Boston Red Sox and the St. Louis Cardinals were the best and most consistent teams in their respective leagues throughout the season. Both teams won 97 games. They appear to be evenly matched.
You don't always get a matchup like this in this era of wild-card teams and expanded playoffs. A lot of years, you see that 88-win team sneak into the postseason, get hot at the right time and end up playing in the World Series. Not this year. This really is a case of the two top clubs going head to head.
Unfortunately, you never would have known that by watching Game 1 on Wednesday night. The Red Sox kicked the snot out of the Cardinals, scoring five runs in the first two innings and coasting to an 8-1 victory behind ace left-hander Jon Lester (pictured).
St. Louis is not known as a great defensive team, but to call its effort sloppy in this game would have been an understatement. The Cardinals packed three errors and three other misplays into those game-deciding first two innings alone. We don't need to detail them all here; you can read about them in Jeff Passan's column on Yahoo. Suffice to say St. Louis looked like a bunch of scaredy-cats. The Cardinals made a bunch of defensive mistakes that big-league players should not make on the big stage.
Of course, it's only natural to be nervous before taking the field for Game 1 of the World Series, even for seasoned veterans. That leads me to the point of this blog: I think that homefield advantage matters more in Game 1 than it does in Game 7. Why? Well, I think it's easier to overcome those nerves and settle into your game when you're playing in your home park, in a comfortable environment, in front of 40,000 people who are cheering for you. Boston settled in quickly Wednesday night and played a solid, clean game. The Cardinals, in contrast, were blown off the field before they could get their feet under them.
In case you were wondering, the home team has now won Game 1 in each of the past four World Series. It is indeed an advantage. And in each of the previous three series, that Game 1 winner has gone on to claim the championship.
Just how important is it to win Game 1? Well, since 2003, the Game 1 winner has gone on to win the World Series in nine out of 10 years. The only exception was 2009, when the New York Yankees dropped Game 1 at home before recovering to beat the Philadelphia Phillies in six games.
For me, the biggest edge that comes along with homefield advantage is getting those first two games at home. It increases your odds of winning that first game, and if you win that first game, it puts you in the driver's seat toward winning the World Series. That's where the Red Sox are at right now after Game 1.