By Julian Linden
BOSTON (Reuters) - The St. Louis Cardinals could hardly have made a worse start to the World Series. It may be only one game in a best of seven series, but already the odds are stacked against the red birds and even their manager called it "embarrassing".
They were thumped 8-1 by the Red Sox in Wednesday's opening game in Boston after a performance littered with uncharacteristic mistakes, while key player Carlos Beltran injured his ribs making a great catch robbing David Ortiz of a grand slam.
St. Louis manager Mike Matheny did not mince his words when asked to explain his team's dismal showing.
"We had a wake‑up call," Matheny told reporters. "That is not the kind of team that we've been all season. And they're frustrated. I'm sure embarrassed to a point."
Matheny's embarrassment was shared by his players as the Cards gave up five runs in the first two innings courtesy of some comical errors, including one when pitcher Adam Wainwright and catcher Yadier Molina got confused over who should catch the simplest of pop ups.
In the end, neither did and the ball flopped to the ground, eliciting a huge roar of laughter from the Fenway Park crowd.
Shortstop Pete Kozma, normally one of the team's most reliable fielders, was the main culprit, however, as he committed two early errors, which amount to cardinal sins in the suffocating atmosphere of the World Series.
In the first inning, Kozma dropped a softly thrown ball from his team mate Matt Carpenter when he was standing at second base.
Although Boston's Dustin Pedroia was initially given out, the umpires changed their mind and the Red Sox's first baseman Mike Napoli then pounded a three-run double into left-center field.
Kozma also made a fielding error in the second, which loaded the bases and eventually led to two runs.
In the eighth inning, third baseman David Freese also made a throwing error to first base and Ortiz made them pay, blasting a 408-feet two-run homer over right.
For the Red Sox faithful, who endured years of torment before ending their 86-year World Series drought in 2004, the Cards' woes were a comical reminder of their own long struggles but Matheny was not impressed.
"We get an opportunity to show the kind of baseball we played all season long and it didn't look anything like what we saw tonight," he growled.
"You're going to have games like that periodically. But if you begin to accept that, then this could not really go anywhere.
"So right now, everybody is kind of gathering themselves and putting things together on what they need to do to get back, not anything more, but certainly not anything less than what they've done all season."
The Cardinals have long been a model of consistency in the majors. They have won the World Series 11 times, second only to the New York Yankees, most recently in 2011.
With a brilliant young pitching roster, they have all the ingredients to be a force for years but suffered an attack of stage fright when they needed to keep their composure.
"We knew what we were going to get, and they (Boston) came out and did it. It just comes down to execution. It's a different game if some plays are made that are typically made. That's a whole different story," Matheny said.
"I'm just not going to let our guys forget we're a good club, too. We make plays, we also put together tough at‑bats. We grind at‑bats. We work pitch counts.
"But right now this is one game that got away from us, and it was in a fashion that we're not used to, or will we get used to it."
(Editing by Greg Stutchbury)