Sports

MLB PLAYOFFS

Red Sox clobber sloppy Cardinals to open World Series

By Ken Fidlin, Toronto Sun

Red Sox DH David Ortiz (left) celebrates his run on a double by first baseman Mike Napoli (not pictured) as teammates Jacoby Ellsbury (centre) and Dustin Pedroia (right) celebrate during first inning Game 1 action of the World Series in Boston on Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013. (Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports)

Red Sox DH David Ortiz (left) celebrates his run on a double by first baseman Mike Napoli (not pictured) as teammates Jacoby Ellsbury (centre) and Dustin Pedroia (right) celebrate during first inning Game 1 action of the World Series in Boston on Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013. (Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports)

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BOSTON - 

For days in the run-up to a World Series billed as a true classic confrontation, the flower of North American sports journalism has been rhapsodizing about "the Cardinal way," about how the National League champs "won't beat themselves," how they play the game "the right way."

Okay, never mind.

If the St. Louis Cardinals had tried to imagine a worst-case scenario to begin their quest for a third World Series title in the 21st century, they could not have plumbed the depths of their embarrassment that ended in an 8-1 Boston Red Sox victory in Game 1 Wednesday.

Within a half hour after the opening pitch, the Cardinals had made two unforgiveable errors, let another pop-up drop in, and trailed by five runs.

More than that, their best offensive player, Carlos Beltran, had to be removed from his first-ever World Series game after two innings with a rib injury that may not allow him to return.

"We had a wakeup call," said Cards manager Mike Matheny. "This is not the kind of team that we've been all season. We're frustrated and, I'm sure, embarrassed to a point. What you saw tonight looked nothing like the way we played all season.

"So right now, everybody is more or less trying to gather themselves and put things back together."

Meanwhile, Boston starter Jon Lester silenced the St. Louis offence on five hits through 7.2 shutout innings. Lester walked one batter and struck out eight.

But it was the shoddy St. Louis defence that had Fenway Park abuzz. They made three errors in all and the Boston hitters made them pay a high price for each one of them.

This 109th World Series was barely moments old when it experienced its first major controversy surrounding a play at second base.

Jacoby Ellsbury had walked to lead off the bottom of the first. After Shane Victorino lined out to left, Dustin Pedroia singled up the middle to put runners at first and second.

David Ortiz then hit what appeared to be a tailor-made double play ball to second baseman Matt Carpenter, who flipped to shortstop Pete Kozma. The ball clanked off the side of Kozma's glove and fell harmlessly to the ground. Everyone should have been safe, but second base umpire Dana DeMuth, who was no more than 10 feet from the play, staring right at it, ruled that Kozma had dropped the ball taking it out of his glove, making Pedroia the first out of the inning.

Boston manager John Farrell raced out to argue the play and eventually convinced DeMuth to consult with the other umpires. They conferred and declared Pedroia safe at second, of course prompting a counter-argument from Matheny. His complaint fell on deaf ears.

"I thought from the dugout view it was pretty clear that that ball just tipped off the fingertips of his glove," said Farrell. "There was really no entry into the glove with the ball. And to their credit they did confer, and I think the one thing is we just strive to get the call correct. And I think based on their group conversation, surprisingly, to a certain extent, they overturned it and I think got the call right.

"Typically they're probably going to stand pat with the decision that's made in the moment. But like I said, they got the call right."

Instead of being on the bench, as he should have been, had his defence made the routine play, Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright had to face hot-hitting Mike Napoli with one out and the bases loaded. Napoli promptly cleared the bases with a double in the left-centre gap to start the rout.

The call, the huddle and the reversal brought to mind Game 6 of the 2004 American League Championship Series at Yankee Stadium when New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez slapped Boston's Bronson Arroyo covering first. The ball went into right field and everyone was safe. The umps gathered together and overturned the play, calling Rodriguez out.

The Cardinals' buffoonery continued in the second inning. Leadoff man Stephen Drew hit a pop-up between the mound and the plate. Wainwright came off the mound, called for the ball, then let it drop between himself and catcher Yadier Molina. A moment later, the bases were loaded again after a David Ross single and another error by shortstop Kozma on a ball hit to his right by Victorino.

Pedroia then singled into left field to score Boston's fourth run, leaving the bases loaded again, this time for Ortiz. Ortiz launched a ball reminiscent of the one that went for a game-tying grand slam in Game 2 of the ALCS against Detroit. This time, Beltran reached over the wall and plucked the ball out of the air. It still went for a sacrifice fly, as Drew scored from third to make it 5-0, but it could have been so much worse for the Cards, if not for Beltran.

But it did get worse. Somehow on that play at the wall, Beltran, St. Louis's No. 1 run-producer, injured the right side of his rib cage and came out of the game after the next half inning. He was sent off to a local hospital in some pain and while the extent of the injury was not immediately apparent even a contusion in that part of his body will make it difficult to swing a bat.

In the bottom of the seventh inning, third baseman David Freese committed the Cardinals' third physical error of the game when his throw to first on a ball hit by Pedroia was in the dirt and eluded first baseman Matt Adams.

Ortiz made relief pitcher Kevin Siegrist pay for that when he hit the very next pitch out of the park to make it 7-0.

Boston added its final run in the eighth when Xander Bogaerts' sacrifice fly scored Daniel Nava from third base.

Matt Holliday's ninth-inning home run off Ryan Dempster was the lone bright spot for the Cardinals, snapping the shutout.

ken.fidlin@sunmedia.ca


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