Carlos Beltran’s Injury a Reminder That Sports Can Be So Cruel and Other Notes From Game 1 of World Series

Carlos BeltranBOSTON — One team showed up for Game 1 ready to play baseball. The other looked like it was sleepwalking for nine innings.

The Red Sox trounced the Cardinals 8-1 in Game 1 of the World Series on Wednesday. Boston seized control from the start amid some poor defense by St. Louis, and it was pretty much over from there, as Jon Lester once again elevated his game on the big stage. The lefty tossed 7 2/3 shutout innings before exiting to a standing ovation at Fenway Park.

Mike Napoli delivered a three-run double in the win, and David Ortiz blasted a two-run homer in the seventh inning. But the game was highlighted by the Cardinals’ sloppy play.

St. Louis committed three errors in Game 1, with two coming from shortstop Pete Kozma. Kozma’s error in the first inning opened the door for Napoli’s bases-clearing double and really sent the opportunistic Red Sox in the right direction.

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny was unhappy with his team’s performance after the game, and understandably so. The Cards can’t stew on the defeat too long, though, as the two clubs will get right back at it at Fenway Park on Thursday.

John Lackey and Michael Wacha will take the ball in Game 2. But before shifting gears to that all-important contest, let’s tie up some loose ends from Game 1.

  • The Red Sox struck for three runs in the first inning, but it wasn’t before an interesting sequence of events.

Ortiz hit a ground ball to second base with runners at first and second and one out. It should have been an inning-ending double play, but Pete Kozma failed to catch Matt Carpenter‘s flip to second base. Initially, second base umpire Dana DeMuth ruled that Kozma dropped the ball while transferring it to his throwing hand, thus resulting in a forceout at second base. But that was clearly the wrong call, and fortunately for the Red Sox, the umpires came together to reverse DeMuth’s initial ruling.

Napoli followed with a three-run double into the left-center field gap.

“Bases loaded, I’m just trying to get the ball up in the air to the outfield in that situation,” Napoli said. “I got myself into a good hitter’s count, and got a pitch I can handle to drive out there.”

  • This marks Napoli’s second World Series, as he also played in the Fall Classic as a member of the Rangers in 2011.

Napoli hit .350 (7-for-20) with two home runs and 10 RBIs in that 2011 series, which the Rangers lost to the Cardinals in seven games. The 31-year-old isn’t focused on the past, though.

“No, not really. The main thing was trying to get back here,” Napoli said when asked if he thinks about 2011. “But I think it’s nice being able to play against them. They took a world championship away from me. But it doesn’t have anything to do with anything, just trying to win a World Series.”

Napoli has hit safely in seven of his eight career World Series games. He has hit safely in six World Series games in a row, matching Derek Jeter for the longest current streak among active players.

  • Napoli has a reputation of being someone who isn’t fazed by the heightened stakes of October baseball. In fact, he feeds off the situation.

“I love this stage. It’s in the spotlight. I really enjoy this time of year, I guess,” Napoli said after Game 1. “But it’s just going out there and getting the job done.”

  • If the Red Sox’ first-inning damage looked familiar, it’s because it was shades of 2007 and 2004.

The Red Sox scored three runs in the first inning of Game 1 of the 2007 World Series and scored four runs in the opening inning of Game 1 of the 2004 World Series.

All three Game 1’s were played at Fenway Park

  • Ortiz nearly connected on his second grand slam of the postseason, but Carlos Beltran made a sensational play to take it away.

Ortiz drove a ball toward the right field bullpens with the bases loaded in the second inning. Beltran raced back onto the warning track and banged into the wall while reaching over to rob Ortiz. As a result, the slugger was limited to a sacrifice fly.

  • Beltran, who smoked the wall on his great catch, initially stayed in the game, but he was later removed before the bottom of the third inning. Jon Jay entered and played center field while Shane Robinson shifted over to right field.

Beltran was diagnosed with a right rib contusion and was taken to a nearby hospital for X-rays. The X-rays came back negative, and according to Matheny, Beltran is day-to-day.

  • Beltran’s injury is further proof that sports can be so cruel.

Beltran waited 16 years for the opportunity to play in the World Series. And while he’ll be a game-time decision for Game 2 and perhaps beyond, it just seems unfair that he’ll be forced to play at well below 100 percent from here on out, especially given how well he has played in the postseason throughout his career.

Beltran is one of the best playoff performers in MLB history despite not making it to the World Series until this season. The 36-year-old hit .337 (55-for-163) with a .449 on-base percentage, 1.173 OPS, 16 homers and 37 RBIs in 45 career playoff games before Thursday’s Game 1.

The Cardinals have rallied around Beltran’s quest for a World Series all postseason, and now they’ll be rallying around a wounded right fielder — if he’s indeed able to play. We already saw in the NLCS how detrimental a rib injury can be, as Hanley Ramirez was far from his usual self while battling a hairline fracture.

Beltran’s 45 career playoff games before Game 1 had him tied with Tigers outfielder Torii Hunter for the most career postseason games played without appearing in a World Series game. Coincidentally, Hunter also crashed into the right field wall while attempting to chase down an Ortiz grand slam bid this postseason. Hunter, of course, was unsuccessful.

Beltran, who has played 2,064 regular-season games in his career, had ranked third behind Hunter (2,091) and Miguel Tejada (2,171) in games played among active players who have never appeared in a World Series game.

Beltran truly deserves an opportunity to play in the World Series. It’ll be a shame if he’s unable to continue in this series, or if he’s significantly hindered by his injury.

  • On the opposite end of the spectrum, Xander Bogaerts became the 17th-youngest position player in World Series history on Thursday.

Bogaerts, who turned 21 on Oct. 1., is the youngest player to play in a World Series game since 20-year-old Miguel Cabrera laced up the spikes for the Marlins back in 2003.

  • Ortiz eventually succeeded in clearing the right field fence in the seventh inning. He took rookie lefty Kevin Siegrist deep into the bullpen.

Siegrist, who posted a 0.45 ERA in 39 2/3 innings over 45 appearances during the regular season, hadn’t given up a home run to a left-handed hitter all year.

  • Ryan Dempster, like Beltran, appeared in his first career World Series game Wednesday. The 36-year-old right-hander gave up a solo homer to Matt Holliday in the ninth inning before nailing down Boston’s Game 1 victory
  • No matter what, a Canadian will earn a World Series ring this year. It’ll either be Dempster or Cardinals reliever John Axford, who struck out the side in the sixth inning of Game 1.

The last Canadian to win a World Series was Matt Stairs with the Phillies in 2008.

  • Lester became the first pitcher with seven or more scoreless innings in Game 1 of a World Series since Jose Rijo for the 1990 Reds against the Athletics.
  • John Farrell said after Game 1 that there’s no change to Clay Buchholz‘s status. The Red Sox skipper said that everything points to Buchholz pitching Game 4, which means that Jake Peavy will likely pitch Game 3.

Have a question for Ricky Doyle? Send it to him via Twitter at @TheRickyDoyle or send it here.

Click here for Game 1 photos >>

Click here for Boston.com’s World Series coverage >>

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