Thursday, October 24, 2013

A Margin of Error: The St. Louis Amateur Hour and the Gift of Another Day

As the ball rested lifeless near their feet, pitcher Adam Wainwright and catcher Yadier Molina rested their hands on their knees in anguish. It was the easiest of outs, but mis-communication allowed the ball to plop dead between the battery. The Boston lead would grow in that inning from an unpleasant three runs to a daunting five. Before the night was through, the Cardinals would trail by as many as eight runs. The fall classic had begun in the form of a landslide for the home team. But while the Cardinals may have been beaten in an overwhelming fashion in game one, they still possess baseball's greatest gift- tomorrow.

If the Red Sox go on to sweep this series, that moment may be the lasting image of St. Louis's demise. But it was in the first inning where the game and the series took shape. With two on and one out, David Ortiz rolled a soft, routine ground ball to second base. Matt Carpenter fielded the ball cleanly and flipped it to shortstop Pete Kozma, who according to the initial umpire ruling, had lost the ball on the transition to his throwing hand. The televised replay showed quite the contrary, as Kozma never truly had possession of the ball. The full group of umpires gathered following Boston manager John Farrell's protest. The call was overturned. Instead of runners at first and third with two outs, the bases would be loaded with only one. If momentum exists in baseball, it was surely obtained by the Red Sox in that moment. A moment later, Mike Napoli crushed a double to deep left center, clearing the bases. With one out in the bottom of the first inning, Boston had all the runs they would need to support Jon Lester's brilliant pitching performance.

Longsuffering outfielder Carlos Beltran robbed Ortiz of a grand slam just minutes after the Wainwright-Molina misplay. In making the blowout-saving catch, Beltran collided with the right field wall, injuring himself in the process. He would be removed from the game. Beltran, who has been a postseason legend in his decade-plus of baseball, has never reached the pinnacle of his beloved sport. Now, with an injured rib, his ability to help his team reach the summit is doubtful.

The game was over mere moments after it had begun. Only a garbage-time home run from Matt Holliday against Ryan Dempster would prevent a shutout. It was the ninth-consecutive World Series victory for Boston.

On Wednesday morning, heads in Boston were held high. While it may have appeared to be a debilitating loss for the Cardinals, it was still game one. As the home team, Boston is supposed to win game one. Rookie wunderkind Michael Wacha takes the hill against 2002 World Series game-seven winner John Lackey in game two. While surely there are worried souls in Southern Missouri today, a win tonight would turn the tide heavily in the favor of St. Louis as the series turns to Busch Stadium.

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