World Series Preview/Game One Wrap-Up

worldseries1

Good afternoon.

One of the perks thrills advantages listed features of traveling by Megabus is that they offer a WiFi connection on all bus routes. You can use this to browse the web, watch something on Netflix, or (if you’re a minor league baseball columnist) write out your World Series Preview before the actual World Series happens. HOWEVER, what often happens is that your computer, as well as any other device you’ve brought with you, fails to access the (supposedly) public WiFi network, leaving you figuratively in the dark. (Literally, if it’s a night ride)

What this means to you? It means that I was unable to actually get a World Series article cranked out before the World Series started. Hopefully, you’ll forgive me; I tried to write without the Internet, but was lost as soon as I realized I couldn’t identify St. Louis’s starting short stop (Pete Kozma, for those interested. I can understand if this is a sore subject for Cardinals fans, but we’ll get into that OH so shortly), or what Jonny Gomes’s numbers were with runners in scoring position. (I still don’t, FYI, because I’m doing this by the seat of my pants.) Consequently, I’ll just sum up my preview in the paragraph below:

HolyballswhosgoingtowinthisthinghBeltranneedsaringsomethingaboutcheeseBigPapiblerghblahblahUeharaisthebestclosersinceslicedbreadthebenchisterrifyinginStLouisguh Boston in Seven Games

There. Now.

Game One Wrap-Up

I actually got to watch a good portion of this live at a bar in downtown Dayton, so I’m prepared to speak eloquently about (at the very least) the first half of the game, before I left. By the time I was leaving, however, the game was effectively over.

Which brings us to the main point from last night’s game:

In high stakes baseball, mistakes are amplified to the nth degree.

Pete Kozma, the erstwhile shortstop for St. Louis, committed two costly errors in the first two innings, the first by failing to squeeze the ball on a reception at 2nd base, thereby removing any chance of a double-play groundout by Ortiz and loading the bases for Mike Napoli’s double play, and the second by muffing a Shane Victorino ground ball. It’s impossible to quantify exactly what those two plays would have done in terms of outs for the Cardinals, but it’s hard to think that they would have gotten anything less than a double play on the first instance and possibly one on the second. Those are the kinds of mistakes that are nigh impossible to overcome, especially when…

Jon Lester pitched like an ace last night.

His first four strikeouts were with his nasty nasty cutter. It was so effective that when he threw a 2-strike curveball to Matt Holliday, the St. Louis outfielder looked like he was swinging at the space debris from Gravity (TOPICAL?). Lester has won Boston’s past two World Series wins, dating back to their clincher in Colorado in 2007. Since then, he has become Boston’s bona fide ace, and the first starter to hold his opponent scoreless in Game One of the Series since Jose Rijo in 1990. (Sorry to dredge up statistics from everywhere else, but it’s a reference to the Reds. Specifically, a World Series that they won. I HAD TO.)

In contrast, Adam Wainwright didn’t pitch badly at all. If anything, he should also have had a shut-out going through six innings. However, those small mistakes (alright, HUGE) from the first and second inning dug him into a hole that he could not get out of. It wasn’t enough that Carlos Beltran made an amazing play in the 2nd, turning a grand slam by Ortiz into a sac fly. The damage had already been done by that point; when the opposing team’s ace is throwing unhittable space junk with a 5-0 lead, the psychological blow is incredibly hard to overcome. Wainwright will pitch better in days to come, but with an added go-round against his pitching, Boston might have an advantage. (They weren’t doing too badly last night, particularly Ortiz and Pedroia, the cogs that make the line-up go.

Speaking of important pieces…

Carlos Beltran’s injury could be extremely heartbreaking.

It’s not often you get to rob one of the best postseason players of the century of a grand-slam that would blow the game open. It’s not often you get to try and succeed where another player came up short less than a week ago (See Hunter, Torii.). Beltran did make that catch, however, showing some of his defensive prowess, though it did result in a sacrifice fly for Big Papi. Unfortunately, he left the game after the inning, and was taken to the local hospital for x-rays and CAT scans (both of which were thankfully negative). He now has been diagnosed as day-to-day with a severe rib bruise, instead of a contusion. (For those media nerds, that’s the injury that Robert Redford’s character had in the final scenes of The Natural. And you all know what happened there.)

Beltran is not the engine driving the Cardinal’s line-up, though they’re already pushing to replace Allan Craig’s hobbled presence, shortening their bench. Moreso, the team has rallied around Beltran’s lack of a ring in recent weeks, and he is the de-facto emotional leader of the clubhouse. Those kind of intangibles can’t be quantified in October, as they take on their own form of meaning. There are three paths that this injury (if Beltran is forced to miss time) could take: 1, that the team plays on as it has, with no discernible impact; 2, that the loss of their leader devastates the team, the hole in the line-up is noticeable, and the offense sputters and dies on the vine against Boston pitching; or 3, that the team rallies, surging forward stronger than ever, burning down Fenway Park in their fury and unleashing a new age of Cardinal dynasty on the world.

Personally, I think Scenario 1 is most likely. These are professional gentlemen, with a strong leadership core built around Yadier Molina, Wainwright, and Matt Holliday who will hold that team full of youngsters together. It does hurt to lose a teammate with a lifetime postseason batting average of .337, 16 home runs, 37 RBI, and 44 runs scored in 46 games. Because holy pants.

On the other team…

Big Papi is hitting like it’s 2007

With his home run in the 7th inning last night, Big Papi tied Beltran with 16 postseason homeruns, while raising his RBI total to 57 in 77 postseason games. Ortiz’s bat had come up somewhat empty in the ALCS, aside from that game-tying grand slam, so it was nice for Boston to see Ortiz go 2-3 with two extremely well hit balls (almost 3-4, except for Mr. Beltran). Not only is Ortiz hitting, but Pedroia was lacing singles all around the field and Mike Napoli came up big, as he did so often in 2011 for the Texas Rangers. Victorino and Jacoby Ellsbury, the two pieces at the top of the line-up, came up short aside from a single walk from Ellsbury, but they’ve both been here before and are likely to come around again. They’ll be going against phenom Michael Wacha tonight, after his receiving the NLCS MVP award following two scoreless starts against the Dodgers. If anyone on the Redbirds’ staff is likely to throw the Sox hitters into conniptions, it’ll be Wacha.

On the other side, many of St. Louis’s hitters looked to be out of sorts. Aside from Holliday’s home run, no Cardinals hitter went beyond 1st base on their own power (a baffling error by Jonny Gomes was the only contributor to any hand-wringing by Boston fans last night, though Lester overcame that swiftly). The Cards have a better shot against John Lackey tonight, though that isn’t as much of a sure shot as it was in years past. If I were a gambling man (and I’m not, let’s be clear), tonight would seem to be a night to make a statement game by the Cards while Beltran heals on the sideline. On the opposite side, Boston hasn’t lost a World Series game since 1986, and would like to keep that streak going.

It’s the playoffs, baby. Gotta love it.

Travis J. Cook

Travis J. Cook

Travis J. Cook is the Editor-in-Chief and one of the original founders of the Addison Recorder. He writes about baseball, movies, and music, among other topics. He resides in a hole in the ground near Wrigley Field.

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