By Larry Fine
BOSTON (Reuters) – The Boston Red Sox took advantage of sloppy St. Louis Cardinals fielding with superb pitching and timely hitting to run away with Wednesday’s World Series opener 8-1 at chilly Fenway Park.
Red Sox starter Jon Lester threw 7-2/3 scoreless innings and was backed by a three-run double by Mike Napoli and a two-run blast over the rightfield wall by David “Big Papi” Ortiz.
Boston took advantage of a Cardinals’ comedy of errors early on to take a commanding lead in the game and seize a 1-0 advantage in the best-of-seven series.
“We had a wake-up call,” St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said. “That is not the kind of team that we’ve been all season. And they’re frustrated (and) I’m sure embarrassed to a point.”
The Red Sox scored three runs in the first inning on Napoli’s bases-loaded double off St. Louis starter Adam Wainwright, and two more runs in the second, helped in each inning by errors charged to shortstop Pete Kozma.
Ortiz poured it on with a booming two-run homer in the seventh in support of winning pitcher Lester, who deftly mixed his array of pitches in yielding only five hits and just one walk while striking out eight.
“I thought he and David (catcher Ross) did a very good job of getting his curveball in the mix … to create a little more separation in his pitches in terms of velocity,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell.
“Once he was able to establish that, I thought he had a very good cutter, particularly some backdoor cutters to some right handers.
“As he got deeper into the game, he got his change‑up in the mix a little more. Just a solid, solid outing by Jon.”
Matt Holliday finally put St. Louis on the scoreboard with a ninth-inning home run off reliever Ryan Dempster.
Losing pitcher Wainwright gave up five runs on six hits in five innings on the mound but only three were earned.
The pitcher contributed to the Cardinals’ sins in the field, allowing a harmless pop up to drop at his feet for a single to start Boston’s second-inning outburst in confusion with catcher Yadier Molina over who would catch the ball.
Boston capitalized on the Cards’ generosity with timely production as they outhit St. Louis by just 8-7.
The mishaps began in the first when Ortiz grounded to the second baseman with one out and men on first and second.
Matt Carpenter tossed the ball to shortstop Kozma for a force. Although the ball was dropped, the umpire called the runner out at second, ruling that the drop was due to transferring the ball from Kozma’s glove to throw.
After an argument from the Boston manager, the umpires conferred and changed the call to safe at second and Kozma was charged with an error. With the bags loaded, Napoli ripped a bases-clearing double to left-center for a 3-0 lead.
The pop up by Stephen Drew that fell comically between Wainwright and Molina for a silly single began a second-inning rally that included another error by Kozma that loaded the bases.
Pedroia singled in one run and even more damage was dodged when Ortiz was robbed of a grand slam by rightfielder Carlos Beltran, who reached over the wall to deny him, although a run scored on the sacrifice fly.
Beltran left the game due to a rib injury and was taken to hospital for tests. He was later considered as day-to-day.
Lester set the Cardinals down quietly save for a serious threat in the fourth inning.
A walk and singles by Allen Craig and Molina loaded the bases with one out and brought 2011 World Series MVP David Freese to the plate.
Freese tapped weakly back to Lester, who threw home and catcher Ross fired to first to complete a 1-2-3 double play.
St. Louis got runners on second and third with two outs in the fifth but Lester escaped again when he got John Jay, who replaced the injured Beltran, on a grounder to short.
Game Two of the best-of-seven series is scheduled for Thursday in Boston with John Lackey starting for the Red Sox against rookie sensation Michael Wacha for St. Louis.