The St. Louis Cardinals had four days off from the end of the NLCS, and it looked like they had accumulated a little rust in the early innings of Game 1 of the World Series.
The normally sound Cardinals defense looked off, as St. Louis recorded as many errors – three – in the game than they had all postseason, with everything adding up in the end to a 8-1 loss to the Red Sox.
“We had a wake-up call [tonight],” said Cardinals manager Mike Matheny. “That is not the kind of team 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.
“Right now everybody is kind of gathering themselves and putting things together on what they need to do to get back, not anything more, but certainly not anything less than what they’ve done all season.”
The trouble started on a David Ortiz ground ball to second base in the bottom of the first, Matt Carpenter flipped the ball to Pete Kozma covering second base, who missed the catch allowing Dustin Pedroia to slide in safe. The umpire originally called Pedroia out, but an argument by John Farrell and a meeting of the umpires resulted in an overturned call.
"That's not a play I have ever seen before," Matheny said. "And I'm pretty sure there were six umpires on the field that have never seen that play before either. It's a pretty tough time to debut that overruled call in the World Series. Now, I get that they're trying to get the right call, I get that. [But it's a] tough one to swallow."
The play was ruled an error, which immediately opened the door for a three-run double by Mike Napoli that gave the Red Sox an early lead.
The next inning, Stephen Drew led off with a pop up in front of the pitcher’s mound, but Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina both expected the other to catch it and the ball dropped in for a hit, a play that technically did not result in an error, but was one to everyone but the scorekeeper. Another Kozma error later in the second inning allowed the Red Sox to load the bases again and tack on two more runs, giving the Cardinals a five-run deficit after just two innings.
“[I’m not] singling any one particular guy out. They understand [what went wrong] and they know the caliber of players that they are and how they’ve played all season,” Matheny said. “We’ve really had a nice tight defense, especially in our infield: guys making plays and doing it on a consistent basis. And there’s no reason to accept anything less and there’s no reason to expect anything less.”
Wainwright also looked shaky early on, allowing the five runs over the first two innings with three of them earned. Wainwright settled down later in the game, however, even recording back-to-back 1-2-3 innings in the third and fourth innings.
“I thought he got better as he went. I thought he threw better than what his line showed,” said Matheny. “We absolutely gave too many bases, gave too many opportunities. And extra outs in situations like this against teams like this, they’re going to kill you.
“Adam made some good pitches, had a couple of balls hit hard, but a lot of them just found the right spots, but again he did get better as he went, and I know he can’t wait to get back out there.”
Wainwright finished the day pitching five innings and allowing five runs on six hits, with one walk and four strikeouts.
The Cardinals had plenty of chances to get back into the game, loading the bases with one out in the fourth inning and having runners on second and third in the fifth.
But Jon Lester and the Red Sox defense shut down any chance of a Cardinals rally, with Lester, David Ross, and Mike Napoli turning a huge 1-2-3 double play to end the fourth and forcing Jon Jay to ground out to shortstop to end the fifth.
“[Lester] did everything he had to do,” Matheny said. “He kept us off balance and made pitches all night. And so that’s kind of what we expected and we just expected for us to, one, obviously put some runs on the board, but also keep them off. We had a tough time doing the latter.”
Matt Holiday hit a home run into the Green Monster seats in the top of the ninth, but it was too little, too late, as the solo shot produced the only run the Cardinals could score all night.
Another issue the Cardinals may have to deal with is the status of right fielder Carlos Beltran. Beltran made a sensational catch over the bullpen wall on what could have been a grand slam by David Ortiz in the bottom of the second, but was forced to leave the game after suffering a rib injury making the play.
“Carlos was taken out of the game with an injury to his ribs,” said Matheny. “[He] went in to have X-rays and [a] CT scan done here locally and everything came back negative. He’s going to be day-to-day.”
The Cardinals will turn to rookie starter Michael Wacha Thursday night to try and even this series heading back to St. Louis. The NLCS MVP is 3-0 over 21 innings in three postseason starts, allowing just eight hits and one run with 22 strikeouts and just four walks over that span.