BOSTON (CBS) – The city had waited patiently, eager for World Series baseball to return to Fenway Park, and ready to erupt at the first Red Sox run to cross the plate.
The home crowd wouldn’t have to wait long. In fact, the wait didn’t even last an inning.
Jacoby Ellsbury led off the bottom of the first by working a seven-pitch walk. St. Louis starter Adam Wainwright entered the evening having walked just one batter all postseason, and the free pass to Ellsbury was just the start of what would be a very distinct and unpleasant change of course for the Cardinals’ right-hander.
Three batters later, with the help of an umpire meeting that reversed a call that was initially botched, the bases were loaded for Mike Napoli, who had a 2-0 count to sit dead red on a fastball. He got it, and he made it count, sending a line drive into the left-center field gap. It was enough to score all three base runners and ignite the home crowd, and it turned out to be all the runs the Red Sox would need.
“It is a pretty big swing moment, even though you’re not fully expecting something like that in the first inning,” Boston manager John Farrell said of the reversed call. “Instead of it being a two‑out situation with runners on first and third, we’re in a bases‑loaded situation. … Fortunately, [Napoli] gets into a 2‑0 count and the three‑run double, it is a big moment, and we’re able to capitalize on the mistake. “And 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.”
That it did for the Cardinals, whose defensive woes continued in the second inning. Some of it was Wainwright’s own doing, as he seemed to call off catcher Yadier Molina on a Stephen Drew popup to lead off the inning. Neither Wainwright or Molina caught the ball, and another error by Kozma later in the inning contributed to the Sox’ two-run inning, and the 5-0 lead set the tone early. Jon Lester did the rest.
The Sox’ left-hander was outstanding, pitching 7 2/3 shutout innings while striking out eight and walking just one. He worked himself out of a pair of jams in the fourth and fifth innings, but it was smooth sailing the rest of the night.
It was important, too, as the Sox didn’t add to their lead until the seventh inning. Lester made sure the Cardinals never got back into the game.
“This time of year, you really have to think about winning each inning,” Lester said. “And once we scored in that first, to go out there, you’ve got to win that inning. You’ve got to put a zero up, get these guys back in the dugout and get them up to the batter’s box. And we were able to do that and we ended up scoring a few more runs, and that was big for us, especially against a pitcher like Adam over there.”
Solving Wainwright was Boston’s most impressive feat of the night. He entered the evening with a 1.56 postseason ERA and 0.783 WHIP, having walked one batter in 23 innings. Yet the Sox got to him for five runs, three earned, on five hits and a walk, beating the man who was not supposed to be beaten in this series.
“Anything can happen in the postseason,” Jonny Gomes said. “It’s all about capitalizing on mistakes. They had a couple of them, and we capitalized.”
The Red Sox seized the opportunities given to them by the Cardinals, but this was in no way a gift-wrapped victory. Napoli still had to hit that double, just as Dustin Pedroia had to hit his RBI single and David Ortiz came within inches of his second grand slam of the postseason, robbed by the webbing of Carlos Beltran’s glove on what was still enough to be a sacrifice fly to score Boston’s fifth run.
An Ortiz homer in the seventh and a Xander Bogaerts sacrifice fly in the eighth extended the lead to 8-0 later in the game, and though Matt Holliday homered off Ryan Dempster in the ninth inning, it was clear that Boston’s bats showed up in Game 1. St. Louis’ did not.
“Everything has to go right for you to win in the World Series,” Gomes said. “It’s not a 162-game season; it’s a nine-inning season. To win that, everything has to go your way. You gotta get lucky, you gotta get hops, you gotta hit in the clutch, you gotta pitch, you gotta do everything in the postseason. Everything has to go your way when you’re playing the best team in baseball.”
Indeed, everything went Boston’s way in Game 1, much to the delight of the Fenway crowd. Any fan who was born after October 1986, in fact, knows nothing but Red Sox victories when it comes to World Series games, as Wednesday’s win marked the ninth consecutive for the franchise in the Fall Classic.
Of course, it’s just one game, and nobody needs to be reminded that the Tigers won Game 1 of the ALCS, which didn’t help them in the series. But after the collapse of 2011 and the sideshow embarrassment of 2012, the city had to endure quite a bit in the build-up to this game. What a way for the World Series to return to Boston.