BOSTON -- The first game of a World Series that was widely expected to be close and well played was anything but. The St. Louis Cardinals committed three errors and misplayed at least two other batted balls. The Boston Red Sox won, 8-1, in front of a delirious Fenway Park sellout crowd that is already envisioning a third Fall Classic championship in the last 10 years.
That's a little premature. As unsightly as Game 1 was, a Cardinals win in Game 2 on Thursday night (airing on FOX beginning at 7:30 p.m. ET, first pitch at 8:07 p.m.) would not only even the best-of-seven series at a game apiece, it would mean that the home-field advantage would actually swing to St. Louis.
And neither team has to dig too deeply into the past to realize how quickly momentum can change in the postseason. In the opener of this year's National League Division Series, the Cards pummeled the Pirates, 9-1. The Bucs bounced right back in Game 2 to win easily, 7-1.
"We had a wake-up call," said manager Mike Matheny. "This is not the kind of team that we've been all season. And they're frustrated, I'm sure embarrassed to a point. You're going to have games like that periodically. But if you begin to accept that, then this could really not go anywhere."
There are several wild cards that will impact the outcome of Game 2. One is just the law of averages. The Red Sox have now won nine straight World Series games. When two teams are evenly matched, a streak like that can't go on indefinitely.
"It's great. But that's something we can talk about at the end, when everything is all said and done," said Red Sox left-hander Jon Lester, who picked up the Game 1 win with 7 2/3 shutout innings. "Right now we're focused on enjoying this one and then coming out and being ready for Game 2. That's all we can worry about right now -- just the next one and the task at hand."
Then there's the status of Cardinals right fielder Carlos Beltran. He came out of the game Wednesday night after suffering a rib contusion after running into the wall while robbing David Ortiz of a grand slam in the second inning. Beltran is listed as day to day. Since he came into the World Series with 16 homers, 37 RBIs and a 1.173 OPS in 45 career postseason games, losing him or having him play at less than 100 percent figures to be a big disadvantage.
"Obviously it hurts when a guy like Carlos has to come out," said Cards designated hitter Allen Craig, who played for the first time in seven weeks on Wednesday night after injuring his foot in early September. "That's unfortunate. But one of the good things about our team all year is we've had guys step up in spots. Hopefully he can be out there, but we'll be OK."
The final unknown is how each lineup will handle the opposing starting pitcher. Unfamiliarity isn't unusual in the World Series. Even with Interleague Play, there's a pretty decent chance that the opponents may not have faced each other in awhile. Still, the strangeness factor in Game 2 will be pretty amazing.
That's significant because hitters always say that no matter how much video they watch, they really don't get a feel for a pitcher until they've actually faced him.
So get this: Red Sox right-hander John Lackey has had an 11-year career, all in the American League. But Beltran and Matt Holliday are the only probable St. Louis starters to have experienced live at-bats against him. Not only that, the two veterans probably can't offer much advice to the rest of the lineup, at least not based on personal success. Beltran is 0-for-9 lifetime against Lackey, with two walks and three strikeouts, while Holliday is 0-for-7 with one walk and one whiff.
And, of course, Cardinals 22-year-old rookie right-hander Michael Wacha is little more than a rumor to the Red Sox. He didn't make his Major League debut until May 30, so none of their hitters have faced him.
"Without seeing him firsthand, I don't know that we could go that far yet," Red Sox manager John Farrell said when asked how difficult it will be to prepare for Wacha.
The biggest thing, though, will be whether the Cards can quickly put this behind them and bounce back to play a clean game.
"This is just one game," said shortstop Pete Kozma, who made two of the errors. "So we've got to go out and get them [Thursday]. It's really tough, but the game is over. We're not going to think about it anymore. We're going to look at our mistakes and come out and try to win the next game."
Sometimes, players say, it's easier to shrug off a lopsided loss than a close defeat, because there's no need to obsess over one or two moments that might have made the difference.
"I don't know. I don't want to shrug off any loss in the World Series," Craig said. "It is what it is. It's the first game. We lost. We didn't play good. But we have another one [Thursday], and I think we'll be OK.
"It's a tough one. It's not the way you want to start the series. But that's baseball. Anything can happen. This wasn't our game, but now we have another one. It's uncharacteristic of us, but stuff happens. It's not about what's happened in the past, it's about how we respond in the future. We've got another big game now. It's a long season and we're going to fight it."
The Red Sox, too, understand that this series is far from over.
"Going to St. Louis [for Games 3-4-5] is going to be very tough," said Lester. "So you really have to bear down in these situations and try to get some W's in front of the home crowd."
Coming in, this World Series was widely expected to be close and well played. There are plenty of reasons to believe it still could be.
Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.