With an excellent chance to push the Red Sox to the brink of elimination, the Cardinals played much of World Series Game 4 with the urgency of a team gathering for a leisurely Sunday brunch.

The Cardinals won Game 3 when an obstruction call against Boston third baseman Will Middlebrooks gave them the winning run in the bottom of a frenzied ninth inning.

In Game 4, the entire Red Sox team made a proud obstructionist stand by winning 4-2 and blocking the Cardinals’ easiest path to a World Series championship.

After a crazy, crushing loss in Game 3, a baseball nation wondered if the Red Sox could recover with a Boston-strong performance in Game 4. They did. Defiantly. And with considerable determination.

As it turned out, we were questioning the wrong team. The inquiry should have been flipped: How would the Cardinals handle the unexpected good fortune of taking Game 3 in such spectacular fashion?

The answer: not very well.

As a result, the 2013 World Series is even at two wins apiece. The Cardinals not only blew a chance to take a 3-1 lead in games, but promptly handed the home-field advantage back to the Red Sox. It’s now a best-of-three series with the final two scheduled for Fenway Park.

One team will go there with a 3-2 series lead and a distinct advantage. So we're in for an especially important Game 5 Monday night, when Boston's Jon Lester faces STL's Adam Wainwright in a pitching rematch of Game 1.

There will be no chance for a World Series celebration tonight for the Cardinals, who relinquished that possibility during their dull Sunday night.

Trailing 4-1 the Cardinals raised a bit of a fuss to score a run in the seventh. It could have been more interesting but Matt Holliday — who had a tough night at the plate — left two runners on. In the eighth Cardinals had a runner on third with one out, but awful at-bats by Jon Jay and David Freese put an end to a brief stirring. Jay and Freese are a combined 3 for 25 in the series.

Game 4 skidded to a fitting conclusion when a Cardinals' pinch runner, rookie Kolten Wong, got picked off first base by Boston closer Koji Uehara. Abandoned at the plate was Carlos Beltran, one of the most accomplished hitters in major-league postseason history. Beltran never got the chance to swing the bat.

Unbelievable.

Wong slipped. But the team did, too. The Cardinals actually lost this game early, when mesmerized by Boston starter Clay Buchholz, who could only muster a bunch of 88 mph batting-practice fastballs while pitching with a fatigued shoulder. The Cardinals’ tired offense made this a fair fight.

The Cardinals were confused by Buchholz’s lack of velocity. In recent years the team's addiction to video scouting works well most of the time, but it was a stark failure in Game 4.

“We didn’t do anything against him,” Beltran said.

Buchholz wasn’t the same pitcher the Cardinals eyed on video, which made the advance scouting reports on Buchholz irrelevant. When Buchholz began slow-pitching the Cardinals, they didn’t seem to know what to do.

“We were expecting him to come out pumping a little bit," Freese said. "But his pitches were effective. He showed that he absolutely knows how to pitch when his speed isn't there."