The Red Sox overwhelmed the St. Louis Cardinals in the first game of the 2004 World Series at Fenway Park, a performance that led to a four-game sweep and eased the age-old angst of a region.
St. Louis manager Mike Matheny, a catcher on that team, compared it running into a buzz saw. He told the Cardinals to be prepared from the first pitch this time around.
Instead it was more of the same. Jon Lester pitched one of the best games of his career and the Red Sox beat the shockingly inept Cardinals, 8-1, Wednesday night at Fenway.
David Ortiz, who homered in Game 1 in 2004, belted a two-run shot in the seventh inning to wrap the game up for Lester, who pitched 7⅔ shutout innings. He allowed five hits — all singles — with one walk and eight strikeouts.
Lester is 3-1 with a 1.67 ERA in the postseason this season. In his career, the lefthander has a 2.07 ERA in 12 postseason games, 10 of them starts.
“He’s the guy we want on the mound,” Ortiz said. “You saw why.”
The Red Sox have won nine consecutive World Series games, tied for the fourth-longest streak in history.
“I’ll take three more however we can get them,” left fielder Jonny Gomes said. “We’re one step closer to our goal.”
A crowd of 38,345 saw the Cardinals commit three errors, two by shortstop Pete Kozma. There also was a popup that fell between pitcher Adam Wainwright and catcher Yadier Molina and a wild pitch that led to a run.
Power-hitting right fielder Carlos Beltran was taken to Massachusetts General Hospital with bruised ribs, the result of a catch up against the bullpen fence in the second inning. X-rays were negative but it’s uncertain whether Beltran will play in Game 2 Thursday night.
Without him, the Cardinals lineup takes on a different look.
“We had a wake-up call,” Matheny said. “That’s not the kind of team we’ve been all season and they’re frustrated. I’m sure embarrassed to a point.”
The Cardinals did not score until Matt Holliday homered off Ryan Dempster in the ninth inning. All that did was delay what has become a regular October celebration at Fenway. The Sox are 5-1 at home in the postseason.
“It’s very nice to have home-field advantage, to have that energy with your home crowd,” Shane Victorino said.
The first two innings of the game could not have broken better for the Red Sox or worse for the Cardinals.
Jacoby Ellsbury led off the bottom of the first inning by drawing a walk off Wainwright. Dustin Pedroia followed with a one-out single.
When Ortiz grounded to second, Matt Carpenter flipped to Kozma to start what could have been a double play. But Kozma swiped at the ball and dropped it, never getting it in his glove.
Umpire Dana DeMuth called Pedroia put at second, which had Red Sox manager John Farrell sprinting out of the dugout.
“It was pretty clear that the ball just tipped off the fingertips of his glove,” Farrell said.
The umpires huddled and took the unusual step of reversing a judgment call. That left the bases loaded and one out.
“As a crew we want to get everything right,” crew chief John Hirschbeck said. “We want to be perfect at our job. Sometimes that doesn’t happen, but the ultimate thing is you want to get the play right.”
Wainwright fell behind Mike Napoli, 2-and-0. The next pitch was a cutter that stayed high and Napoli hammered it to center field for a three-run double.
Napoli has hit safely in six consecutive World Series games, matching Derek Jeter of the Yankees for the longest current streak among active players.
“I love this stage. It’s in the spotlight. I really enjoy this time of the year,” Napoli said. “It’s just going out there and getting the job done.”
There were more defensive mistakes in the second inning for St. Louis.
Stephen Drew hit a shallow pop in front of the mound that Wainwright should have caught. But he watched Molina and the ball fell between them.
It counted as a single. David Ross followed with a conventional single to center field. With one out, Victorino grounded a ball into the shortstop hole. Kozma might have had a play at third base but the ball ticked off his glove for another error.
Pedroia singled in a run. Ortiz was next and he crunched a fastball to right field, in the direction of the St. Louis bullpen.
Another postseason grand slam for the Red Sox? Beltran prevented that, reaching over the short wall to catch the ball. But the sac fly left him injured.
“That’s the way we have played all season. When the opposition makes mistakes we take advantage of them,” Ortiz said.
Wainwright did not allow another run. He left after five innings and 95 pitches charged with five runs, three earned, on six hits.
The Sox added two runs against the St. Louis bullpen in the seventh inning.
With two outs, Pedroia reached on a throwing error by third baseman David Freese. With Ortiz up, Matheny went to rookie lefthander Kevin Siegrist.
He fired a 96-mile-per-hour fastball to Ortiz. The big DH turned it around and sent the ball out to right field for his fourth home run of this postseason. Ortiz has 17 home runs overall in the postseason.
“I can still hit a fastball,” Ortiz said with a chuckle.
Lester got two outs in the eighth inning before giving way to Junichi Tazawa after 112 pitches. He tipped his cap to the crowd as he left.
“The biggest thing is just being able to control those emotions and pitch under control and not try to throw the ball through the backstop,” Lester said. “We were able to do that in the first inning and went from there.”