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Game 1 lesson: Expect the unexpected

Posted by Adam Kaufman  October 24, 2013 07:06 AM

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Ball drops Cardinals.jpg

We really shouldn’t be surprised, should we? All year long, we’ve grown to actually anticipate the unthinkable.

Wednesday night at Fenway was no exception as the Red Sox throttled the Cardinals, 8-1, to win their ninth straight World Series contest dating back to the last time these two teams met in 2004. In case you’re curious, the MLB record for consecutive victories at this stage is 14. Want to bet against this franchise right now?

Many people said going into the series that the Sox’ hitters would have to stick to their game plan by taking pitches early, grinding out at-bats, and making starters work, especially because of the depth in the bullpen for the Cards, but did anyone expect them to run over yet another ace in the process?

Much like their triumphs over Rays stars Matt Moore and David Price in the Division Series, the Red Sox abused Adam Wainwright, a guy who’d entered the game with a 1.57 ERA this postseason. He should have known it wasn’t his night when the 6’7” hurler banged his head emerging from that evidently too-small-for-big-people third base dugout to start the game.

As Jon Lester thrived to the tune of 7 2/3 scoreless innings, Wainwright labored. The 19-game winner was forced to throw 31 pitches in the first inning, compared to the 35 Lester tossed through three.

Wainwright’s pain wasn’t limited to his head, though, as he and his teammates endured a frustrating night on the field.

In that first inning, there was a botched ruling at second base when umpire Dana DeMuth nonsensically called Dustin Pedroia out after Pete Kozma failed to catch the ball in an effort to transfer from glove to hand and turn a double play. The call was ultimately overruled, as it should have been, but how often do you actually see a change of that caliber made without the ability to use replay?

Moments later, career World Series standout Mike Napoli – who may be forced to ride the pine when the series shifts to St. Louis – drilled a three-run double and give Boston a cushion that could have sent many fans to bed had any of them been concerned about an early-morning meeting.

The following inning, the struggling Stephen Drew came to the plate and a harmless pop fly that didn’t even make it as far as the mound landed untouched for a base hit when Wainwright and Yadier Molina got their signals crossed. The uncertainty looked like something out of "Angels in the Outfield." When Pedroia singled later in the inning to drive home Drew, the game was effectively over at 4-0, if it wasn’t already. Lester was too good to overcome.

Wainwright eventually settled down, but the damage was done. Five runs, albeit only three earned, in five innings of execution-less, spotty work. His team, one that had made just three errors all postseason, committed as many infractions on the night, and that’s without a ‘mental lapses’ category on the box score.

On the other side, danger was doused on more than one occasion as Lester escaped consecutive jams unscathed after the Cardinals loaded the bases with one out in the fourth inning and then put two men in scoring position with two down in the fifth. His control, command, and composure only increased as the stars above shined brighter over the course of the evening.

In that fifth, Jonny Gomes – who has displaced Daniel Nava in left for reasons that boil down simply to “intangibles” – made a diving catch to open in the frame. Another start for Boston’s newest Dirt Dog and another win for the club that’s 7-0 in the postseason when Gomes’ name appears on the lineup card.

And, wouldn’t you know, Nava made his first appearance in what felt like months when he pinch-hit for his counterpart in the eighth, and the icy-veined outfielder doubled. “Ready whenever you need me, Mr. Farrell,” he must have thought. Nava later scored on a sac fly by Xander Bogaerts, a guy who may not leave the lineup for the next decade.

In the seventh, up to the plate stepped David Ortiz. His would-be grand slam was taken away from him earlier by the championship-starved Carlos Beltran, whose catch over the wall cost him a rib injury, much of the game, and who knows how much time in the series. Wouldn’t you have loved to see Patrice Bergeron’s face when someone shared that news?

This time, Ortiz hit a ball that Beltran may have been able to catch in his Mass General exam room. As you might imagine on this night of the unusual, it came off a lefty specialist, Kevin Siegrist, who had a 0.45 ERA during the regular season and hadn’t given up a long-ball to a lefthander in his young career. What a fitting time.

The Red Sox never trailed the Cardinals in the World Series nine years ago. Could that possibly happen again this time around? It’s early but, after what we saw in Game 1, it sure seems more and more believable by the day.

Follow me on Twitter at @AdamMKaufman

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
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About this blog

Adam Kaufman is a writer and broadcaster who can also be heard regularly on 98.5 The Sports Hub, WBZ NewsRadio 1030, the national CBS Sports Radio Network, and broadcasting Boston College hockey games. The Massachusetts native is a Syracuse grad and a pop culture fanatic who offers a unique and entertaining look at your favorite Boston sports teams. Please don't hold his love for Jean-Claude Van Damme movies against him.

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