Napoli took advantage of his opportunity in Game 1, delivering a three-run first-inning double after shortstop Pete Kozma's error loaded the bases. That's nothing new. Napoli had 10 RBIs for Texas in the 2011 World Series and was in line to be the World Series MVP until the Cardinals -- yes, the same team that is playing the Red Sox this time -- rallied from two-run deficits in both the ninth and 10th innings of Game 6 and won, 10-9, in 11 innings. That allowed the Cards to avoid elimination, and they won Game 7 to claim the championship.
But then it's not like Ortiz is excess baggage. He was only 7-for-35 in the first two rounds of playoffs, but he also had eight walks, hit three home runs and drove in seven runs. And he has fared well in Game 1. He was robbed of a grand slam in the second inning by Carlos Beltran, settling for a sacrifice fly, and homered in the seventh, finishing 2-for-3 with three RBIs.
Playing in his third World Series, Ortiz is 11-for-31 with two home runs and 11 RBIs in nine games. And it is worth nothing that the Red Sox are 9-0 in those games, having swept St. Louis in 2004 and Colorado in '07.
Cardinals right-hander Michael Wacha is becoming a cult figure. St. Louis signed him as the 19th player selected in the first round of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft, and 16 months later, he has become a postseason stalwart in the Cards' rotation.
Wacha is slated to start Game 2, and if he wins it will give him four victories in four starts this postseason. Big deal? Well, four wins in four postseason starts would match his victory total in his 15 appearances, nine of them starts, during the regular season.
Wacha, who won the Game 6 clincher against the Dodgers in the National League Championship Series, has allowed only one run in 22 postseason innings, good for a 0.43 ERA.
Sixteen pitchers have won at least four games in a single postseason, including two with five wins. Randy Johnson was 5-1 for Arizona in 2001 and reliever Francisco Rodriguez was 5-1 in 11 appearances for the Angels in 2002. He blew both of his save opportunities in that postseason and got the win each time.
Wacha will attempt to become the sixth pitcher to hold an opponent to one run or fewer in at least four starts in one postseason. Curt Schilling did it in the first five of his six starts for the D-backs in 2001. John "Blue Moon" Odom of the 1972 A's, Burt Hooton of the '81 Dodgers, John Smoltz of the '96 Braves and Ryan Vogelsong of last year's Giants each did it four times.
At last, but ...
Beltran played in 2,604 regular-season games before playing in his World Series game on Wednesday, Will it be his last? Beltran suffered severe bruised ribs when he reached over the right-field wall to rob a would-be grand slam by Ortiz, and he was sent to a Boston-area hospital, where X-rays and a CT scan were negative. After the game, Cardinals officials said Beltran is day to day.
Sound familiar? The Dodgers had a similar situation in the NLCS with Hanley Ramirez.
Beltran waited a long time for this World Series. The 36-year-old outfielder was 35th all-time and third among active players in terms of regular-season games played without ever being in a World Series. The all-time leader in that group is Rafael Palmeiro, who played in 2,831 games, followed by Ken Griffey Jr., who played in 2,671 games.
Among active players, Miguel Tejada, who has played in 2,171 games, is now the leader in that category, and he is 24th on the all-time list. Torii Hunter (2,091) is second among active players and 32nd all-time.
And while Beltran so far has only one World Series at-bat, he has shown a remarkable ability to respond to October pressure. He is 55-for-164 (.335) with 16 home runs and 37 RBIs in 46 career postseason games.
First things first
Boston's 8-1 win in Game 1 gives it a definite edge. Twenty-one of the previous 25 teams -- nine of the previous 10 -- to win the first game of a World Series have gone on to claim the championship.
That puts the Cardinals in a hole.
Since the Twins knocked off the Cards in 1987 in the first World Series in which the home team won all seven games, the only teams to lose Game 1 and win the Series are the 2009 Yankees against the Phillies, the 2002 Angels against the Giants, the 1996 Yanks against the Braves and the 1992 Blue Jays against Atlanta.
The 2009 Yankees won the Series in six games, and Andy Pettitte became the first pitcher to start and win the clincher in all three postseason series. The 2002 Angels rallied from a 9-7 fifth-inning deficit to beat the Giants, 11-10, in Game 2, and then overcame a 5-0 deficit in the seventh inning of Game 6 to pull out a 6-5 win en route to a seven-game victory.
In 1996, the Braves actually won the first two games, but the Yanks won the next four, becoming the third team to rally from a 0-2 start to win a World Series. And in 1992, Toronto rebounded from its Game 1 loss to win four of the next five games in a Series in which four games were decided by one run and one game by two runs. The Braves did outscore the Jays, 20-17.
All or nothing
Having swept the Cardinals in 2004 and the Rockies in '07, the Red Sox have a nine-game World Series winning streak. That's quite a turnaround considering their previous history. In their four World Series prior to 2004, the Red Sox lost in seven games each time -- to the Mets in 1986, the Reds in '75 and the Cards in '67 and '46.
The Red Sox did win five of the first 15 World Series, beating the Pirates in eight games in 1903, the Giants in seven in '12, the Phillies in five in '15, the Brooklyn Robins (Dodgers) in five in '16 and the Cubs in six in '18.