The World Series began at 8:09 on Wednesday night at Fenway Park. The real St. Louis Cardinals arrived considerably later.
Who were those imposters in the iconic uniforms who looked like they were auditioning for the “The Bad News Bears,” bumbling, bobbling, and making their gloves look like oven mitts in the first two innings?
In the days leading up to the World Series, all we had heard about was how the Cardinals, appearing in their third World Series since 2006, were the model franchise of Major League Baseball, fiscally, developmentally, and fundamentally sound.
It’s all true for the estimable and admirable National League champions.
But in Game 1 of the 109th World Series, the lauded Cardinal Way gave way to Cardinal Sins in the field. The rudimentary act of catching the baseball was a rough task for the Redbirds, and it opened the door for the Sox to take a 1-0 series lead with an 8-1 win.
The Red Sox scored five runs in the first two innings, aided and abetted by a series of St. Louis miscues and misplays. The Cardinals finished with three errors. Coming into the postseason, St. Louis had made three errors in 11 postseason games.
“It was uncharacteristic for us,” said St. Louis second baseman Matt Carpenter. “We didn’t make plays we should make and usually make.”
Somewhere, 13-time Gold Glove shortstop Ozzie Smith had to be shaking his head.
The man who currently plays shortstop for the Cardinals, Pete Kozma, committed a pair of crucial errors, including one in the first that changed the course of the game.
With runners on first and second and one out, David Ortiz hit a grounder to second that could have been a double play. However, Kozma muffed Carpenter’s flip to second, as it glanced off his glove.
Originally and incredulously, Dustin Pedroia was ruled out at second base by umpire Dana DeMuth. But after John Farrell charged out of the Red Sox dugout and vociferously protested the phantom out, the umpires held a confab and correctly reversed the call.
Mike Napoli then hit a three-run double to give the Red Sox a 3-0 lead. Center fielder Shane Robinson bobbled the ball, and originally it was ruled an error that allowed Ortiz to score. But the scoring was reversed in the second.
Kozma is the last player you would have expected to falter in the field. His glove is his raison d’etre for being in the lineup. He batted .217 this season with a .275 OPS.
“It was just one of those plays,” said Kozma. “He gave me a good feed, and I just missed it.”
More shaky St. Louis defense followed in the second.
The inning began with a routine popup by Stephen Drew dropping between pitcher Adam Wainwright and catcher Yadier Molina. Wainwright won a Gold Glove in 2009 and Molina has five of them.
This was Twilight Zone stuff for the Cardinals.
Kozma was charged with his second error on a Shane Victorino grounder into the hole that deflected off his glove to load the bases. Kozma might not have been able to get an out even if he fielded the ball cleanly.
Pedroia then hit a ball that should have been at least knocked down by third baseman David Freese, but it skipped through for a run-scoring hit.
Even when the Cardinals caught the ball it didn’t end well.
Ortiz hit what looked like the knockout punch — a grand slam.
However, Carlos Beltran reached into the bullpen and brought it back for a sacrifice fly, proving that somebody in Cardinal red could catch the baseball on this brisk October evening. It was a costly catch for the Cardinals, though, as Beltran had to leave the game with a right rib contusion.
Because of the Cardinals’ defensive woes, Wainwright needed 60 pitches to get through the first two innings. It was a testament to his ability that he was able to provide five passable innings.
Wainwright tried to fall on the sword, saying he set a bad tone.
But giving the Red Sox extra outs is like giving our beloved outgoing mayor, Thomas M. Menino, the opportunity to be the public address announcer at a baseball game. It’s not going to end well.
The Cardinals should have learned that lesson from watching the Tigers in the American League Championship Series.
Some nights you can make mistakes and get away with them. This wasn’t one of those nights for the Cardinals. The Red Sox were opportunistic and unforgiving.
“I think we’ve seen that when you give a team extra outs, as good as the teams you’re going to play this late in the season, it can come back to haunt you,” said Farrell.
The Cardinals’ series of ignominious and abashed fielding faux pas was added to in the seventh. Freese skipped a throw to first base on a Pedroia grounder, allowing him to reach with two outs. St. Louis brought in Kevin Siegrist. Big Papi hammered the first pitch he saw to right field for a two-run homer to make it 7-0, Sox.
The frustration was just beginning for the Cardinals, though, left to ponder how much the Red Sox beat them and how much they beat themselves.
“We had a wake-up call,” said St. Louis manager Mike Matheny. “That is not the kind of team that we’ve been all season, and they’re frustrated. I’m sure embarrassed to a point. We get an opportunity to show the kind of baseball we played all season long, and it didn’t look anything like what we saw tonight.”
Like the baseball, this was a game the Cardinals could never get a grip on.