Red Sox pounce early on Cards' pitching woes, fielding errors


BOSTON -- Boston Strong has become the rally cry for a city and its baseball club in 2013, and it took … oh, two whole innings to imprint that concept onto the World Series.

We knew the Red Sox were relentless, but my goodness. These guys, they don’t go half-hearted on anything. Growing beards. Team bonding. If making lunch, there is zero doubt that they grind out their bologna sandwiches, too, taking their sweet time, perfect quantity of meat, lettuce just so, mustard spread evenly.

For two innings and 14 hitters, they christened this World Series with New England-style Cardinal chowder. For the better part of the opening 46 minutes, Boston boiled and then baked St. Louis into cream pie.

History will record the Game 1 final score as 8-1, but in this text-message, snapchat age, what really counted this side of Jon Lester’s extended brilliance was the bludgeoning his mates delivered over the first two innings.

And here’s the thing: Everybody knew what the Red Sox would try to do offensively. If this were the 1770s, Paul Revere would have been galloping through the streets on his horse shouting to everyone.

“I didn’t see anything that surprised us,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. “We knew what we were going to get, and they came out an did it.”

Were this a Saturday morning cartoon, he would have been speaking from underneath the anvil David Ortiz and Co. had just dropped on his head.

The Red Sox squeezed 60 pitches out of St. Louis ace Adam Wainwright in those first two innings. Of the first nine Boston hitters in Game 1, every single one of them took at least two pitches to open his at-bat.

“Wainwright is the kind of pitcher that we all know he has good stuff,” Ortiz said. “But we also know he knows how to get you chasing pitches out of the strike zone.

“What makes this team so good is that we’re patient. We know how to stay away from chasing pitches out of the strike zone, and we swing at strikes. That went against him tonight.”

The first-inning alone was a 31-pitch marathon for Wainwright, without any aid stations. And it was a wicked combination, because not only were the Red Sox grinding, the Cardinals’ defense was failing.

They gave away three outs during the first eight hitters. Shortstop Pete Kozma whiffed on second baseman Matt Carpenter’s feed that should have started a 4-6-3 double play on Ortiz’s ground ball in the first.

It was so blatant that second base ump Dana DeMuth’s knee-jerk reaction was to call Dustin Pedroia out at second, as if Kozma simply had caught the ball and then dropped it while transferring it from his glove to his throwing hand. What could have been baseball’s biggest pre-instant replay nightmare was avoided when the six umpires huddled and agreed that the call was the wrong one.

It was umpiring at its finest. Those umps already home for the winter, hopefully they were taking notes.

“With our crew signals, I had crewmates that were giving me the signal that they were 100 percent sure that … they had it and I had the wrong call,” DeMuth said.

So instead of inning over and the score 0-0, the Red Sox had one out and the bases loaded.

“I was just hoping they got it right,” Red Sox catcher David Ross said. “I felt he missed it. That’s what I saw.

“The only thing you want is that they get it right. You’re not looking for a call to go your way. You want it right.”

And if both happen, well, jackpot.

Maybe it was World Series jitters for St. Louis. Maybe it was the loud atmosphere of Fenway Park.

“When I come to work every single day, I come to work in a museum,” Sox outfielder Jonny Gomes said. “It’s pretty special around here.”

Certainly, it’s no accident that the Sox went an AL-best 53-28 at home this summer.

And for many Cardinals, this was their first glimpse of the place.

Kozma, whose glove is the only reason he plays, committed two errors. Third baseman David Freese threw a ball away. Another popup dropped on the infield grass between Wainwright and catcher Yadier Molina.

The Red Sox simply licked their chops and sharpened their steak knives.

“Listen,” Gomes said. “It’s the World Series. Let’s stop being surprised. Anything can happen. Anything.

“That’s why there are so many memorable moments, going back to the ‘60s and ‘70s, that they’re still showing replays of. Anything can happen.”

After Ortiz’s would-be inning-ending double play, Mike Napoli stepped up and – after taking the first two pitches, of course – blasted a three-run double. Talk about blood in the water. Once the umps reversed their call on Kozma, the 38,345 filling Fenway on a 50-degree night were in full-throated roar.

“I love this stage,” Napoli said. “It’s in the spotlight. I really enjoy this time of year.”

Don’t let his cup-full-of-bliss fool you completely. Napoli was on that Rangers team that twice came within one strike of beating the Cardinals for a World Series title in Game 6 in 2011, only to watch the Cards come roaring back to win.

He’s spoken of that since, telling tales of how badly it hurts, still. It’s a part of this overall steamroller the Sox have built, and if you don’t believe that, just listen to (or watch) Napoli’s determination … or sidle up to right fielder Shane Victorino and listen to him explain why the Red Sox weren’t about to let down Wednesday even after they built a 5-0 lead.

They know strange things can occur at this time of year.

“It can happen,” Victorino said. “I’ve seen it. Ask Mike Napoli. I don’t mean to say it that way, but two outs, two strikes … you’ve got to play 27 outs.”

So there was Ortiz in the seventh inning, after Carlos Beltran robbed him of a grand slam in the second (after which Beltran had to leave the game with bruised ribs), facing rookie reliever Kevin Siegrist, who had not surrendered a homer to a lefty all season.


Ortiz didn’t care how many home runs Siegrist had or hadn’t allowed to anybody this year. He just knew one thing after the Beltran robbery.

“Just make sure I hit it a little farther so nobody could jump up and catch it,” he said.

The takeaway stat for the evening was that it was Ortiz’s 16th career postseason homer, passing Babe Ruth’s 15. Then again, Ortiz has 336 postseason plate appearances over 77 games, and Ruth had 167 over 41 games.

A couple of numbers that actually are far more relevant: The Sox now are 7-0 this postseason when Gomes starts … and they now have won nine consecutive World Series games, including sweeps in 2007 (Rockies) and 2004 (Cardinals).

That ties the Reds for the fourth-longest streak of all time. The only team with a longer World Series winning streak is the Yankees, who have had three streaks longer than Boston’s nine in a row.

Now we’ll see if the Sox can stretch it to 10 in a row in Game 2.

Given how carefully they treated the final seven innings after leaping out so quickly, the Cards are forewarned.

“We really wanted to step on their throat,” Ross said.

“You keep your foot on the gas pedal,” Victorino said. “And score as many runs as you can.”

Over those first two innings, according to ESPN Stats & Info, the Red Sox batted for a total of 38 minutes and 13 seconds … while the Cardinals batted for 8 minutes and 41 seconds.

But the relentless Red Sox weren’t about to leave anything to chance the rest of the night. There is no letdown with them, no half-speed. You can bet that when they got home, they worked themselves into a perfect night’s sleep. And in the morning, they will grind and grind that pepper mill over the perfect omelets.

“The game is the way it is,” Ortiz said. “I guarantee you, they’re going to play better tomorrow.”

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