WS Game 1: Back to the Big Dance
by Charlie Blasberg on Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013
We’ve seen this story before. The 1967 “Impossible Dream” crew has been reincarnated this year. Under the new leadership of manager Dick Williams, the ’67 squad bounced back from a 72-90 season in 1966 (not quite as bad as our Red Sox of last year, but still horrendous) to give the Sox their first winning season since 1958. They claimed to American League pennant by edging out none other but the Detroit Tigers and went on to face (yup, you guessed it) the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series. Of course, the Cardinals went on to win the famous 1967 series four games to three, but tonight, our Red Sox of 2013, who are not constrained by dark magic in the form of the Curse of the Bambino, extended their World Series winning streak to nine games.
Lester pitched lights out. People will say that the Cardinals’ bats were dead after four days without a game; people will say that the loss of Carlos Beltran in the second inning restricted the Cardinals’ offense. The fact of the matter is that Jon Lester pitched an absolute jewel tonight. He gave the birds nothing to hit. This does not come as a surprise; these Cardinals have had severe difficulties facing lefty starting pitchers. In the regular season, they ranked 20th in the majors with a record of 19-23 against left-handed starters, and their woes have continued throughout the postseason. The Cards have made up for their weakness against lefties by crushing righties, as seen in the ninth inning Matt Carpenter home run off righty Ryan Dempster. This poses a clash of titans, when the red-hot and right-handed John Lackey (3-0 this postseason) takes the mound tomorrow night.
Tonight, the Red Sox deserved to win, and the Cardinals simply did not. No Major League team can commit three errors and expect to win the game. It just doesn’t happen, especially not on this stage. The Red Sox did what they have done all year when their opponents made mistakes: they capitalized. Seven of the Red Sox’ eight runs came in innings prolonged by errors. Their timely hitting, which was apparent in the ALCS against Detroit, came through tonight, though they didn’t wait until the late innings to deliver it. Three runs in the first innings and two in second gave Lester a nice cushion (he didn’t need it) to work with, and it kept the Fenway Faithful from the late-game sweats, shivers, or heart attacks that kept reappearing in the series against Detroit. Score early and score often. That has been the key for the Red Sox’ offense for the entire season. With many threats on the base path, these Sox can hit and run, sacrifice, and steal to manufacture runs, whereas in years past they relied on the pure power of the bats. This method of scrounging up runs was evident tonight as the Sox reached base in a variety of fashions, just as it has worked throughout the regular season (they scored a whopping 853 runs).
Tomorrow night, the Red Sox look to improve their record at home this postseason to 5-1. They saw two of the three best right-handers in the game in the ALCS in Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander, and they will see the third ace tomorrow night, as the young Michael Wacha takes the mound for St. Louis. As displayed tonight, the Red Sox have considerable success against righties. The lefties in the Red Sox’ lineup combined for an average of over .300 against righties this regular season. Though I could write about statistics all night, I would look for a game full of redemption tomorrow night. The Red Sox on the “road to redemption.” The Cardinals hoping to redeem themselves after a horrendous defeat tonight. Mike Napoli redeeming himself for a World Series MVP trophy that was taken from his grasp in 2011. Carlos Beltran (if he plays) redeeming himself after missing an onslaught of his teammates. October always brings drama, so I’ll spare you any predictions on the outcome. However, game 2 will be much more of a ballgame than Game 1. I can assure you that.
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