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For Waino, Game 5 presents appealing opportunity

Cardinals ace eager to make up for rough Game 1 start with Series tied

ST. LOUIS -- The conversation with Adam Wainwright turned to golf on Sunday, so let's begin by saying this:

He is about to take his mulligan.

Well, not exactly a mulligan, since Wainwright's admittedly subpar performance in Game 1 of the World Series could not be scratched off his scorecard. But Game 5 is an opportunity to re-tee, and Wainwright, who will work with the World Series tied at two games apiece after the Cardinals dropped Game 4.

Wainwright won't get to pitch with a chance to clinch, but he will get an opportunity to send the Cardinals back to Boston with a 3-2 advantage.

As third baseman David Freese sees it, it's the biggest game of the year.

"Obviously, no doubt," Freese said. "It could put us one win away from being world champions. It's as simple as that. We have to come out and win that ballgame."

The Cardinals have the man they want on the mound, though Wainwright was utterly discombobulated during Game 1 in Boston, a five-inning, 95-pitch slog in which he surrendered five runs (three earned) on six hits, missed an easy popup and pitched with mechanics so out of whack that he said he felt like it was an "out of body experience."

Wainwright tried to claim all of the blame for the Cardinals' 8-1 loss and said the only silver lining was that, "I didn't show them anything that I can normally do. So, next start should be a fresh start again."

Was he being self-deprecating?

Or was he serious?

Tale of the Tape: Game 5
Jon Lester
Red Sox
Adam Wainwright
2013 regular season
Overall: 33 GS, 15-8, 3.75 ERA, 67 BB, 177 K Overall: 34 GS, 19-9, 2.94 ERA, 35 BB, 219 K
Key stat: Lester is 2-0 in the World Series and has tossed 13 1/3 scoreless innings with just eight hits. Key stat: In his nine starts immediately following a loss, Wainwright was 4-2 with a 3.68 ERA this season.
At Busch Stadium
2013: n/a
Career: n/a
2013: 19 GS, 11-6, 2.36 ERA, 21 BB, 129 K
Career: 136 G, 101 GS, 57-32, 2.59 ERA, 168 BB, 647 K
Against this opponent
2013: 1 GS, 1-0, 0.00 ERA
Career: 2 GS, 1-0, 1.20 ERA
2013: 1 GS, 0-1, 5.40 ERA
Career: 1 GS, 0-1, 5.40 ERA
Loves to face: Yadier Molina, 1-for-6, K
Hates to face: Carlos Beltran, 1-for-2, 2 BB, K
Loves to face: Stephen Drew, 3-for-21, 2 BB, 6 K
Hates to face: Dustin Pedroia, 2-for-3
Game breakdown
Why he'll win: The Cardinals had a tough time against lefties in the regular season, batting .238 as a team. Why he'll win: Wainwright has an 11-6 record and a 2.83 ERA in 19 starts at home this year.
Pitcher beware: Lester was 8-7 with a 4.21 ERA on the road this season compared with a 7-1 mark and 3.09 ERA at home. Pitcher beware: The Red Sox scored five runs (three earned) against him in Game 1, and he left after five innings for his shortest start of this postseason.
Bottom line: Lester was impressive with 7 2/3 shutout innings in Game 1. The 29-year-old lefty will try for an encore performance against a Cardinals team more familiar with his stuff the second time around. Bottom line: Wainwright has been on the losing end of his last two starts, but the Cardinals ace hasn't been tagged with a loss in three games in a row this year.

"It's a pretty clean slate," Wainwright said on Sunday. "I honestly don't know why my mechanics were as bad as they were, my delivery was off as much as it was. But I feel like I've put a lot of good reps in in front of the mirror, and watching film and feeling my delivery again, learning the basics all over again."

That's right. A pitcher who has won at least 19 games in three of his last four healthy seasons and twice finished among the top three in National League Cy Young Award balloting (he probably will again this year) spent time in recent days standing in front of a full-length mirror, learning how to pitch again.

"I feel like I've made a lot of good adjustments to be ready for this next game to throw some quality pitches," Wainwright said. "I threw maybe four or five quality pitches the whole time I was pitching. [I was] lucky to come away with just a few runs; it could have been 10 instead of five."

Freese expects a much more effective Wainwright on Monday.

Coming off poor starts, Freese said, Wainwright is always "the same guy. He turns the page with the best of them. He's probably the first one in the weight room the next day and he gets right back at it."

"Adam is Adam, all the time," said Game 4 starter Lance Lynn. "There's no ups, there's no downs. That's what makes him as great as he is."

The opposing pitcher, Jon Lester, gave up no runs in seven strong innings, with five hits, eight strikeouts and one mysterious green blob inside his glove.

Lester, who will pitch opposite Wainwright again in Game 5, said he sweats profusely and that spot was merely rosin, the same legal substance that sits behind every pitcher's mound. Major League Baseball officials viewed video of Lester dabbing the fingers of his left hand into that blob and said there was no evidence of him doing anything against the rules. The Cardinals said Lester's explanation was good enough.

"I think we've covered that pretty well over the past couple of days; I've gotten a lot of crap from my friends and my wife on that one," Lester said. "I'm sure there's going to be focus on my glove and focus on my hands and what I'm doing, but I've got to worry about the Cardinals. If I'm worried about what people are looking at, I'm worried about the wrong things. I'm going to go out and pitch my game."

Wainwright is happy to be pitching at all, much less at his current high level. When the Cardinals were last in the World Series, in 2011, Wainwright was recovering from Tommy John surgery, limited to cheerleader duties.

This time around is much more fun, his Game 1 struggles aside.

"I would never say it was bittersweet, just for the fact that that doesn't sound quite right as far as a team winning the World Series. There's no bitterness to that," Wainwright said of the 2011 experience. "I do wish I could have been a part of it, but it was still pretty sweet to be there, to experience that.

"But it does add motivation for this year, the importance of bringing it home here in St. Louis, or in Boston, wherever we do it. We are very confident. I'm very confident. I do have more excitement going into this series because of that experience that I got to watch it. It's one thing to watch it and that's cool, but it's another to be a part of it."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy.
Read More: St. Louis Cardinals, Adam Wainwright