (Monday)? Absolutely. But once again, this isn't some place they haven't been before. Go out and play the game. Try not to make too much of it. Not get too far ahead of ourselves, and get back to the kind of baseball we know we can play and put together those tough at-bats."
Ortiz and Lester were not quite the whole story Monday, as closer Koji Uehara got the final four outs and Ross, whose season and potentially career were in jeopardy due to concussion issues, delivered a huge hit of his own.
The score was 1-1 going to the seventh with the kind of pitching duel Farrell said they forecast, but the Sox retook the lead with two runs in the seventh off Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright, who looked like a man who had pitched 2692/3 innings this season.
A single by rookie Xander Bogaerts and a walk by Stephen Drew set them up, then Ross delivered, an RBI double down the leftfield line. A single by Jacoby Ellsbury pushed the lead to 3-1.
"It definitely hasn't sunk in," Ross said. "The signature moment, I think that's what everybody lives for. I'm just in awe of being in the World Series, really. That's as signature as it gets. I'm on the podium, talking to you guys, with the whole World Series thing (banner) behind me. That's what you see on TV. I'm stoked."
He's not the only Red Sox feeling that way.