BOSTON -- Woody Williams tried cutting the ball. He tried sinking it, tried spinning it. He threw fastballs over the middle, inside, up, down, and he changed speeds. Williams tried everything and he could not fool the Red Sox hitters, like a magician without sleeves.
By the time he was relieved one out into the third inning, Williams had thrown 70 pitches; of those, there were only two instances when a Boston hitter swung and missed. They racked up seven runs against the right-hander en route to a 11-9 victory in Game 1 of the World Series here.
"No blame, no excuses," Williams said. "I just didn't pitch well. They had a good game plan."
Mark Bellhorn banged a two-run homer off Julian Tavarez in the eighth inning to snap a 9-9 tie, bouncing the ball off the yellow right field foul pole. David Ortiz clubbed a three-run homer and drove in four runs; his 19 RBI this postseason ties the record previously set by Sandy Alomar Jr. in 1997 and Scott Spiezio in 2002.
If strong defense will be the constant in this series for St. Louis, then those relentless plate appearances figure to be Boston's most consistent weapon against a Cardinals staff that is largely incapable of overwhelming hitters. Williams and the five relievers who followed him combined to issue eight walks; of the 189 pitches those six pitchers threw, the Red Sox swung at and missed only nine and racked up a staggering 37 foul balls.
"We kept grinding away our at-bats," said Boston manager Terry Francona.
St. Louis reliever Danny Haren, the first to follow Williams into the game, said, "They're definitely tough hitters, tough to strike out. They're really disciplined, and they don't swing and miss much."
Johnny Damon had been Boston's first batter in this World Series; after falling behind in the count 1-2, Damon fouled off a pitch, then another, then two more, Williams trying everything. On the 10th pitch of the at-bat, Damon slashed a single to left field. It was probably a sign of things to come in this World Series.
Some of the Yankees' pitchers had done of good job of not allowing the Red Sox hitters to control their at-bats. Mike Mussina and Jon Lieber had gotten ahead in the count, throwing strikes, forcing the Red Sox to swing, limiting the erosion that Boston often causes to pitch counts.
But Williams and most of the other St. Louis pitchers do not necessarily pound the strike zone, and they don't dominate with power stuff, either. They try to pitch off the fringes of the plate, maybe get ahead in the count, and entice opposing hitters to swing and miss or put the ball in play with imperfect contact.
Williams could not find a way to finish off the Boston hitters, however. And with Ortiz hitting his first-inning homer and Damon driving in a couple runs, Boston took a 7-2 lead through three.
After the Cardinals' Larry Walker pulled a homer inside the right field foul pole in the third, he quickly circled the bases, high-fived teammates -- and then snapped on a winter jacket and pulled on a ski cap. The temperature was 49 degrees at the game's outset but felt much cooler, a Northeast wind blowing into Fenway and flushing the cheeks of everyone in the park.
The cold may have hurt Williams, affecting his feel and command of the baseball, and it hurt Boston's Tim Wakefield, whose knuckleball seemed to sail and drift in the turbulent air; he couldn't throw strikes and helped squander a five-run lead.
Wakefield walked the first three hitters in the top of the fourth, and when Mike Matheny flied to right, Kevin Millar cut off the throw from right field and tried throwing to third to get Reggie Sanders -- and missed his target by yards, the ball getting away, another run scoring. So Taguchi grounded out to plate the Cardinals' third run of the inning; Boston led 7-5. Edgar Renteria walked, and Bronson Arroyo relieved Wakefield.
In the next inning, Arroyo struck out Jim Edmonds and Sanders, and he got the first two hitters out in the sixth. But Taguchi beat out an infield hit and advanced to second when Arroyo made a desperate and wild throw to first, and Renteria doubled home a run; Walker also doubled, the last of his four hits, tying the score.
But after Kiko Calero relieved to start the bottom of the seventh, Bellhorn drew a leadoff walk. He moved to second on Damon's groundout; with Orlando Cabrera due to hit and Manny Ramirez and Ortiz to follow, Calero needed to go after Cabrera.
Calero issued a five-pitch walk, however. Boston had first and second, one out, and Ramirez laced a single to center, scoring Bellhorn; Ramirez, who had not produced a single RBI during the ALCS against the Yankees, raised his right hand in celebration.
La Russa summoned left-hander Ray King to face Ortiz and ordered his middle infielders to play in with runners at first and third. Ortiz turned on a pitch down and laced a grounder at second baseman Tony Womack; on its last hop, the ball popped up and slammed into Womack's left collarbone, ricocheting away. Cabrera scored, as Womack reached up to his torso in pain.
The Cardinals would tie the score in the top of the eighth, aided by a couple errors by Ramirez -- half of the four errors Boston made in this game. Ramirez fumbled a ground single, allowing pinch-runner Jason Marquis to stop and then start at third and score. Walker then hit a looper to left, and Ramirez tried to make a sliding catch -- and caught his spikes. The ball clanged off his glove, allowing St. Louis to tie the game again.
Boston's response was swift. There was one out in the bottom of the eighth when Jason Varitek chopped a grounder to the backhand side of shortstop Edgar Renteria, and Renteria couldn't field the bouncer cleanly; he was charged with an error.
Bellhorn was next, and Tavarez tried attacking him in the same manner that the Yankees had, going inside with fastballs. But Bellhorn turned on a pitch that got too much of the strike zone -- "We didn't make good pitches on Bellhorn all night long," Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan would say later -- and pulled it down the right field line, the ball curling in its trajectory. Maybe foul, maybe not.
Tavarez waved a hand, willing it to go foul; many of the Red Sox players stepped out of the dugout, looking to see if the ball would stay fair.
It continued to curl -- and banged against the foul pole, a home run. Tavarez whirled in frustration.
"I lost the game because I made a bad pitch," he said later, and after reporters dispersed from his locker, he turned and swore softly.
He probably won't be the last St. Louis pitcher to do so in this World Series.