By Ben Walker
BOSTON: Given a bit of help by the umpires and a lot more by the Cardinals, the Boston Red Sox turned this World Series opener into a laugher.
Mike Napoli hit a three-run double right after the umps reversed a blown call, Jon Lester made an early lead stand up and the Red Sox romped past sloppy St. Louis 8-1 Wednesday night for their ninth consecutive Series win.
David Ortiz was robbed of a grand slam by Carlos Beltran — a catch that sent the star right fielder to a hospital with bruised ribs — but Big Papi later hit a two-run homer following third baseman David Freese’s bad throw.
The Red Sox also capitalized on two errors by shortstop Pete Kozma to extend a Series winning streak that began when they swept St. Louis in 2004. Boston never trailed at any point in those four games and, thanks to this embarrassing display by the Cardinals, coasted on a rollicking night at Fenway Park.
It got so bad for St. Louis that the sellout crowd literally laughed when pitcher Adam Wainwright and catcher Yadier Molina, who’ve combined to win six Gold Gloves, let an easy popup drop untouched between them.
Serious-minded St. Louis manager Mike Matheny didn’t find anything funny, especially when the umpires huddled in the first inning and flipped a call by Dana DeMuth at second base.
The six-man crew correctly ruled that Kozma had not caught a soft toss from second baseman Matt Carpenter on a slow grounder by Ortiz. A season before Major League Baseball employs full replay, fans got to see a wrong get righted.
“There’s five of us out here, OK? And all five of us agreed 100 percent that it wasn’t a catch. Our job is to get it right,” crew chief John Hirschbeck told Matheny on audio played on the Fox telecast.
The normally slick-fielding Cardinals looked sloppy at every turn. Wainwright bounced a pickoff throw, Molina let a pitch skitter off his mitt, center fielder Shane Robinson bobbled the carom on Napoli’s double and there was a wild pitch.
The Cardinal Way? More like no way.
Game 2 is tonight, with 22-year-old rookie sensation Michael Wacha starting for St. Louis against John Lackey. Wacha is 3-0 with an 0.43 ERA this postseason.
Lester blanked the Cardinals on five hits over 7⅔ innings for his third win this postseason. Ryan Dempster gave up Matt Holliday’s leadoff home run in the ninth.
Boston brought the beards, but it was a most hairy night for St. Louis. The Cardinals wrecked themselves with just their second three-error game of the season.
The umpires made a mistake, too, but at least they got to fix it in a hurry.
After the control-conscious Wainwright walked leadoff man Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia singled him to second with one out.
Ortiz then hit a slow grounder to Carpenter, and it didn’t appear the Cardinals could turn a double play. Hurrying, Kozma let the backhanded flip glance off his glove.
DeMuth instantly called Pedroia out, indicating that Kozma dropped the ball while trying to transfer it to his throwing hand. Boston manager John Farrell quickly popped out of the dugout to argue while Pedroia went to the bench.
Farrell argued with every umpire he could and must have made a persuasive case. As the fans hollered louder and louder as they studied TV replays, all the umpires gathered on the dirt near shortstop and conferred and decided there was no catch at all.
Pedroia came bounding from the dugout and suddenly, the bases were loaded in the first. Napoli unloaded them with a double that rolled to the Green Monster in left-center.
Napoli certainly picked up where he left off the last time he saw the Cardinals in October. In the 2011 Series, he hit .350 with two home runs and 10 RBI as Texas lost in seven games to St. Louis.