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World Series Game 1: Cardinals Spooked

Game Seven, if necessary, is scheduled for Halloween. Even If that happens, it is guaranteed that no night will be spookier for the Cardinals than what happened in Game One of the World Series.

Bad omens were everywhere.

When Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright ran out onto the field to take the mound in the first inning of Game One of the World Series, he bumped his head on the ceiling of the dugout. How did this happen? Maybe Wainwright was transfixed on the Green Monster and all the terrible things that Red Sox batters could do with it. Or perhaps he looked over to the Red Sox bench and got distracted, wondering who were all those guys with beards. Maybe the blame falls on the Cardinals advanced scouts, who failed to provide Wainwright with the proper dimensions for the dugout.

Wainwright, pitching as if he was in a daze from the head blow, walked leadoff hitter Jacoby Ellsbury and allowed a single to Dustin Pedroia. David Ortiz hit a slow grounder to second baseman Matt Carpenter, who tried to start a possible double play with a throw to shortstop Pete Kozma. The ball glanced off Kozma’s glove, but the Cardinals got an apparent colossal break when umpire Dana DeMuth ruled Kozma held the ball long enough for the force. Boston manager John Farrell stormed out of the dugout, ready to curse everybody but the Bambino over the terrible call. The other five umps, having seen the injustice, overturned DeMuth’s blunder and the bases were loaded. That brought Cardinals manager Mike Matheny onto the field to try to make a case where there wasn’t one. All he did was further ice Wainwright, who had to now wait through two arguments and an umpires’ round table discussion. Mike Napoli then crushed a three-run a double to left center.

In the ninth inning of Game Seven of the 2012 NLCS between the Cardinals and Giants, there was a memorable shot of San Francisco second baseman Marco Scutaro looking skyward and smiling as the rain pounded down. The Giants were on the verge of completing a comeback from a 3-1 game deficit to ruin the Cardinals World Series dream. Matt Holliday then lifted a soaring popup to the right side, Scutaro looked to the heavens again and the ball came down in his mitt for a pennant-clinching catch. In the second inning Wednesday, Stephen Drew popped one up and Wainwright looked up and  raised his arms in a motion that said “I’ve got it!” Catcher Yadier Molina, displaying unusual speed, bolted from behind the plate in a direct dash toward Wainwright, as if he was a defensive back intent on blasting a receiver as the ball arrived. Wainwright didn’t just hear footsteps. Wainwright heard Big Foot coming. He took his eyes off the ball to see the charging Molina, and the ball fell untouched between them.

The haunting Wainwright-Molina fiasco led to the Red Sox loading the bases for Ortiz. Big Papi then delivered a big blast to right center. Carlos Beltran made a sensational catch, slamming into the wall to rob Ortiz of a grand slam, but the collision bruised his ribs and forced him to leave the game. Beltran waited 16 years, 2,064 regular-season games and 40 post-season games to reach the World Series. After three innings, he was on the way to the hospital for x-rays. That sealed it: there would be not treats, just tricks for the Cardinals in Game One.

WORLD SERIES NOTES:

* Red Sox starter John Lester was superb, shutting out the Cardinals in his 7-2/3 innings. An interesting post-game stat reported by the Associated Press said that Lester “became the  third pitcher with scoreless outings in his first two World Series starts, joining Christy Mathewson of the New York Giants in 1905 and Madison Bumgarner of the San Francisco Giants in 2010 and 2012.” Whoa. Let’s dig a little deeper before we put the impressive Lester in the same sentence with the immortal Mathewson. After going 32-8 with a 1.27 ERA during the 1905 season, Mathewson threw three complete-game shutouts in six days in the World Series against the Philadelphia Athletics, allowing just 14 hits and one walk while striking out 18.

* I had to review my copy of the unwritten rules of baseball to see if the Red Sox violated the code of conduct in the ninth inning. After the Cardinals David Freese drilled a single to right with two outs in the 8-1 game, right fielder Shane Victorino came up firing to try to get him at first base. That would have been an embarrassing way for the game to end, and raises the question of whether Victorino’s throw was at least on the edge of bad sportsmanship.

* Mary J. Blige is very talented, but I don’t think she hit one out of the park when she belted out her rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner. Like a lot of anthem performers, she just tried to hard to put something extra on it and it fell short. I’ll be doing my own Star-Spangled Banner Star Search Reality Show for the series, with my panel of distinguished judges eventually ranking each performance, and selecting the lucky winner. Note to contestants: The smooth, legendary Lou Rawls set my standard for anthem superiority with his version at a 49ers Monday Night game in the 1970s. Didn’t mess around with the song, but soulfully and powerfully nailed it. Maybe I’ll give the winner the coveted Lou Rawls Anthem Award.

* So now it’s up to rookie sensation Michael Wacha to help St. Louis relocate the Cardinals Way in Game Two. The key to his getting off to a good start? Remember to duck. Meanwhile in Boston, the witches are buzzing Fenway on their brooms, as the Red Sox Nation is already thinking sweep.

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