With Lester at his best, Game 1 goes Boston's way
Prepared by previous World Series experience, left-hander baffles Cards
BOSTON -- Somewhere in the middle innings of Wednesday's Game 1, Red Sox left-hander Jon Lester unwrapped his changeup on the Cardinals. That came after he'd shown them a crisp fastball, after he'd spotted it nicely on both sides of the plate, and after he'd thrown a few cutters, too, a really good one, a sharp one.
Lester had such good movement on his cutter that he started a few of them off the plate and watched them catch the outside corner. If that's not a perfect pitch, it's plenty close enough.
Did we mention a few breaking pitches? Yep, Lester teased a few hitters with them as well.
And then came the changeup, a knee-buckling, wrist-breaking pitch that can be virtually impossible to hit when it's thrown after, say, a 93-mph fastball, with the same arm action, with hitters geared up the same way.
Yes, the Cards blinked on baseball's biggest stage on Wednesday night. They made errors -- both physical and mental -- that they don't normally make. Their ace, Adam Wainwright, wasn't at the top of his game.
Unclassic Classic openers
All that said, Lester took control from the beginning and tossed 7 2/3 shutout innings, and the Red Sox rolled past the Cardinals, 8-1, at Fenway Park.
Plenty of the focus of this game will be on the Cards making errors they don't normally make and on Wainwright having a bad day at the office. In the end, though, this was Lester at his best.
"Jonny has been the leader of this rotation all year long," right fielder Shane Victorino said. "He went out there again tonight and did what he does best. He was great."
For Boston, it was the perfect opening act to this World Series. The Sox led, 5-0, after two innings thanks to a three-run double by Mike Napoli and an assortment of Cardinals misplays.
The Red Sox may eventually look back at Game 1 and see that it set the tone for everything that happened afterward, but on Wednesday, they declined to see it that way. To them, it was one more brick in the wall, with plenty more to be done.
"That's something that we can talk about at the end, when everything is all said and done," Lester said.
Around the clubhouse, that was the consistent message. It was a good start, nothing more.
"It's just the beginning, man, just the beginning," designated hitter David Ortiz said. "We've got to come back hungry tomorrow and play the game again that we did tonight."
|J. Lester||Bos.||Stl.||10/23/13||8||7 2/3||7-0, Bos.|
|J. Rijo||Cin.||Oak.||10/16/90||5||7||7-0, Cin.|
|D. Stewart||Oak.||S.F.||10/14/89||6||9||5-0, Oak.|
|B. Hurst||Bos.||NYM||10/18/86||8||8||1-0, Bos.|
|M. Caldwell||Mil.||Stl.||10/12/82||3||9||10-0, Mil.|
|L. Tiant||Bos.||Cin.||10/11/75||3||9||6-0, Bos.|
|B. Gibson||Stl.||Det.||10/2/68||17||9||4-0, Stl.|
|W. Ford||NYY||Cin.||10/4/61||6||9||2-0, NYY|
|E. Wynn||Chw.||L.A.||10/1/59||6||7||11-0, Chw.|
|V. Raschi||NYY||Phi.||10/4/50||5||9||1-0, NYY|
|A. Reynolds||NYY||Bro.||10/5/49||9||9||1-0, NYY|
|J. Sain||Bos.||Cle.||10/6/48||6||9||1-0, Bos.|
|H. Borowy||Chc.||Det.||10/3/45||4||9||9-0, Chc.|
|L. Warneke||Chc.||Det.||10/2/35||1||9||3-0, Chc|
|C. Mays||NYY||NYG||10/5/21||1||9||3-0, NYY|
|B. Ruth||Bos.||Chc.||9/5/18||4||9||1-0, Bos.|
|C. Mathewson||NYG||Phi.||10/9/05||6||9||3-0, NYG|
After the Red Sox scored three runs in the first inning and two more in the second, Lester was in trouble only twice. He got David Freese to pound a cutter into the ground for an inning-ending double play with the bases loaded in the fourth, and an inning later, he got Jon Jay on an infield grounder with runners on second and third with two outs.
In four postseason starts this month, Lester has a 1.67 ERA.
"He was great," second baseman Dustin Pedroia said. "He's like that all the time. His location was [great]. There weren't too many mistakes."
After pitching the clinching game of the 2007 World Series, Lester was prepared for everything that's unique about this kind of game.
"Obviously, there's going to be a lot of festivities, the introductions, the flyovers, the national anthems. Everything is quadrupled because it's the World Series," Lester said. "So you know how to handle all those situations -- your warmup time, so forth. And being in that situation in 2007 definitely prepared me for tonight."
It was a nice night as well for Napoli, whose three-run double in the bottom of the first inning gave Boston a quick three-run lead and continued his postseason of delivering big hits.
Napoli is one of the guys general manager Ben Cherington added last offseason in an overhaul of the roster. Cherington believed that Napoli could produce, but he also believed he would be a good teammate and a good clubhouse presence.
Napoli has been everything Cherington could have hoped for.
"I love this stage," Napoli said. "It's in the spotlight. I really enjoy this time of year, I guess."
Again, though, the Red Sox reminded reporters that it was just one game. They said the Cardinals are a great team and that this might end up being a long, tough World Series.
In other words, don't look too far ahead.
"They're not a team that's going to beat themselves," catcher David Ross said. "They did tonight. We'd like to thank our fans for that, maybe a little bit. They were nice and loud. [The Cards are] in a World Series for a reason. They won 97 games. They're a really, really good team."
Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.