In baseball, there are supposed to be 27 outs—and only 27 outs. In the opening game of the World Series, the St. Louis Cardinals gave the Boston Red Sox more than a few extras.
It's never good, of course, to do that. In Game 1 of the Fall Classic, it's even worse, especially when it's more like four or five extra outs. And when the opposing team was merely the top offense in all of Major League Baseball this season, well, you get the idea.
The Cardinals were certainly in a giving mood Wednesday night, and the Red Sox hitters took advantage of the many defensive miscues in winning 8-1.
From the St. Louis point of view, that score is as ugly as the club's play in the field at Fenway Park, which started off on the wrong foot immediately. Out of the gate, starter Adam Wainwright, who issued just 35 walks in his 34 starts during the season, gave a free pass to Boston center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury.
Only two batters later, things took a serious turn for the worse. David Ortiz hit a soft grounder to second baseman Matt Carpenter, who flipped to the usually sure-handed Pete Kozma to start a potential double play. Except Kozma failed to catch the ball cleanly on the turn.
In what was a major turning point in the game, the play—initially called an out at second base by umpire Dana DeMuth—actually was reversed after the umpire crew conferred at the behest of Red Sox manager John Farrell.
Instead of runners on first and third with two outs—besides the fact that they could have been out of the inning had the double play been completed—the Cardinals were in a bases-loaded, one-out situation with Mike Napoli up.
Boston's first baseman made St. Louis pay in a big way with a line-drive double to left-center field that scored all three runs. Even Ortiz, aided by center fielder Shane Robinson's bobble, managed to rumble his way home all the way from first base.
All told, that made it 3-0 after the first inning. Obviously not the way St. Louis had planned on starting out its push for a 13th World Series title.
The comedy of errors continued into the bottom of the second inning. The first batter, Stephen Drew, hit a lazy can of corn that Wainwright initially called for, only to let the ball drop as catcher Yadier Molina came into the picture late.
So again, instead of one out with nobody on base, St. Louis had to play the infield at double-play depth, which caused Carpenter to come up just short on a leaping attempt to catch David Ross' soft flare behind second base.
One out later and after another error by Kozma, this time on a Shane Victorino grounder in the hole, the bases were again loaded. From there, third baseman David Freese let a Dustin Pedroia chopper get by him on a play that could have been made (or at least knocked down), and the fourth Red Sox run came in.
The bases remained loaded—still with only one out—as Ortiz stepped up to the batter's box, probably the last guy Wainwright and the Cards wanted to see in that spot. The lefty slugger smashed a deep fly to right field that looked like it would be eerily similar to his tying grand slam in Game 2 of the ALCS, only Carlos Beltran made a sensational over-the-wall grab to rob Ortiz of four RBI.
Instead, only one run scored on what turned out to be a very (very) deep sacrifice fly. Still, that made it 5-0, and even though it was only two innings in, it felt like the Cardinals had dug themselves into too deep of a hole.
Ironically enough, even Beltran's gem wound up hurting St. Louis—and him. The right fielder had to exit the game due to a bruised rib and was taken to a local hospital for evaluation. His status for the rest of the series is uncertain, according to Adam McCalvy of MLB.com.
Later, in the bottom of the seventh, after things had seemed to settle down some and the score was still at 5-0, a Freese throwing error with two outs allowed Ortiz to come to the plate. This time, he hit one that went over the wall and stayed over the wall.
By that point, at 7-0 through seven, the outcome was all but written in stone.
In all, the Cardinals made three errors—two in the first two innings by Kozma, who had made just nine all season—but also a couple of other misplays that won't show up in the box score.
"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," said Farrell during his postgame press conference.
The Cardinals are far from the best defensive team in baseball. Their team Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) was minus-49.4, and their Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) was minus-39, which were fourth-worst and ninth-worst in MLB, per FanGraphs. (By comparison, the Red Sox's 21.6 UZR was 10th-best, and their 9 DRS was 13th.) And among their usual starting position players, only Kozma and Molina are considered above-average or plus defenders. Normally, anyway.
This sort of performance with their gloves, however, was rather surprising considering the Cards ranked second in the National League in fielding percentage and had made only three errors in their first 11 postseason contests coming into the World Series. In other words, they've shown the ability to make plays on the balls they do get to, for the most part.
That was anything but the case in Game 1, and the Red Sox have the kind of talented, patient and deep lineup that is simply too good and too damaging when afforded even one extra out, let alone a handful.
"You just have to let [mistakes] go," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said afterward, according to Phil Rogers of MLB.com. "We've had them before. It's just a matter of having a short memory and realizing that that's not who we are and fixing it as soon as possible."
Indeed, the Cardinals need to put this one behind them ASAP, because on Thursday night, they have to go out and get 27 outs all over again.