BOSTON – Before Michael Wacha exited the worst start of his young career – one that came at the worst possible time – he heard from Yadier Molina.
The veteran catcher's guidance was instrumental in Wacha's meteoric rise, which had included a stunning stretch of brilliance in the postseason, and he wanted to make sure the rookie didn't take Wednesday's crash landing too hard.
NIGHTENGALE: Red Sox win title in front of home crowd
So Molina offered some words of encouragement on the mound, and off Wacha went, leaving behind a four-run, fourth-inning deficit that would grow to 6-0 as the Boston Red Sox went on to claim the World Series title with a 6-1 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 6.
Molina's exact words remain a mystery because he declined to talk to the news media and Wacha said he was so upset, he couldn't remember them. But the catcher's gestures seemed to reflect the same message manager Mike Matheny had for Wacha after the game.
RED SOX: Do the little things right
"I just told him a few minutes ago, we're not here if he doesn't do what he's done for us over this postseason,'' Matheny said. "It's something that not too many people have ever done, with as little experience as he's had.''
Indeed, Wacha was 4-0 with a 1.00 ERA in the postseason coming in, after allowing a mere 11 hits in 27 innings. He twice beat Los Angeles Dodgers ace and Cy Young Award favorite Clayton Kershaw in the National League Championship Series, earning MVP honors.
It seemed inconceivable Wacha wouldn't give the Cardinals a fighting chance to stay in the World Series. Instead, he got knocked out earlier than in any of his 13 previous major league starts.
Wacha gave up five hits and six runs in 3 2/3 innings, walking four – two intentionally – and looking more like a 22-year-old just 17 months removed from college than the postseason's best pitcher, which he had been to that point.
"You've got to make pitches when it matters. I just didn't do that,'' Wacha said. "I left some balls over the plate and they made me pay for it.''
Those relentless Red Sox finally got to him, and once they did, they wouldn't let go.
Shane Victorino's double off the Green Monster in the third inning drove in the game's first three runs, stoking the already hyper-energized crowd at Fenway Park, where the Red Sox were eager to celebrate a World Series championship for the first time since 1918.
The three-RBI drive was the first hit allowed by Wacha with runners in scoring position all postseason, after opponents had gone 0-for-14 against him in those situations.
Boston had loaded the bases with two outs on a Jacoby Ellsbury single, an intentional walk to David Ortiz and a Jonny Gomes hit-by-pitch, a sign Wacha's command was off. He fell behind Victorino 2-0 and the Red Sox right fielder tagged a 93 mph fastball for his first hit of the series in 11 at-bats.
"I think what you saw tonight from Boston is what got them here,'' Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said. "They seem to take advantage of mistakes, hit batsmen, and all of a sudden the inning gets big. It's the kind of lineup they have."
Before the game, Boston manager John Farrell said his hitters should benefit from having had a previous look at the 6-6 Wacha, who throws with an extreme downhill plane.
That was certainly the case, as the Red Sox's five hits were two more than they managed in six innings off Wacha in Game 2, a 4-2 St. Louis win.
On Wednesday, Wacha was firing 97 mph fastballs early on, but his velocity dipped as the game went on and his changeup seemed to lack its usual dip and deception.
"He looked the same to me as before, aggressive,'' Cardinals right fielder Carlos Beltran said. "Maybe his command wasn't quite there and he fell into some hitters' counts. Even if you throw 97 mph, if guys know the fastball is coming, they'll hit it. But I don't put the blame on him. As hitters, we didn't do our job."
Boston jumped right back on Wacha in the fourth, as shortstop Stephen Drew, who came in batting .080 for the postseason and .067 in the series, crushed a leadoff home run to right field for a 4-0 lead.
After an Ellsbury double and another intentional walk to Ortiz, Wacha was replaced by Lance Lynn, who gave up run-scoring singles to Mike Napoli and Victorino.
Both runs were charged to Wacha, whose wondrous run through the postseason ended a game too early for the Cardinals.
"Everyone on this club wants that ring,'' Wacha said. "I didn't want to win it for myself. I wanted it for these guys in this clubhouse who have been working all year. Whenever I have a poor outing like that, it hurts me even worse. I feel like I let the team down.''
GALLERY: GAME 6