Ladies and gentlemen, the St. Louis Cardinals are in the danger zone in the 2013 World Series. On Wednesday night, the Redbirds were coldly introduced to the horrors of playoff baseball in a park famous for making visiting teams show their ugliest color. Right from the outset of Game 1, bad things were in store. Bad defense, subpar pitching and a lack of the big hit kept the Cards from breaking out on top early. The rest was sad to see. Just in case you had the pleasure of not watching last night’s game, allow me to tell you what happened and why we lost Game 1.
Adam Wainwright Doesn’t Bring His A Game
It happens more often than people give his stat line credit for. Lately, Adam Wainwright had found a way to escape his worst inning, the 1st frame, without much damage. Last night, things weren’t going well for our ace pitcher. His curve ball didn’t have the bite it usually had. The cutter was out of the strike zone. His mistakes came on his fastball up in the zone and on bad changeups. Waino wasn’t bad last night but he was far from sharp and got beat up. Out of all the hits given up, Mike Napoli’s three run double was the hardest hit. Others were seeing eye singles through the holes or bloop hits. If madness had a name, The Cardinals found it and don’t forget, the rough pitching of Waino was the start. He could have exited the game without throwing 95 pitches but since Shelby Miller is missing yet on the roster, the Cards would have further exposed their bullpen if Waino hadn’t made it out of 5 innings. Waino’s runs allowed weren’t all earned, but if you asked him, he will take responsibility for all of them. He couldn’t get a patient Red Sox lineup to bite on any of his pitches so he had to come to them and the results weren’t pretty.
Bad Defense Blues Strike
In my blog yesterday, I picked the Cards in 7 but I pointed out that the one thing that could hold them back or make them fail is their bad defense. In nearly every category, the Cards ranked near the bottom in defense in 2013. The Red Sox play solid defense and don’t make too many errors. The Cards are capable of shooting themselves in the foot. Last night, it happened early. Pete Kozma is a pretty good defensive shortstop and may be our best choice at shortstop but he had a horrible night. He didn’t get a hit but he allowed a few runs to be possible with his defense. With a runner on base, David Ortiz hit a ground ball to a shifted infield and Matt Carpenter fielded the ball. Kozma, forgetting where he was, moved to his left first and then had to back up to the second base bag. Kozma received a weak toss from Carpenter and dropped it. The second base umpire ruled the runner out but after a discussion with the fellow umpires, the ruling was reversed. Two on and only 1 out. Eventually, the bases got jammed and cleared by Napoli’s shot into left center. In the regular season, you can make errors and survive a game. Here, in this game, in Boston in the World Series, an error can break a ball game in half and futility can define your game for the night. The Cards couldn’t overcome bad luck, bad plays and bad pitching last night and lost miserably. In the 3rd inning, a pop up dropped between Waino and Yadi Molina. Two runs scored that inning. Another grounder went off Kozma’s glove. A few more singles and walks led to runs. Ortiz missed a grand slam but eventually took Carlos Beltran out of the game when the postseason hero pulled back the fly ball for a mere sacrifice fly. The Cards committed 3 errors and have committed 6 errors in 12 games this postseason which leads all teams. Defensively, they are a liability and in Game 1, the Red Sox used that to get ahead in the series.
Beltran Goes Down and Out
Our star rightfielder, playing in his first World Series game in his storied career, made the wonderful catch over the wall on Ortiz but damaged his ribs on the right field wall. One of the crazy features in Fenway is the right field wall that comes up to a normal sized player’s rib cage. It isn’t like the outfield walls around the major leagues where you basically bounce off it and make a throw. Fenway’s right field wall may as well have thorns sticking out of because when Beltran made that catch he bruised his ribs, left the game, and may be affected by it the rest of the series. Remember what happened to Hanley Rameriz in Game 1 of the NLCS? The Cards got a dose of that feeling last night with Beltran going down. With Allen Craig unable to play the field as of right now, losing Beltran would be detrimental to the chances of a title.
Fenway Park Familiarity
The Cards don’t have it and looked like a team lost in space last night in Boston. Both teams deal with the conditions there, but the Red Sox are used to it because it’s their home. The Cards looked out of sorts and homesick last night. The green monster in left field. The way it is set up, you think the left fielder is standing right behind the shortstop. A base hit to left doesn’t score a runner from second. A ball off the wall is probably a single and not a double. Right center is a potentially hazardous situation. The place seats less than 40,000 people and when stuffed to the gills, it resembles a very crowded church. People are everywhere and the smaller the environment, the more noise can be made. The Cards aren’t used to that and have played in some hostile places(San Francisco) but not like this. This isn’t Chavez Ravine in LA where a lot of seats are empty. Fenway Park is a cathedral of baseball heaven in its own right and for visitors it can be hell. Busch Stadium is a great place to be and works in the Cardinals advantage, but it doesn’t have the quirky confines like Fenway does. If you aren’t ready for it, Fenway can swallow you whole.
The Offense Fails to Produce The Hit
Two chances. Two double plays. The Cards had chances to get back in the game but David Freese and Yadi Molina hit into double plays. Chances erased. We had 7 hits, as many as Boston, but could only produce a single run, which was a Matt Holliday bomb in the 9th inning of a 8-0 game. Forget the pitching and defense for a minute. The Cards have to find a way to score. In the last 3 games of the Dodgers series, they were starting to break out. There isn’t a living and breathing defensive handicap like Yasiel Puig in right field anymore. The Cards have the offensive firepower, with or without Beltran, to score at Fenway. On Wednesday night, they put runners on base but couldn’t score.
Let’s talk about the hairy elephant in the room…..
The Gooey Substance on Lester’s Hand
Maybe it’s nothing. Maybe it’s something. Either way, I would like to know what was on Jon Lester’s glove throughout the game. A Cardinals minor leaguer spotted it and you can see it in pictures. I don’t care who put it up first, social media or a private source. I want to know what it was and if it gave Lester an advantage. Excuse me for looking out for the sanctity of the game here but if there was cheating going on, something needs to be done. In the cold weather, two things are effected. Your feet and hands. Pitchers have a hard time getting a grip on the ball. The substance looked like vaseline. If Lester was using it, I am not sure if he was, then that is a huge advantage. Throwing a good curveball is all about the grip on the baseball. If Lester cheated, hopefully the MLB investigates. If there is a shed of doubt about his innocence, go after it. What was it? What is the name of it? What does it do? Why were you using it? Tell me now.
Looking ahead to Game 2 With Wacha Taking The Mound
The good thing is rookie sensation Michael Wacha goes in Game 2 tonight. The same guy who was pitching to college players last year takes the mound in rowdy Fenway Park tonight with the hope of sending the Cards back to Busch on Saturday with an even series. Going back down 2-0 would be like escaping quick sand. Wacha shut down the Pirates and Dodgers. Now he goes into the toughest place to pitch and will try to create magic again. The bats need to make an appearance. Score early. Get Wacha some runs. Create an aura of confidence because right now, it’s non-existent. The Cards have to take the series back tonight and along with the necessary needs, good defense will be required or you can call this series over. It’s that simple.
Thanks for taking the time,
Dan L. Buffa
@buffa82 on Twitter