Adam Wainwright had been nearly unbeatable during his first three starts of the postseason. In his fourth, the Boston Red Sox tagged him for five runs before the end of the second inning.
Buoyed by an early offensive explosion and a stellar start from Jon Lester, the Red Sox defeated the St. Louis Cardinals, 8-1, to take Game 1 of the World Series on Wednesday night.
Before a jam-packed, raucous crowd at Fenway Park, the Boston offense wasted little time getting to Wainwright in the first inning, who was making the first World Series start of his career.
Jacoby Ellsbury walked, Dustin Pedroia singled two batters later, and then David Ortiz reached on an error by shortstop Pete Kozma to load the bases with one out. Mike Napoli then cleared the bases with a double deep to center field, giving the Red Sox a 3-0 lead before their second out of the inning.
Wainwright got through the rest of the first unscathed, but was noticeably struggling with his command. He got behind early in counts, throwing first-pitch balls to six batters within the first two frames. That again allowed Boston to get to him in the second, opening the inning with an infield single by Stephen Drew on a miscommunication between Wainwright and Yadier Molina.
Boston then loaded the bases again after a David Ross single and another error by Kozma. Dustin Pedroia knocked Drew home with a single to left field, setting up a play that could have long-term implications for the remainder of the series.
Had it not been for Carlos Beltran, Boston would have taken an 8-0 lead far earlier. David Ortiz nearly hit a grand slam following Pedroia's RBI single, but Beltran robbed the home run by reaching over the right-center field fence near the bullpen to bring it back.
Although Beltran's play prevented a complete blowout so early in the contest, the 36-year-old injured his ribs on the play after banging hard into the fence. He was taken to a local hospital to undergo further evaluation, and is reportedly day-to-day after X-rays and the CT scan were negative.
The Cardinals, who saw the return of cleanup hitter Allen Craig to the lineup from a foot injury that sidelined him since early September, cannot be without his outfield teammate for long. Beltran was hitting .256 in the postseason with two home runs and a team-high 12 RBI prior going into the contest. His replacement in Game 1, Jon Jay, was only hitting .200 prior to the Fall Classic, recording as many strikeouts as base hits (seven).
Ortiz would get his revenge in the seventh inning, knocking a two-run homer to the same spot in which Beltran previously robbed him, to make it 7-0 Boston. The Red Sox's heart of the lineup combined to go 5-for-11 and drove in seven of the club's eight runs.
John Farrell and the Sox could not have asked for much more from Lester Wednesday night. The left-hander, who lost Game 1 of the ALCS by giving up a lone run in 6.1 innings, left nothing to chance this time around.
Showing command of nearly all of his pitches, Lester flummoxed the high-powered Cardinals lineup with a fastball that stayed in the mid-90s the entire night and sawing off hitters when he got into jams. The Red Sox ace retired nine of the first 10 batters he faced, watching on as his offense gave him a considerable lead to work with.
And when Lester got himself into a bit of trouble in the fourth and fifth innings, but he found a way to battle his way out. The Cardinals loaded the bases in the fourth with a walk from Jay and consecutive hits from Craig and Molina, but David Freese ended the inning by hitting a grounder right to Lester, who started off the rare 1-2-3 double play.
An inning later, Jay ended a potential rally by grounding out to shortstop with runners on second and third. It would be the last time St. Louis had a chance to get within striking distance. Lester retired the final nine batters he faced before giving way to the bullpen. He gave up only five hits, no runs and struck out eight over 7.2 innings.
The two sides will be back at Fenway on Thursday for Game 2. St. Louis will rely on NLCS MVP Michael Wacha to even the series and regain critical momentum. Wacha has allowed just one run in his past four starts, and he's given up two or fewer hits in three of those outings.
The Red Sox will counter with John Lackey, who out-dueled Justin Verlander in Game 3 of the ALCS. Lackey has been excellent at home all year, compiling a 6-3 record with a 2.47 ERA during the regular season.
|Matt Carpenter 2B||C-|
|Carlos Beltran RF||B-|
|Matt Holliday LF||B|
|Allen Craig DH||C-|
|Yadier Molina C||C|
|David Freese 3B||D|
|Matt Adams 1B||D|
|Shane Robinson CF-RF||C-|
|Pete Kozma SS||F|
|Jon Jay Sub||C-|
|Adam Wainwright SP||C-|
|John Axford RP||B+|
|Randy Choate RP||C+|
|Seth Maness RP||C|
|Kevin Siegrist RP||D|
|Carlos Martinez RP||C-|
|Jacoby Ellsbury CF||B|
|Shane Victorino RF||D|
|Dustin Pedroia 2B||A-|
|David Ortiz DH||A|
|Matt Napoli 1B||A-|
|Jonny Gomes LF||D|
|Xander Bogaerts 3B||D|
|Stephen Drew SS||C+|
|David Ross C||B-|
|Daniel Nava Sub||B|
|Jon Lester SP||A|
|Junichi Tazawa RP||B-|
|Ryan Dempster RP||C-|
Co-Players of the Game: Jon Lester and David Ortiz
Normally it's proper to eschew giving out co-POTG honors, but Lester and Ortiz were both too outstanding to ignore.
Ortiz was a couple feet to the left, right or center away from a potentially historic evening. He went 2-for-3 with three RBI, two runs scored and a walk. His only blemish at the dish was the second-inning robbery by Beltran, which was ultimately meaningless within the context of this game.
More importantly, Big Papi finally looks locked back in. Coming off a series in which he went 2-for-22, Ortiz's stellar night was perhaps more promising than anything for Boston.
Then there's Jon Lester. Much maligned last season as he went from future ace to potential trade bait, the 29-year-old lefty may have earned himself an extension with his play in October. He's given up only five runs through 27 postseason innings, allowing just over a baserunner per inning.
These first two games were and are critical for both squads. The Cardinals' shaky back half of their rotation was an Achilles' heel coming into the series, with Lance Lynn and Joe Kelly combining for just one quality start between them these playoffs. With Lester's excellent performance, Boston has made a huge statement with Wainwright out of the way.
On Thursday, it's Wacha. Let's see what the Red Sox have in store for the youngster.
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