BOSTON — The St. Louis Cardinals dropped the ball. They misplayed the ball. They let the ball hit the ground at their feet. They even hurt themselves when making a good play.

St. Louis hardly resembled one of the two best teams in the major leagues Wednesday night.

The Boston Red Sox did, however.

Buoyed by Jon Lester’s starting pitching and an assortment of St. Louis mistakes, the Red Sox coasted to an 8-1 win in Game 1 of the World Series at Fenway Park.

“This is not the kind of ball we’ve played all season,” Cardinals Manager Mike Matheny said. “I’m sure they’re frustrated, embarrassed to a point.”

Game 2 is at 8:07 p.m. Thursday and St. Louis may be without right fielder Carlos Beltran, who bruised his ribs while making a catch against the wall in right field, robbing David Ortiz of a grand slam. Matheny said he is day-to-day.

The Red Sox are playing with a nine-game winning streak in World Series games, sweeping in 2004 against the Cardinals and 2007 against the Rockies.

In 2004, Boston scored four runs in the first inning and never trailed in the whole Series. On Wednesday, Boston scored three runs, aided by a rare reversed umpire’s call.

Boston added two in the second and that was plenty for Lester. Using his cut fastball with precision, Lester carved up the Cardinals for 72/3 scoreless innings. He allowed five hits and one walk, striking out eight.

“He kept us off balance and made his pitches all night,” Matheny said.

Mike Napoli propelled the offense with a three-run double. Ortiz hit a sacrifice fly (almost a slam) in the second and a two-run homer in the seventh.

“We had a lot of quality at-bats,” Boston Manager John Farrell said.

Jacoby Ellsbury led off the bottom of the first with a walk from starter Adam Wainwright and already warning bells were sounding for St. Louis. Wainwright had walked the leadoff batter in the first only once all year.

After a one-out single by Dustin Pedroia, Ortiz grounded to second baseman Matt Carpenter. It looked like a sure double play when Carpenter flipped to shortstop Pete Kozma.

With Pedroia sliding in, the ball clanged off Kozma’s glove. Umpire Dana DeMuth called Pedroia out but Farrell came out to argue. The umpires, all six, conferred and reversed the call. Boston had the bases loaded with one out.

“It was pretty clear it tipped off his glove,” Farrell said.

Matheny then came out to argue. “They wanted to get the call right. I get that, but it’s still tough to swallow,” he said.

Napoli then drilled Wainwright’s cut fastball to left-center, scoring three.

In the second, Stephen Drew led off with a short pop to the mound. Wainwright looked like he was going to catch it, then stopped.

The ball dropped at his feet and Drew had a single.

David Ross singled, then a fielding error by Kozma loaded the bases with one out.

Pedroia singled in a run, then Ortiz sent a Wainwright fastball toward the visitors’ bullpen in right. Beltran reached over the wall to make the catch.

Ortiz, who hit a dramatic slam in the ALCS, settled for a sacrifice fly and a 5-0 lead.

Wainwright needed 60 pitches to get through two innings. He struggled to command his signature curve and the Red Sox were able to wait on the fastball, and cut fastball. The Cardinals’ defense, including Wainwright’s, obviously didn’t help.

Wainwright settled down and somewhat saved the bullpen, lasting five innings (95 pitches).

Lester, meanwhile, was in control. The only trouble came in the fourth when St. Louis loaded the bases with one out, but David Freese grounded to Lester, who began a double play. “That was the key play,” Farrell said.

After Ortiz’s two-run blast in the seventh, Lester struck out Jon Jay for his eighth strikeout and second out of the eighth. Farrell then went to the bullpen.

Boston made it 8-0 when Daniel Nava doubled in the eighth and eventually scored on Xander Bogaerts’ sacrifice fly.

Matt Holiday ended the shutout with a home run in the ninth.

“Very important win, especially at home,” Lester said. “Want to get some W’s in front of the home crowd.”

Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or:kthomas@pressherald.comTwitter: @ClearTheBases