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BOSTON – Nearly a decade ago, the Boston Red Sox reversed The Curse.
Now they're even getting key calls turned around in the World Series, leaving them on the verge of an opening Fenway Park sweep for the third time in 10 seasons.
And not even a need for instant replay. The umpires overturned this blown call on their own.
After Dustin Pedroia was called out on a phantom force play in the first inning of Wednesday night's World Series opener, second base umpire Dana DeMuth was overruled by the other five members of his crew.
Three pitches later, Mike Napoli lined a cutter to the gap in left-center field for a go-ahead, three-run double, and the Red Sox coasted to an 8-1 rout of the St. Louis Cardinals.
"You rarely see that," Napoli said before adding, "especially on a stage like this."
Jon Lester made the early lead stand up, allowing five hits in 7 2-3 scoreless innings with eight strikeouts and a walk. David Ortiz hit a two-run homer for the Red Sox after Carlos Beltran robbed him of a grand slam on a second-inning catch that sent the star right fielder to a hospital with bruised ribs.
Boston won its ninth straight Series game, while St. Louis made three errors for just the second time this year, two by shortstop Pete Kozma and one by third baseman David Freese. A pair of Gold Glovers, pitcher Adam Wainwright and catcher Yadier Molina, allowed a popup to drop between them.
"We had a wakeup call. That is not the kind of team that we've been all season," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "And they're frustrated. I'm sure embarrassed to a point."
Game 2 is Thursday night, with 22-year-old rookie sensation Michael Wacha starting for St. Louis against John Lackey. Wacha is 3-0 with a 0.43 ERA this postseason.
Beltran is day to day after X-rays were negative.
As the World Series returned to 101-year-old Fenway Park, the oldest big league stadium, fans still basked in the memory of the 2004 sweep of the Cardinals, which ended an 86-year title drought. After that championship, then Gov. Mitt Romney helped take a blowtorch to the "Reverse the Curse" sign on Storrow Drive — which originally read "Reverse Curve" until it was edited by fans with spray paint.
This time they reversed the out.
Jacoby Ellsbury walked leading off the first, and Pedroia singled with one out. Ortiz followed with a slow bouncer to second baseman Matt Carpenter that had an outside chance of being turned into an inning-ending double play.
Carpenter made a routine 30-foot backhand flip to Kozma in plenty of time for the out. But as the shortstop approached second base, the ball bounced off the edge of his glove's webbing and fell to the ground.
DeMuth called Pedroia out on a force, indicating the ball was dropped by Kozma while making the transfer to his throwing hand.
"It was just one of those plays. He gave me a good feed and I just missed it," Kozma said.
Red Sox manager John Farrell jogged out from the dugout out to argue.
"I think we're fully accepting of the neighborhood play, but my view is that it wasn't even that," he said. "There was really no entry into the glove with the ball."
All six umpires huddled near shortstop for 30 seconds to discuss the play as Farrell looked on from the infield grass.
"Typically they're probably going to stand pat with the decision that's made in the moment," Farrell said.
Kozma believed he established sufficient possession.
"I had enough," he said.
And then crew chief John Hirschbeck then walked toward the Cardinals dugout on the third-base side, motioning with his left hand for Matheny to come out. He told him that Pedroia was being called safe, and Matheny spent 1½ minutes arguing to no avail, repeatedly jabbing his right index finger in the air.
"That's not a play I've ever seen before," Matheny said. "And I'm pretty sure there were six umpires on the field that had never seen that play before either. It's a pretty tough time to debut that overruled call in the World Series. Now, I get that trying to get the right call. I get that. Tough one to swallow."
DeMuth admitted he got it wrong.
"I stayed with the foot too long. That's how I ended up getting in trouble," he said. "And when I was coming up, all I could see was a hand coming out and the ball on the ground. All right? So I was assuming."
When he saw his crewmates converging on him, DeMuth knew he had made a mistake.
"It's an awful feeling, yeah. Especially when I'm sure I have the right call," he said.
Hirschbeck said in the end it wasn't a difficult decision for the crew.
"'When I hear all five of us say we are 100 percent, then I say, 'OK, we need to change this.' It's as simple as that," he said.
Major League Baseball started using video review to assist umpires in 2008, but only to decide whether potential home runs went over fences or were fair balls.
Under rules changes likely to be approved for next season, video will be used for virtually every call other than balls and strikes. Managers would be allowed one challenge over the first six innings and two from the seventh inning on. Officials in New York City would make the final ruling.
Speaking softly in a corner of the cramped visitors' clubhouse, Kozma seemed like a player who felt he had let his team down.
"You saw what happened the rest of the night," he said. "If I catch that ball and turn that double play, it stays nothing-nothing."