Pete Kozma’s First-Inning Error a ‘Swing Moment’ in Red Sox’ Game 1 Win Over Sloppy Cardinals

Pete Kozma, Dustin PedroiaBOSTON — It didn’t take long for a “swing moment.”

John Farrell said prior to the Red Sox’ ALDS against the Rays that he expected a “swing moment” defensively. That moment came during the fourth inning of Game 1, when Wil Myers misplayed a fly ball to right field, the Red Sox struck for five runs en route to a 12-2 win and Boston advanced in four games. Along the way, a “My-ers! My-ers!” chant was born at Fenway Park.

The World Series is just getting started, but chants of “My-ers! My-ers!” are becoming a distant memory, while chants of “Koz-ma! Koz-ma!” are becoming the flavor of the week. That’s because Cardinals shortstop Pete Kozma made a costly error in the first inning of Wednesday’s Game 1 that helped put the Red Sox on a direct path to an 8-1 victory. It was — in Farrell’s words — a “swing moment.”

The Red Sox didn’t waste any time in getting to Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright on Wednesday. Jacoby Ellsbury worked a leadoff walk, and Dustin Pedroia singled into center field with one out to set up runners at first and second for David Ortiz. Ortiz hit what should have resulted in an inning-ending double play, but second baseman Matt Carpenter‘s toss to Kozma clanked off the shortstop’s glove. It was a rare miscue by a typically sure-handed infielder.

“We’ve really had a nice tight defense [this year], especially on our infield. Guys making plays and doing it on a consistent basis,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said after his team’s Game 1 loss. “And there’s no reason to accept anything less, and there’s no reason to expect anything less. … It’s just a matter of having a short memory and realizing that that’s not who we are, and fixing it as soon as possible.”

The Cardinals initially caught a break on the play, as second base umpire Dana DeMuth ruled that Kozma lost possession of the baseball while transferring to his throwing hand, thus resulting in a forceout at second base. It was clearly the wrong call, though, and the five other umpires came together with DeMuth to reverse the ruling on the field.

“I thought from the dugout view, it was pretty clear that that ball just tipped off the fingertips of his glove,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “I think we’re fully accepting of the neighborhood play, but my view is that it wasn’t even that. There was really no entry into the glove with the ball. And to their credit they did confer, and I think the one thing is we just strive to get the call correct. And I think based on their group conversation, surprisingly, to a certain extent, they overturned it and I think got the call right.”

The reversed call proved to be huge. Instead of Wainwright being out of the inning unscathed, the bases were loaded for Mike Napoli, and the red-hot slugger made it count. Napoli drove a ball into the left-center field gap that cleared the bases to give the Red Sox a 3-0 lead and all of the momentum in the series opener.

“It is a pretty big swing moment, even though you’re not fully expecting something like that in the first inning,” Farrell said of Kozma’s first-inning error. “Instead of it being a two‑out situation with runners on first and third, we’re in a bases‑loaded situation, where there’s not a whole lot of margin for error in terms of the strike zone, and the ability to possibly have Wainwright expand the zone on Napoli. Fortunately, he gets into a 2‑0 count and the three‑run double. It is a big moment, and we’re able to capitalize on the mistake.

“And I think we’ve seen that when you give a team extra outs, as good as the teams you’re going to play this late in the season, it can come back to haunt you.”

The Red Sox were a long way from the finish line after jumping ahead in the first inning, but Kozma’s error clearly changed the complexion of the game, as the Cardinals turned in some more uncharacteristic sloppy play in the second inning.

Stephen Drew led off the second inning with a seemingly harmless popup that dropped between Wainwright and catcher Yadier Molina. David Ross increased the threat with a single into center field, and Boston loaded the bases when Kozma made another error on a ground ball into the hole off the bat of Shane Victorino. Pedroia made it 4-0 with a ground ball to the left side that evaded an ugly sliding effort by David Freese, and Ortiz made it 5-0 with a sacrifice fly that actually would have been a grand slam had Carlos Beltran not reached over the bullpen wall to make a sensational catch.

Ortiz cleared the wall for a two-run homer in the seventh, and Xander Bogaerts added a sacrifice fly to make it 8-0 in the eighth, but Boston’s five runs over the first two innings were more than enough for Jon Lester, who dazzled for 7 2/3 shutout innings before exiting to a standing ovation.

“I think once again we were able to go into the game with our approach. I thought we had a lot of quality at‑bats that we were able to build some pitch counts against Wainwright,” Farrell said. “But whether we view this as three different series inside of one — a two‑game set, three over there and possibly two back here — always getting that first [win] out of the way is a good feeling to continue to try to build some momentum. But I thought we played a very good game all-around tonight.”

While the Red Sox feel good about opening up the Fall Classic with a seven-run victory in front of their home crowd, the Cardinals are left searching for answers. St. Louis sent its lights-out ace to the mound but came away empty-handed because of an all-around sloppy performance.

“We had a wakeup call,” Matheny said. “That is not the kind of team that we’ve been all season. And they’re frustrated. I’m sure embarrassed to a point. We get an opportunity to show the kind of baseball we played all season long, and it didn’t look anything like what we saw tonight. You’re going to have games like that periodically. But if you begin to accept that, then this could not really go anywhere.”

The Red Sox and Cardinals entered the World Series as two evenly matched teams. One game doesn’t change much, but St. Louis needs to clean things up in Game 2 to seize some of the momentum that swung in Boston’s favor in Game 1.

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

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