Adam Wainwright walked Jacoby Ellsbury on a 3-2 pitch to lead off the bottom of the first inning of Game 1 of the World Series on Wednesday night and right then and there you could have turned off your TV set, confident in what was about to follow.
The very act of Wainwright walking the first batter he faces (as a starter) is so rare -- and such a portent of things to come -- that perhaps Cardinals manager Mike Matheny should have walked to the mound and yanked Carpenter immediately.
Wainwright has walked the first hitter 10 times in his career (185 starts), just once in 2013 (34 starts). The Cardinals are 2-8 in those games, not winning one of those contest since 2010. St. Louis was in an 0-4 skid when Wainwright walked the leadoff man entering last night. Now they're 0-5.
Wainwright had given up just five total walks in 46 innings as a starter in the playoffs entering last night (seven starts). He'd never issued a walk to his first hitter.
That free pass to Ellsbury turned out to be the Cardinals ace's only walk of the night. But it was costly. Ellsbury came around to score as the Red Sox struck for three runs in the first inning and two more in the second en route to an 8-1 route.
The very act of Wainwright walking any batter, nevermind the leadoff hitter, is an odd sight. His 1.30 walks per nine inning was tied for second in the majors among qualified pitchers with Tampa Bay's David Price. The only hurler who bested that pair was Cliff Lee, a hair ahead at 1.29 BB/9.
If any team was going to get Wainwright out of his comfort zone, however, it was probably going to be the Red Sox. Boston was tied for fourth in the majors with a 9.1 percent walk rate and led MLB with a .349 OBP.
And getting to Wainwright in the first inning has been the righty's Achilles heal this season.
Wainwright has a 6.09 ERA in the first inning of games in 2013 and a 2.42 ERA in innings 2-9. He's given up 23 of his 79 earned runs (29 percent) in 34 first innings. The other 56 earned runs were spread over his remaining 207.2 innings.
It was a bad sign from the beginning for a great starter.
And it only took one free pass for the Red Sox to walk all over Adam Wainwright.