Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - We heard an awful lot about the St. Louis Cardinals' starting rotation heading into this World Series.
Perhaps we should have paid a little more attention to the man pitching for the Boston Red Sox on Wednesday.
With an air of uncertainty surrounding the Red Sox' starting staff, John Lester eased a lot of minds in Boston - for at least one night anyway - and tossed 7 2/3 scoreless innings in his team's, 8-1, Game 1 win.
Earlier on Wednesday news started to trickle out that righty Clay Buchholz may not be 100-percent. Boston manager John Farrell then named John Lackey his Game 2 starter and said that Jake Peavy will go in Game 3.
Buchholz and his 5.40 ERA this postseason are still penciled in for Game 4, but he is certainly no lock to be on the hill Sunday in St. Louis.
Quite simply, the Red Sox needed a big effort from Lester and that's exactly what he gave them, as the left-hander scattered five hits, struck out eight and retired the final nine batters he faced, while keeping his perfect World Series ERA intact.
Of course, Lester pitched 5 2/3 scoreless innings in the Red Sox' Game 4 clincher over Colorado in 2007 in his only other Fall Classic start.
Lester seemed to be an afterthought coming into Game 1 with St. Louis starter Adam Wainwright having thrown three straight postseason starts of at least seven innings, with one or no runs allowed.
Lester was the one who looked like an ace on Wednesday, though, as he worked out of a one-out bases loaded jam in the fourth and didn't allow the Cardinals an extra base hit.
"He did everything he had to do," St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said. "He kept us off balance and made pitches all night. And so that's kind of what we expected and we just expected for us to, one, obviously put some runs on the board, but also keep them off. We had a tough time doing the latter."
And while the Boston lineup may have struggled against the Detroit Tigers' starting staff, it jumped all over the NL wins leader for three runs in the first inning and led 5-0 after two, which was more than enough for Lester.
"I think once again we were able to go into the game with our approach, Farrell said. "I thought we had a lot of quality at-bats that we were able to build some pitch counts against Wainwright."
There was even a little controversy, as David Ortiz grounded into what looked like a tailor-made double play with one out and runners on first and second in the first inning.
St. Louis shortstop Pete Kozma dropped Matt Carpenter's flip to the second- base bag, but umpire Dana DeMuth ruled that he lost control on the exchange and called Dustin Pedroia out at second as a result.
Farrell sprung from the dugout to argue, and after an extended meeting with all six umpires, the call was reversed.
"It's a pretty tough time to debut that overruled call in the World Series," Matheny said. "Now, I get that trying to get the right call, I get that. Tough one to swallow."
Next year that's a play that likely would have been reversed thanks to instant replay, but what a great job by the umpires for conferring and making the right call.
At the end of the day that's all you can ask for.
So, instead of runners on the corners with two outs, the Red Sox now had the bases loaded with one out. Mike Napoli made the most of the opportunity with a bases-clearing double and the rout was on.
"He's such a dominant pitcher, you have to take advantage of him while you can," Napoli said.
When it was all done for Wainwright, he had allowed, five runs (3 earned) in five innings on 95 pitches.
You have to wonder why St. Louis skipper Mike Matheny left him in for as long as he did. Perhaps he would have been better served getting him out of there earlier and bringing him back for a Game 4 start on Sunday.
"Well, we got him out pretty early, still," Matheny added. "We're not ruling out anything moving forward."
If you believe in trends, the Red Sox have now managed at least three runs in each of their last three World Series Game 1's. Of course, they have swept their last two sets and have now won nine straight World Series games.
"I guess it says that our guys, regardless of who's on the roster, and probably David is the one that's linked everyone together, you know, we're more than prepared to play," Farrell said. "Our guys seemingly in this setting, through the nine games you made reference to, have gone out and executed consistently, particularly on the mound. And that was the case again tonight."
Boston may not have been able to solve Detroit's starting staff, but it certainly resembled the team that led the majors with 853 runs scored on Wednesday. And given the state of the starting staff at the moment, that would certainly be welcomed.
BELTRAN LEAVES GAME EARLY
After 2,064 regular season games and 45 amazing postseason contests, Carlos Beltran's first World Series appearance lasted all of two innings.
Perhaps the best postseason hitter of this generation, Beltran had to leave the game in the third inning after robbing Ortiz of a grand slam in the second.
In obvious pain after making the catch, Beltran went to the locker room the next half-inning, and John Jay took his place in the lineup. X-rays were negative and he's listed as day-to-day.
Considering how long it's taken him to get here, you have to think Beltran will be in the lineup on Thursday.
HISTORY NOT ON THE CARDINALS' SIDE
St. Louis may have been at a disadvantage even before starting Wednesday's Game 1, as teams that have clinched their pennant at home and don't have home field advantage in that time are 0-9 in their World Series appearances.
And, of course, nine of the last 10 Game 1 losers have gone on to lose the World Series.
LOOKING AHEAD TO GAME 2
St. Louis will try to get back in the series on Thursday behind 22-year-old rookie Michael Wacha, who has been the story of this postseason.
Wacha outdueled Los Angeles' Clayton Kershaw twice in the NLCS and has won all three of his postseason starts, while pitching to a 0.43 ERA.
Since closing the regular season with 8 2/3 no-hit innings, Wacha, the NLCS MVP, has pitched 21 postseason innings, limiting the Pirates and Dodgers to one run on eight hits.
"I think we just don't talk about it much, because we don't want it to change," Matheny said of Wacha's brilliance. "We want to see it a few more times -- a couple, at least. We just want him to think that this is normal and this is expected."
If anyone doubted whether or not Lackey was fully recovered from Tommy John surgery needs to look no further than his Game 3 performance against the Tigers that saw him outduel Justin Verlander and give control of the series to the Red Sox.
Lackey hasn't pitched in the World Series since Game 7 in 2002, when -- as a rookie -- he led the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim to their first championship.
"It is a big game," Lackey said. "There's no running from that. And it's something you've got to embrace. It's something you've got to enjoy."
Lackey has been much better at home this season than on the road, but with Buchholz's status up in the air, he may be the Sox's best option right now anyway.