The last time the Red Sox met the Cardinals in the World Series, the hero of Game One was a Three True Outcomes infielder who was often criticized for being too patient at the plate. In 2004, Mark Bellhorn lined an eighth-inning home run off the Pesky Pole to give Boston an 11-9 win. They went on to sweep the Series.
The shaggy-haired Bellhorn would have fit in well with this year’s team As most FanGraphs readers know, the Red Sox epitomize patience and exude power. They saw more pitches than any team in baseball and were seventh among the 30 teams in Three True Outcome results [32.4 percent].
Tonight went according to script. St. Louis starter Adam Wainwright had both a walk and a strikeout in a three-run Boston first inning. He threw 31 pitches.
Call it “The Red Sox Way.”
Coming into the Series, much was made of “The Cardinal Way.” On Friday, Wainwright called it “a way of thinking that we have in St. Louis, in our clubhouse, and throughout our organization — an expectation of winning, an expectation of professionalism that comes with that winning.”
David Freese said “Being a Cardinal means you’re part of a family. When you walk into the St. Louis clubhouse in spring training, you understand what it means to be a Cardinal.” Manager Mike Matheny said, “We take a lot of pride in what has been defined as The Cardinal Way and how we go about our business. Part of that is the Hall of Famers we see around our park all the time, the people who remember all the great championships.”
Later this month, one of these teams will capture its third championship in the last ten years. The Red Sox took a step in that direction with tonight’s 8-1 win. Shoddy St. Louis defense and a strong pitching performance by Jon Lester played a part, and so did an attack that could best be described as patiently relentless.
Mike Napoli’s bases-clearing double — following an error by shortstop Pete Kozma — was the big blow in the first inning. A sacrifice fly in the second may ultimately play an even bigger role in the Series. Right fielder Carlos Beltran suffered a rib contusion while robbing David Ortiz of what would have been a grand slam. At innings end, the score was 5-0 and Wainwright was up to 60 pitches.
“If there’s a Red Sox way, I’d say it’s quality plate appearances,” said hitting coach Greg Colbrunn. “It’s about being patient and making sure you get a good pitch.”
“The Red Sox Way — at least the way I interpret it — is to go about your business and develop a routine,” added outfielder Daniel Nava. “When it comes to your approach at the plate, we’re not saying ‘take five pitches in an bat.’ We’re saying, ‘get your pitch and take a good hack at it.’
“Our way is that we’re a tough group of guys,” said third baseman Will Middlebrooks. “We’re known for grinding out at bats, seeing a lot of pitches, and getting into team’s bullpens.”
Wainwright lasted just five innings. Going into the game, he had lasted five-innings-or-less just once — August 28 against the Reds — in 37 starts.
In the bottom of the seventh, Ortiz added the Red Sox’ third True Outcome of the night. Following the Cardinals’ third error of the night, Ortiz drove a Kevin Siegrist delivery over the Red Sox bullpen to make the score 7-0. In the eighth, Xander Bogaerts brought home Nava with a sacrifice fly to make it 8-0. The Cardinals lone tally came in the ninth when Matt Holliday went deep off Ryan Dempster.
The first-inning walk was the only one the Red Sox worked off Cardinals’ pitching, but the signature plate discipline was on display. They saw 141 pitches on the night.
Joe Kelly, who will take the mound for St. Louis later in the Series, was impressed with Boston’s hitting approach.
“They’re good hitters, so if you fall behind them, they’re going to be tough to get out.” said Kelly after the game. “They put up good at bats and took some tough pitches. When they got into hitters’ counts, they took good swings. We paid for that.”
The pitcher who paid the biggest price was clearly disappointed with his outing.
“Usually I can make adjustments on the fly a lot quicker than I can tonight,” said Wainwright. “I didn’t make it real tough on them, to be honest with you. I threw a lot of balls out of the zone — no-contest pitches — and a lot of pitches up in the zone for them to hit. That’s kind of a perfect storm of pitching right there.”
According to Yadier Molina, Red Sox plate discipline made Wainwright’s job even harder.
“You have to give them some credit,” said the Cardinals’ catcher. “They are a tough lineup and they take good at bats. You have to be on the corners with them, you can’t be in the middle. You have to give them credit.”