ST. LOUIS — Ok, so maybe the St. Louis Cardinals made a shrewd financial decision by letting the big guy go, but on nights like Monday, and huge moments like this, reality has a cruel way of setting in.

Yes, the Cardinals sure could use Albert Pujols right now.

BOX SCORE: Red Sox 3, Cardinals 1

The Boston Red Sox, with a 3-1 victory over the Cardinals, moved to within one game of their third World Series championship in 10 years, taking a 3-2 lead in the Series with Game 6 scheduled Wednesday night at Fenway Park in Boston.

NIGHTENGALE: Pujols not sure who to pull for in Series

Now, thanks to Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester’s dazzling performance — yielding just four hits and one runs in 7 2/3 innings — the Red Sox can win their first World Series championship since 1918 at Fenway Park.

The Cardinals, who had the National League’s finest offense, has been Boston-strangled, scoring just 13 runs in this series, with the only two homers courtesy of Matt Holliday. They’ve scored two or fewer runs in all three of their defeats.

Someone needs to step up for the Cardinals, but the man that led them to their last three World Series appearances, and two titles, is sitting in his St. Louis suburban home, now employed by the Los Angeles Angels.

“I can’t think about that,” Pujols told USA TODAY Sports, “I don’t want to think about that. I’ve moved on. I don’t know why people keep bring stuff up. I saw a guy on TV holding a sign, “And the Cardinals keep winning without Pujols.’ Come on, man, that crap is old.

“People leave. Barry Bonds left. Willie Mays left. What’s the big deal? Obviously, things have been rough for me. But my time will shine. Hopefully, I’ll be back in the World Series again, too.”

It just won’t be with the Cardinals, who are in desperate need of an offensive savior simply to counteract the Red Sox’s lethal weapon named David Ortiz.

Ortiz has been a one-man assault team, hitting .733 this Series. He made just two outs during his entire three-day juncture to St. Louis, and tied a World Series record by reaching base nine consecutive times with a double and single in his first two at-bats. He finally made an out when he hit a line drive to center field in the sixth, delighting the sellout crowd, but he left the game with one more hit in the eighth inning.

“We all know the career he’s been able to put up,” Cardinals second baseman Matt Carpenter says, “but to hit like he’s hit so far in his World Series…

Carpenter stopped, searching for the right words.

“I mean, that’s really impressive,” Carpenter continued. “He’s as tough as an out as you’re going to find in this game.

“In this world, for that matter.”

Perhaps this is why Wainwright’s act of bravado in the first inning was so stunning.

And so stupid.

Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia, jumping on an 0-and-2 curveball in the first inning, hit a one out double into the left-field corner. Ortiz was up next, and everyone from Ortiz to the peanut vendors to the grounds crew anticipated Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright to issue an intentional walk.

Wainwright challenged him.

Big mistake. Real, real, real big mistake.

Ortiz smacked the first pitch past first baseman Allen Craig into the right-field corner for a double. Pedroia scored. The Red Sox were up 1-0, and the Cardinals never really recovered.

Wainwright went seven innings, and struck out 10 batters_the most by a Cardinals’ pitcher in a World Series game since Bob Gibson in 1968. It wasn’t enough to rescue the Cardinals. The Red Sox deliver the knockout punch in the seventh inning with a run-scoring double by No. 8 hitter David Ross, and a run-scoring single by Jacoby Ellsbury.

And, just like that, the Red Sox had quite a happy flight home.

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