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Cards credit Red Sox, lament missed opportunities

St. Louis' lineup struggled to string together hits with runners on base in Series

BOSTON -- The second inning Wednesday night would have been a good, better-late-than-never moment for the 2011 magic to return to the bat of the Cardinals' David Freese. But Red Sox pitcher John Lackey, with runners at first and second, made sure Freese would finish with another empty at-bat -- a fly ball to right field.

Freese went 0-for-4 as the Red Sox won the World Series with a 6-1 victory at Fenway Park. He hit .158 in the six Series games and was 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position. He can spend the winter lamenting his performance, but he and his Cardinals teammates had no choice but to express respect for the Red Sox, who made big pitches and big hits in the Fall Classic.

"It's a little of both -- you're going up against the Boston Red Sox, and there's a reason they're in the World Series," said Freese, who helped the Cards to the title two years ago while earning Most Valuable Player honors in the National League Championship Series and the World Series but performed nowhere near that level this year. "With that said, we had a lot of opportunities to capitalize and win some ballgames. We didn't make it happen."

The Cardinals and Red Sox were the best teams in their respective leagues in large part because of the way they made opposing pitchers work. They hit for average, drew walks and made the most with runners on base. The Cards sizzled at a .330 and the Sox hit .278 with runners in scoring position during the regular season.

Truth be told, both teams struggled overall in the Series. For all the deserved attention at the lack of the Cards' offensive production, they actually outperformed the Sox in batting average, .224 to .211.

But the Sox hit when it counted. Shane Victorino was 2-for-3 with runners in scoring position, including a game-breaking three-run double in the third inning Wednesday. Mike Napoli drove in four runs on his two hits with RISP, and Series MVP David Ortiz, David Ross, Xander Bogaerts and Jonny Gomes, whose homer sparked Boston in Game 4, all had memorable strokes with a runner at second or third.

The clutch hitting was especially apparent Wednesday.

Untimely hitting
After being the best in the Majors during the 2013 regular season, the Cards struggled with runners in scoring position during the World Series
2013 Average with... WS
.330 RISP .214
.305 RISP, two outs .158
.313 Runners on .233
.293 Runners on, two outs .167
.370 Third, less than two outs .000
.370 Bases loaded .000

In Game 2, rookie starter Michael Wacha held the Sox to three hits and two runs over six innings while picking up the win at Fenway. Wacha used his curveball with some success Wednesday, but his fastball was not as sharp as it was in Game 2, and Victorino took advantage for the biggest hit in the clincher. After yielding six runs in 3 2/3 innings, Wacha was left tipping his cap to a relentless lineup.

"I went to the curveball quite a bit today," Wacha said. "It had good depth and sharpness. I just made some mistakes, and they made me pay for it.''

The early part of the Cardinals' order was good in the scoring position category, but so many key at-bats went to Freese, Jon Jay (1-for-7) and Matt Adams (0-for-5).

But Cards veteran left fielder Matt Holliday, who was 2-for-5 with a double and three RBIs in his scoring-position opportunities, didn't blame the bottom of the batting order. A lot of that, he said, was the Red Sox simply making the right pitches and defensive plays.

"The pitching is elite in the postseason," Holliday said. "Yeah, we didn't score as many runs as we'd like to. I think it's a combination of things. We got pitched pretty well, I guess. We hit some hard balls here that were right at people in big situations. We just couldn't string any hits together.

"We just didn't win. We win as a team. We lose as a team. We didn't score enough runs. They played better than we did. Unfortunately, we didn't play as well as we were capable of, in my mind."

Ortiz dominated the Series offensively, going 11-for-16 (.688) with two home runs, two doubles and six RBIs. But almost as dominant were starter Jon Lester (2-0, 0.59 ERA in two starts) and closer Koji Uehara, who gave up two hits and struck out three in 4 2/3 innings while earning two saves in five appearances.

"That pitching staff is tough," said leadoff hitter Matt Carpenter, who struck out against Uehara to end the game. "Tonight we outhit them, I think, but we just couldn't get that one big hit with runners on.''

The Red Sox locked up the championship with Lackey masterfully pitching around nine hits, striking out five and holding the Cardinals to one run in 6 2/3 innings.

"He did a good job, but we hit a lot of balls hard," Cardinals infielder Daniel Descalso said. "A couple hard-hit balls right at guys. ... If some of those fall, it's a different game. But he had good stuff. He made his pitches when he needed to, and he beat us."

Thomas Harding is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb.
Read More: Boston Red Sox, St. Louis Cardinals, Matt Adams, Jon Jay, John Lackey, Shane Victorino, David Freese, Matt Holliday, Michael Wacha, David Ortiz