When do the St. Louis Cardinals get here for the 2013 World Series?
Seriously. What was that Wednesday night?
Determined to “bring the World Series Cup back to Boston” (thank you, Mr. Mayor), the Red Sox demolished the Cardinals, 8-1, in Game 1 of the 109th Fall Classic at Fenway. Jon Lester pitched 7⅔ innings of shutout ball, and the indomitable Sox lineup did more grinding than Miley Cyrus at the Video Music Awards, but the takeaway of Game 1 was the abject ineptitude of the venerable National League champions.
This looked like the 2004 World Series all over again. The Cardinals never had a lead when they were swept by the Sox in ’04 and they picked up where they left off, committing three errors, one wild pitch, and allowing four unearned runs in one of the sloppiest performances in World Series history.
“That is not the kind of team that we’ve been all season,’’ said Cardinals manager Mike Matheny. “They’re frustrated, I’m sure embarrassed to a point. We get an opportunity to show the kind of baseball we’ve played all season long and didn’t show that tonight . . . I’m not going to let our club forget that we’re a good club, too.’’
The soaring Sox were beneficiaries of no fewer than four Cardinal misplays in the first two frames. St. Louis botched a routine double-play grounder, mishandled a bouncing double on the warning track in center, failed to catch a popup in front of the mound, and had another ball clang off the glove of its shortstop. The Cardinals were charged with only two errors and two unearned runs, but put ace Adam Wainwright in a 5-0 hole. The righthander needed a whopping 60 pitches to get the first six outs. Meanwhile, St. Louis right fielder Carlos Beltran went to a Boston hospital (rib contusion) after making a spectacular catch of David Ortiz’s potential grand slam into the St. Louis bullpen.
It was a lot of early action, all of it going the Sox’ way.
Mary J. Blige sang the anthem, we had the traditional window-rattling flyover, and Carl Yastrzemski — the greatest living Red Sox — delivered the ceremonial first pitch. Minutes after Yaz’s nifty toss, we heard the ceremonial screeching of tires on Ipswich Street. Everybody loves Yaz, but the private captain hasn’t gone nine innings since he hung ’em up in 1983. Twenty-three seasons was quite enough, thank you.
While Yaz was driving toward the Kowloon, the Sox put the game away against the sloppy visitors and Boston fans waited for Ortiz to put another one in the bullpen. Big Papi ultimately delivered. But not until the seventh.
There was an umpiring controversy in Boston’s three-run first. In the spirit of St. Louis sloppiness, second base umpire Dana DeMuth missed Pete Kozma’s non-catch of Matt Carpenter’s throw on Ortiz’s certain inning-ending, double-play grounder. DeMuth was rescued by his five umpiring partners and the call was reversed — paving the way for Mike Napoli’s bases-loaded double to left-center.
The reversal was correct, but unusual.
“It was pretty clear that the ball tipped off the fingertips of his glove,’’ said Sox manager John Farrell. “To their credit, they did confer. Surprisingly, they overturned it . . . I can’t say it’s too often. Typically, they’re probably going to stand pat.’’
“It’s a pretty tough time to debut that overruled call in the World Series,’’ said Matheny. “Tough one to swallow.’’
Looking like an 18-wheeler pulling into the Charlton rest stop, Ortiz scored all the way from first on Napoli’s hit and (naturally) got some help when Cardinals center fielder Shane Robinson had trouble picking up the ball on the track. The Cardinals submitted two more misplays to start the second, and fell behind, 5-0, when Ortiz launched a sacrifice fly that was snared spectacularly by Beltran.
Ortiz had his revenge in the seventh when he cleared the bullpen wall after yet another two-out error by the Cardinals’ infield. When Ortiz’s shot landed in the pen, officer Steve Horgan signaled “touchdown” and it was party time on Yawkey Way. Fenway fans were fast-forwarding to Thursday’s John Lackey-Michael Wacha Game 2 matchup.
It’s not supposed to be this easy, folks. We watched Tampa give away Game 1 of a five-game series earlier this month and then we saw the estimable Tigers beat themselves with old-age, obesity, bad base running, and suspect relievers.
Now this. The St. Louis Tomato Cans in Game 1.
Maybe it’s Fenway, where the Sox are 58-29 this season.
Maybe it’s Ortiz, who has been part of nine consecutive World Series wins.
Maybe it’s Ortiz launching balls toward Officer Horgan in the bullpen.
Good things are happening.
“Always getting that first one out of the way is a good feeling,’’ said Farrell. “I thought we played a very good game, all around, tonight.’’
“We’ll enjoy this one and come in tomorrow and be ready for Game 2,’’ said Lester. “Hopefully, Lack does a good job for us.’’
Three more wins and the Cup is ours.