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MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL

It's business as unusual for the shaky St. Louis Cardinals

The Cardinals played uncharacteristically bad defense in Game 1. Don't expect that to continue.

October 23, 2013|By A.J. Ellis | Special for The Times
  • St. Louis' Pete Kozma drops the ball as the Red Sox's Dustin Pedroia slides into second base during Game 1 of the World Series on Wednesday.
St. Louis' Pete Kozma drops the ball as the Red Sox's Dustin Pedroia… (Elsa / Getty Images )

Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis will be offering his analysis throughout the World Series. Ellis, 32, recently completed his second full season as a starter for the Dodgers by batting .333 in a National League division series against the Atlanta Braves and .316 in the NL Championship Series against the St. Louis Cardinals. Ellis is familiar with the Boston Red Sox, a team the Dodgers faced during the regular season.

"Are you more nervous before a playoff game than a regular season game?"

That was probably the most-asked question I received from friends and family during the Dodgers' postseason run. As the National League West title became inevitable, I basically had the month of September to mentally prepare for the goose bumps and nail-biting excitement I was sure would come.

As a first-time playoff participant, I was able to ask some veterans and World Series champions in our clubhouse for advice about handling the nerves. The best advice I received was to embrace and enjoy every moment I could. I had put in all the work I could, from spring training throughout the 162-game grind, and it was time to relish what it is we play for.

BOX SCORE: Boston 8, St. Louis 1

The toughest part of the day wasn't the nervousness of actually playing. It was the anxiety of waiting for the game to begin. All the pregame preparation did seem to take longer than usual and the wait for batting practice, especially when playing on the road, felt endless. However, once I went out on the field and starting warming up the starting pitcher, it felt routine.

I'm sure the wait for an 8:07 p.m. first pitch felt like an eternity for the Red Sox and Cardinals. But besides the droves of media members, the celebrities along the front rows and pregame introductions, it will be business as usual for these professionals.

Player(s) of the game

In a battle of World Series-tested aces, Jon Lester dominated the National League's best lineup with a full assortment of pitches. His backdoor cutter to the righties was especially effective and he and catcher David Ross were on the same page all night.

Dustin Pedroia, one of the toughest outs in baseball, had two big two-strike hits to key Red Sox rallies in the first and second innings.

PHOTOS: Red Sox defeat Cardinals, 8-1

Turning point(s)

Leading off the bottom of the first inning, Jacoby Ellsbury worked Adam Wainwright to a full count. Wainwright decided to throw a 3-2 curveball that wasn't even close. In that situation it is really important to challenge the leadoff hitter, particularly an elite base stealer, and not allow a table-setter to get on via a walk.

Lester loaded the bases in the fourth but was able to induce a 1-2-3 double play to get out of the inning unscathed and keep any momentum the Cardinals desperately needed from happening.

Extra bases

It was really impressive to see the umpires come together in the first inning and overturn a force-out call at second base. The crew huddled and knew what was important — get the call right, and they did.

The Cardinals played uncharacteristically bad defense in Game1. Don't expect that to continue, especially from shortstop Pete Kozma, who was charged with two errors. He is an elite glove man who makes all the plays.

David Ortiz had done his homework. He was sitting dead red on the first-pitch fastball from Kevin Siegrist and deposited it over the right-field wall. Big Papi had a rough patch facing lefties a few years back, but former Red Sox and current Dodger Adrian Gonzalez helped him simplify his game plan versus southpaws.

Game 2 preview

Rookie playoff superstar and Dodgers nemesis Michael Wacha will take the ball for the Cardinals in Game 2. You can expect a cleaner game from the Redbirds and hopefully they get Carlos Beltran back in lineup after bruising his ribs on a grand slam-saving catch. The Red Sox will counter will John Lackey, who has a strong playoff and World Series resume of his own. The Cardinals will have to salvage a split to feel like they are still alive in the series.

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