ST. LOUIS -- By the time Brandon Workman settled down, it was simply too late.
The Red Sox never recovered from the three-spot Workman allowed in the first inning on Thursday night and took a 5-2 loss to the Cardinals in the rubber match of a three-game series.
Workman knows that when you pitch against Adam Wainwright, falling behind early is not the recipe for success.
"I just didn't come out sharp in the first inning," said Workman. "That got me today. I put up a three-spot in the first and put the team behind the eight-ball against a good pitcher. I got it going after that, but the first inning was enough."
But for the Red Sox, it wasn't just a frustrating night from the mound. Wainwright didn't have his best stuff, and he was able to go seven strong innings anyway.
"He made some key pitches," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "I'm certainly not going to take anything away from a very good pitcher, but I thought overall we had a good approach. We ran up his pitch count. We forced him to make some key pitches with men in scoring position, which he did. Overall, you put that many baserunners on base or that number of hits against him, you come away with a little bit of a missed opportunity."
Perhaps the best chance Boston had to come back against Wainwright was in the seventh, when Yoenis Cespedes stepped up with two on and two outs. But after falling behind 3-0, Wainwright froze Cespedes on a 3-2 curveball to get out of the inning.
"That was the right situation for it," said Wainwright. "Today was a day I was leaning heavily on that pitch. So many times in my career when things aren't going great, that is the pitch that's always been there for me. It definitely saved me today."
That was the 122nd and final pitch of the night for Wainwright.
And that missed opportunity felt even more costly when Kolten Wong smoked a 423-foot homer against Craig Breslow in the bottom of the seventh. It was the second blast of the night for Wong, and the third straight outing in which Breslow was taken deep.
"Yeah, tonight the ball leaked back to the inner third against Wong, who's a fastball hitter, particularly balls close to him," said Farrell. "Against [Mark] Teixeira the other night was a ball mislocated away. Tonight, it's one missed in. He hasn't been able to get away with a mistake of late."
Workman endured a laborious 34-pitch first inning that started with a walk to Matt Carpenter. Wong followed with a single to left. With one out, Carpenter and Wong executed a double steal. Jhonny Peralta drilled a two-run double to open the scoring. An RBI single by Oscar Taveras put Boston in a 3-0 hole.
"It has happened a couple times," Workman said. "That's something I need to look at, maybe take a different approach out there in the bullpen, something to where I'm a little more dialed in from the get go."
In the third, the Sox rallied against Wainwright. Brock Holt and Dustin Pedroia opened the inning with singles. Mike Napoli hammered an RBI single up the middle. With two outs, Christian Vazquez delivered an RBI single and it was a 3-2 game.
Workman did a nice job settling down, but the Cardinals did tack on another run against him in the fifth, as Wong ripped a solo homer to right.
"Yeah, we were going fastball," said Workman. "I left it over the middle for him and he put a good swing on the ball."