Cardinals, Wacha try to avoid 0-2 World Series hole at Fenway

( - There hasn't been a better starting pitcher this postseason than St. Louis right-hander Michael Wacha. The Cardinals will need their rookie to be sharp once again if they want to avoid going home in an 0-2 World Series hole.

St. Louis and Wacha try to even the best-of-seven Fall Classic at a game apiece on Thursday when they play Game 2 versus the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park.

The 2012 first-rounder, who was the compensation pick the Cardinals received from the Los Angeles Angels when Albert Pujols left as a free agent, has been absolutely magnificent this postseason. He outdueled Los Angeles' Clayton Kershaw twice in the NLCS and has won all three of his postseason starts, while pitching to a 0.43 ERA.

"I want the ball in big situations," Wacha said. "There's none bigger than the World Series."

Since closing the regular season with 8 2/3 no-hit innings, Wacha, the NLCS MVP, has pitched 21 postseason innings, limiting the Pittsburgh Pirates and Dodgers to one run on eight hits.

"He throws hard," Boston outfielder Shane Victorino said. "That's about all I know. I'll watch some video, see what he features. I understand he's good. That's why he was NLCS MVP, not for any reason besides the fact that he's good."

St. Louis will need him to be on his game Thursday after it was shut down by Jon Lester in Game 1. Lester limited the Cardinals to five hits and struck out eight over 7 2/3 scoreless innings as Boston took Game 1, 8-1.

The Red Sox jumped on Adam Wainwright early via Mike Napoli's three-run double in the first inning, and David Ortiz added a home run and three RBI in the rout -- Boston's ninth straight World Series victory.

St. Louis did not record an extra-base hit against Lester (1-0), committed three errors and lost All-Star slugger Carlos Beltran to a right rib contusion in the second inning when the right fielder robbed Ortiz of a grand slam.

"We had a wake-up call," said St. Louis manager Mike Matheny. "This is not the kind of team that we've been all season. And they're frustrated, I'm sure embarrassed to a point. You're going to have games like that periodically. But if you begin to accept that, then this could really not go anywhere."

X-rays and a CT scan came back negative, and Beltran is considered day-to-day.

Wainwright (0-1) only lasted five frames after getting touched for five runs -- three earned -- on six hits for the NL champs, whose only offense came on Matt Holliday's home run in the ninth.

"We went right after them. We pounded them in," said Lester, who became the third pitcher in World Series history to post scoreless starts in his first two Fall Classic outings. "We wanted to set the tone and get them swinging."

History could be on the Red Sox' side as nine of the last 10 and 14 of the previous 16 Game 1 winners have gone on to win the series. Also, since 1993, every home team to win Game 1 has gone on to win the World Series.

Boston will turn to another battle-tested veteran in Game 2 in John Lackey, who hasn't pitched in the World Series since Game 7 in 2002, when -- as a rookie -- he led the Angels to their first championship.

"It is a big game," Lackey said. "There's no running from that. And it's something you've got to embrace. It's something you've got to enjoy."

If anyone doubted whether or not Lackey was fully recovered from Tommy John surgery they need to look no further than his Game 3 performance against the Detroit Tigers that saw him outduel Justin Verlander and give control of the ALCS to the Red Sox.

Lackey, who will be pitching on eight days' rest Thursday night, tossed 6 2/3 scoreless innings in that one and is 2-0 this postseason with a 3.00 ERA.

"This is a veteran with a lot of success in the past, including postseason success," said Red Sox skipper John Farrell. "Given the challenges he's come through in the time he's been in Boston, we're glad he's not only come back from Tommy John, but regained the form he had pre-injury."

Lackey has pitched to a 3.10 ERA in 91 postseason innings, but has never faced the Cardinals at any point in his 11-year career.

"They're good," said Lackey, who had a 2.47 ERA at home this season. "They're in the World Series. There's no bad teams left. They've got a really good offense. It's really deep. Really similar to an American League lineup, for sure."

Game 3 of this series is scheduled for Saturday at Busch Stadium.