Red Sox catcher David Ross tugs on the beard of designated hitter David Ortiz… (Charles Krupa / Associated…)
BOSTON — This really did not matter much to the Dodgers. They did not qualify for the World Series, and the effort put forth on behalf of the National League was not their concern.
To the fans of the Dodgers, however, this was a jolly good evening.
After a week of hearing ad nauseam about how the St. Louis Cardinals played the game the right way — the Cardinal way, if you will — Dodgers fans could take solace in the way the Cardinals played in Game 1 of the World Series.
If, that is, the Dodgers fans could stop laughing.
PHOTOS: Red Sox defeat Cardinals, 8-1
There is no polite way to say this: The Cardinals embarrassed themselves in the first two innings. They resembled a major league club thereafter, but by then the Boston Red Sox were well on their way to an 8-1 victory.
“I don't think it could have gone stranger,” Cardinals second baseman Matt Carpenter said, “or any worse.”
By the time the Cardinals had gotten five outs, the Red Sox had five runs. The Cardinals had been charged with two errors by then, plus a third that the official scorer generously reversed, not to mention the pop fly that dropped between the pitcher and catcher for a gift single.
BOX SCORE: Boston 8, St. Louis 1
“I don't think it was jitters,” St. Louis starter Adam Wainwright said. “I don't know what happened.”
How did the Cardinals blunder? Let us count the ways.
Wainwright, the cool veteran ace chosen to start Game 1 over rookie sensation and NL Championship Series MVP Michael Wacha, walked Boston leadoff batter Jacoby Ellsbury. Oops.
The word used most often in the Cardinals' clubhouse after the game was “uncharacteristic.” The walk to Ellsbury certainly was, considering Wainwright had faced 83 batters in the first two rounds of the playoffs and walked — you got it — one.
But after a fly ball and a single, the uncharacteristic was momentarily replaced by the weird.
David Ortiz grounded to second baseman Carpenter. Force at second for sure, maybe a double play, but Carpenter made a wide throw and shortstop Pete Kozma missed what initially appeared to be a catch. Kozma was charged with the error, and the Red Sox had the bases loaded.
Kozma thought he had caught enough of the ball to be credited with the catch, given the runner sliding into second base. The weird part was that umpire Dana DeMuth agreed, only to be overruled — not by replay, but by a caucus of all six umpires.
Neither manager could recall such a play, certainly not in October.
“It's a pretty tough time to debut that overruled call in the World Series,” Cardinals Manager Mike Matheny said.
Next up: Mike Napoli, whose double would have driven in two runs on its own. But, when center fielder Shane Robinson misplayed the ball — initially an error, later reversed — the Sox got three runs out of it.
“That's what great hitters do,” Wainwright said. “They hit horrible pitches hard.”
One jittery inning, sure. But two?
The second inning started with what appeared to be a harmless pop fly. Catcher Yadier Molina called for the ball. So did Wainwright. It dropped between the two — scored a single, not an error.
After a single and a fly ball, Shane Victorino hit a grounder to Kozma.
Kozma, the epitome of the good-field, no-hit shortstop, made three errors in the Cardinals' seven-game NLCS loss last October. He made another here, the second in his first two innings of World Series competition, and the Red Sox had the bases loaded.
They scored two runs, on a single and a sacrifice fly (nearly a grand slam). Five outs in, five runs down, and those polished, poised Cardinals were shell-shocked.
Carpenter could not believe how that reversed call changed the tenor of the game. What might have been a double play to end the inning turned into the inning that would not end.
“A play like that happens, and it can kind of unravel the inning,” Carpenter said. “You can't stop the bleeding until you're down 5-0.
“It was getting away from us before we could figure out how to stop it.”
For this evening, the proprietors of the Cardinal way had no way out.