In an opener that went the way of the home team at every turn, featuring interesting twists from the outset, Game 1 carved a singular niche from the first inning onward, becoming an instant classic as the Road to the World Series hits full stride.
The Red Sox, who won the opener in 2004 and again in 2007 en route to Fall Classic sweeps, took Game 1 over the Cardinals with a perfectly unpredictable formula. They did it behind a dominant start from Jon Lester -- that much made sense -- but everything else went off the script.
There was a key call overturned, a sacrifice fly that cost the opponent dearly and a few fielding foibles in their favor, and it all added up to a victory like no other.
"You're 100 percent guaranteed to see something in the postseason you haven't seen all year," Red Sox left fielder Jonny Gomes summed up after the lid-lifter.
Ultimately, Boston posted a final score that stands among the more lopsided in Game 1 history -- an 8-1 win over the Cardinals in front of their Fenway Park faithful that puts Boston in the driver's seat and had everyone on the edge of their chairs from the beginning.
"Always getting that first one out of the way is a good feeling to continue to try to build some momentum," Red Sox manager John Farrell said.
The Game 1 facts: The winner of the opener has gone on to win the Fall Classic 67 times, or 62 percent of the 108 previous occasions, and has done so in 14 of the last 16 World Series. Since 1993, every team to win Game 1 at home has gone on to win it all.
Lester, establishing quite the postseason resume with a 2.07 ERA in 10 starts, battled through some rough spots but continued to hit his spots with abandon, pitching into the eighth inning and putting on a clinic with each of his 112 offerings. That's a pretty tried and true way to take a World Series victory.
But this game stood apart in many other ways, starting with a first-inning call at second base leading to a three-run double that set the tone for the win.
Umpire Dana DeMuth made the out call on a fumbled exchange by Cardinals shortstop Pete Kozma, but the other five umpires on the field -- and all the umpires in the dugout, in the stands and in the viewing audience watching in slow-motion -- saw it differently.
"There's five of us out here, OK?" crew chief John Hirschbeck told Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, as picked up on a microphone on FOX's broadcast. "All five of us say we are 100 percent sure that that's not a catch. Our job is to get it right."
Said Demuth, afterward: "I had crewmates that were giving me the signal that they were 100 percent sure that I had the wrong ... that they had it and I had the wrong call."
Making it bases loaded with one out, the reversal turned out to be a huge point in the game just a few pitches later. Mike Napoli -- another Red Sox player establishing a stellar postseason record -- cleared the bases with a double to left-center, breaking the Red Sox out to the early lead.
The game took another couple of interesting turns that wound up hurting the Cardinals, in more ways than one. Carlos Beltran, whose postseason resume continues to grow in 2013, made a tremendous catch to save a would-be grand slam by slamming into the right-field fence -- ribcage-high, unfortunately, knocking him out of the game with a contusion to his right side.
It also was a display that was uncharacteristic of Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright and of the Cardinal Way that has been discussed so much this October. Wainwright wasn't sharp, and neither was the team's defense, which committed three errors -- and that didn't include the popup that dropped between veterans Wainwright and catcher Yadier Molina that got that second-inning rally going.
"Tonight was a clear case of the starting pitcher -- me -- going out there and setting the wrong tone. It was terrible," Wainwright said.
For the Red Sox, Game 1 couldn't have gone much better.
For the Cardinals, Game 2 will have to be different.
"We've got some guys who have been there," Molina said. "We know it's only one game, but at the same time, we have to turn it around quick. We can't have another game like tonight."
* * *
To say Michael Wacha hasn't faced this kind of challenge is to forget that he was pitching for Texas A&M just 16 months ago and for Triple-A Memphis just two months ago.
To say that Wacha can't stand up to the intense pressure of a World Series Game 2 that suddenly becomes so crucial for St. Louis is to forget what this 22-year-old phenom has done in the last few weeks.
The young right-hander will be matched against a veteran right-hander in John Lackey, who not all that long ago was a rookie making a huge World Series start -- or two. Lackey pitched Game 4 of the 2002 World Series on his 24th birthday and then took the ball for Game 7 in the clincher for the Angels.
When the Road to the World Series continues Thursday -- air time is 7:30 p.m. ET on FOX, with first pitch slated for 8:07 -- Wacha and Lackey will share the spotlight, but the Cardinals really could use something like the youngster's last start of the regular season, or his gem in Game 4 of the Division Series.
"I'm just trying not to think too much about it, just trying to approach every game the same, trying not to get too caught up in the moment," Wacha said.
Said Lackey: "It is a big game. There's no running from that. And it's something you've got to embrace. It's something you've got to enjoy."
The Red Sox head into Game 2 having won nine straight games in World Series play, their 2004 and 2007 sweeps preceding their Game 1 victory. That matches the fourth-best streak in World Series history, tied with the Reds (1975-76, '90) and behind Yankees streaks of 14, 12 and 10.
The biggest issue on either side heading into Game 2 is the status of Beltran, the postseason hero and veteran making his first appearance in the World Series after more than 2,000 regular-season games. His highlight-reel catch of David Ortiz's blast in the second inning Wednesday knocked him out of the game. X-rays and CT scans came back negative, but the Cardinals aren't positive he'll play Game 2.
"Obviously, you want to see your club at full strength," Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said. "You don't want to go into this thing where you lose somebody early on. We'll just have to see. Hopefully, he'll be ready to go."
Thursday's World Series game
Game 2: Cardinals (RHP Michael Wacha, 3-0, 0.43 ERA postseason) at Red Sox (RHP John Lackey, 2-0, 3.00), 8:07 p.m. ET Preview >
2013 MLB POSTSEASON
Wild Card: Rays 4, Indians 0
Division Series: Red Sox beat Rays, 3-1 | Tigers beat A's, 3-2
Championship Series: Red Sox beat Tigers, 4-2
Wild Card: Pirates 6, Reds 2
Division Series: Cardinals beat Pirates, 3-2 | Dodgers beat Braves, 3-1
Championship Series: Cardinals beat Dodgers, 4-2
2013 postseason schedule
NL Division Series
Game 1: Cardinals 9, Pirates 1
Game 2: Pirates 7, Cardinals 1
Game 3: Pirates 5, Cardinals 3
Game 4: Cardinals 2, Pirates 1
Game 5: Cardinals 6, Pirates 1, St. Louis wins series, 3-2
Game 1: Dodgers 6, Braves 1
Game 2: Braves 4, Dodgers 3
Game 3: Dodgers 13, Braves 6
Game 4: Dodgers 4, Braves 3, Los Angeles wins series, 3-1
AL Division Series
Game 1: Red Sox 12, Rays 2
Game 2: Red Sox 7, Rays 4
Game 3: Rays 5, Red Sox 4
Game 4: Red Sox 3, Rays 1, Boston wins series, 3-1
Game 1: Tigers 3, A's 2
Game 2: A's 1, Tigers 0
Game 3: A's 6, Tigers 3
Game 4: Tigers 8, A's 6
Game 5: Tigers 3, A's 0, Detroit wins series, 3-2
NL Championship Series
Game 1: Cardinals 3, Dodgers 2 (13 innings)
Game 2: Cardinals 1, Dodgers 0
Game 3: Dodgers 3, Cardinals 0
Game 4: Cardinals 4, Dodgers 2
Game 5: Dodgers 6, Cardinals 4
Game 6: Cardinals 9, Dodgers 0, St. Louis wins series, 4-2
AL Championship Series
Game 1: Tigers 1, Red Sox 0
Game 2: Red Sox 6, Tigers 5
Game 3: Red Sox 1, Tigers 0
Game 4: Tigers 7, Red Sox 3
Game 5: Red Sox 4, Tigers 3
Game 6: Red Sox 5, Tigers 2, Boston wins series, 4-2
World Series (All games on FOX)
Game 1: Red Sox 8, Cardinals 1, Boston leads series, 1-0
Game 2: Cardinals at Red Sox, Thursday, airtime 7:30 p.m. ET, game 8:07
Game 3: Red Sox at Cardinals, Saturday, airtime 7:30 p.m. ET, game 8:07
Game 4: Red Sox at Cardinals, Sunday, airtime 8 p.m. ET, game 8:15
*Game 5: Red Sox at Cardinals, Monday, airtime 7:30 p.m. ET, game 8:07
*Game 6: Cardinals at Red Sox, Oct. 30, airtime 7:30 p.m. ET, game 8:07
*Game 7: Cardinals at Red Sox, Oct. 31, airtime 7:30 p.m. ET, game 8:07
* - if necessary