ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Cardinals were defiant.
They kept telling themselves there was no way Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz could be this good.
Ace Jon Lester surely couldn't pitch like this again, at least not without a dab of green goop on his glove.
So they challenged the Boston Red Sox with a dose of bravado, daring to beat them the old-fashioned way.
The Red Sox loved it, and exploited it, knocking off the Cardinals 3-1 at Busch Stadium, moving within one game of their third World Series championship in 10 years, taking a 3-2 lead in the Series.
"I was born for this," Ortiz said.
The Red Sox, behind Lester's dazzling performance - four hits and one run in 72/3 innings - can win a clinching World Series game at Fenway Park for the first time since 1918.
It's only fitting, considering that Lester, who has yielded a 1.56 ERA this postseason, became the first Red Sox lefty to win three World Series games in his career since Babe Ruth.
The Red Sox are yielding a 2.05 ERA, limiting the Cardinals - who had the National League's best offense - to 13 runs. And, with the exception of Matt Holliday, the Cardinals don't have a single homer in 144 at-bats.
So who can blame them for standing in awe watching Ortiz, hitting .733 with the most hits (11) in the first five games in Series history.
"That's why we call him Cooperstown," catcher David Ross said. "He does Hall of Fame stuff on a regular basis around here."
And that's why Wainwright's bravado in the first was so stunning.
Wainwright faced Ortiz with Dustin Pedroia on second and first base open. Everyone from Ortiz to the peanut vendors to the grounds crew anticipated an intentional walk.
Wainwright challenged him.
Ortiz smacked the first pitch past first baseman Allen Craig into the right-field corner. Pedroia scored. The Red Sox were up 1-0, and the Cardinals never really recovered.
"I don't like walking anybody," Wainwright said. "He's out of his mind hot right now. That was my call before the game. He hit a good pitch."
Wainwright struck out 10, but now he can only watch.
"This will be legendary if we go into Boston and win two games," Wainwright said.
Trouble is, the legends of Ortiz and Lester are already established.
By Bob Nightengale, USA Today Sports