Axford struck out the side in a perfect sixth and Randy Choate, who made his first World Series appearance since 2001 with the Yankees against the D-backs, retired the only batter he faced. As for Seth Maness, charged with an unearned run; Kevin Siegrist, who yielded David Ortiz's two-run homer in the seventh; and Carlos Martinez, who gave up a run on a double, a wild pitch and a fly ball, well, they were able to participate, and can hope for better results in bigger situations as the Series continues.
Every reliever would prefer to be protecting a lead. But with the Cardinals shaking off rust because they sat for four days (one day longer than the Red Sox) after winning the National League Championship Series, any relief innings were good ones in an otherwise lost cause.
"Yes, I think it's important for them to be out there," Matheny said. "It's been a long wait, too; we've had quite a few days off, too. It was good to get them out to feel a World Series mound and feel the energy. So next time we get them out there, it's hopefully in a different situation and they'll feel a little more comfortable."
In a more favorable situation, Axford's work would have been huge. He fanned Xander Bogaerts looking, Stephen Drew swinging and David Ross looking, and threw strikes on 10 of his 17 pitches -- mostly fastballs in the 95-97 mph range.
"The experience of being in the World Series is something I've never had before, but just being able to take that all in, enjoy that moment and pitch well is definitely something I'm going to enjoy for a little while," said Axford, 30, the former Brewers closer who joined the Cards in an Aug. 30 trade -- just in time to be eligible for the postseason roster.
"But the game itself, that's the bigger perspective, and it's a disappointing game. The team lost, so hopefully we can pick that up and do better."
Siegrist, 24, had not given up a homer to a left-handed hitter all year, counting two postseason series. But Ortiz swatted the first pitch he saw from Siegrist into the right-field seats Wednesday night.
But there will be more chances.
"It was nice to get out there, but the result wasn't what I wanted, obviously," Siegrist said. "It was just a lack of execution on the pitch. I was trying to go away, but I left it over the middle. He hit a pitch that he's supposed to hit. I gave that to him.
"I was fine, nerve-wise, when I got out there. I just didn't get the job done."
Ortiz's homer came after Dustin Pedroia reached on a throwing error by third baseman David Freese, with Maness, 24, pitching.
Choate, who had a 2.45 ERA in two appearances covering 3 2/3 innings for the Yankees in their loss in seven games to the D-backs in the 2001 Fall Classic, appreciated being handed the ball Wednesday.
"[Thursday], when hopefully we're ahead in the ballgame and you're in a spot, you've pitched off that mound, you get those first jitters out of the way," said Choate, 38. "It had been a while, for me, anyway.
"It's not so much when you get out there. It's when you're warming up. It's second nature. You realize where you are and you've worked so hard to get there all season. But after the first warmup pitch, you're good."
Most of the experience was a positive for Martinez, 21. But the wild pitch that let Bogaerts take third base won't be a highlight.
"It was a fastball, and I just lost the ball," Martinez said in Spanish, which was translated. "I want to forget everything about that."