Tradition-laden teams do battle in classic matchup
St. Louis Cardinals vs. Boston Red Sox
This is the first time the two teams with their league’s best records have met in the Fall Classic since the Yankees defeated the Braves in 1999. Both the Red Sox and Cardinals won 97 games. These two teams have proven to be among the best in baseball all season, and this series has all the signs of a long, competitive, down-to-the-wire World Series.
Both teams won their League Championship Series in six games with pitching as their hallmark. Neither team hit particularly well in two series dominated by pitching. Both Boston and St. Louis were opportunistic and capitalized on their opponents’ miscues.
There will be no room for error in this series. Both teams must be sharp in the field and on the bases. A small mistake can mean the difference in one game, and one game will likely be the difference in the series.
There is significant World Series experience in both dugouts, especially among position players. Lance Lynn and Adam Wainwright of St. Louis, and Jon Lester and John Lackey of Boston are the only pitchers on the two rosters to appear for winning teams in a previous World Series.
Baseball could not ask for a better matchup in the Fall Classic this season.
2013 World Series Schedule
Game 1 Wed., Oct. 23 St. Louis at Boston 8:07 Fox
Adam Wainwright (19-9) Jon Lester (15-8)
Game 2 Thur., Oct. 24 St. Louis at Boston 8:07 Fox
Michael Wacha (4-1) John Lackey (10-13)
Game 3 Sat., Oct. 26 Boston at St. Louis 8:07 Fox
Clay Buchholz (12-1) Joe Kelly (10-5)
Game 4 Sun., Oct. 27 Boston at St. Louis 8:15 Fox
Jake Peavy (12-5) Lance Lynn (15-10)
Game 5 Mon., Oct. 28 Boston at St. Louis 8:07 Fox
Game 6 Wed., Oct. 30 St. Louis at Boston 8:07 Fox
Game 7 Wed., Oct. 30 St. Louis at Boston 8:07 Fox
St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals’ success usually begins at the top with leadoff hitter Matt Carpenter. He led the majors with 199 hits, 121 runs and 55 doubles. St. Louis has been without its best RBI man in Allen Craig, out with a foot injury, since early September. He will make his first appearance of this postseason in the World Series, and the Cardinals desperately need an offensive spark.
Veteran Adam Wainwright is still considered the ace, but rookie Michael Wacha has been the best starter in the postseason. Matheny gave Wacha the ball in the Cardinals’ must-win NLDS Game 4 at Pittsburgh. Wacha has allowed just one run in 21 innings, helping him to earn NLCS MVP honors.
The Cardinals began the season with their closer Jason Motte on the shelf with Tommy John surgery. Edward Mujica stepped up and paced the club with 37 saves. He hit a wall in September and crashed and burned. Trevor Rosenthal, with three regular-season saves, has been perfect in the postseason. The Cardinals have a small army of young, power arms at their disposal.
With the return of Craig, the Cardinals’ bench improves dramatically. While Matt Adams has done an admirable job filling in for Craig at first base, his absence leaves Matheny with no hammer off the bench. Craig will likely DH at Boston and come off the bench in St. Louis.
The Cardinals made the fewest errors this season in team history, but that is not the whole story. Range is limited all over the field except in center, and the aging Carlos Beltran is the only outfielder with a good arm. Catcher Yadier Molina, one of the best all-time behind the plate, will be asked to shut down Boston’s running game, which should be a fascinating battle.
Keys to Winning
St. Louis is experienced in the postseason and has a manager that keeps them focused on the game at hand. The Cardinals posted the best average with runners in scoring postion of all-time (.330) during the season. They hit just .192 in that situation against the Pirates in the NLDS, and .349 in the NLCS. They proved to the Pirates and Dodgers that they could win games without a dominant offense. The Cardinals rely on young pitchers in key spots, namely Wacha and Rosenthal. The bullpen in front of Rosenthal will be a factor in this series and could be the Cardinals’ Achilles heel.
Players to Watch
Matheny expects to get two quality starts from both Wainwright and Wacha, and run production from Beltran, who relishes hitting in the postseason. In addition to Beltran, consistent production from Matt Holliday, David Freese and Molina would be huge. And how Rosenthal and other young relievers like Kevin Siegrist and Carlos Martinez respond in clutch situations — especially at Fenway Park — may determine the outcome of the series.
Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox led the majors in runs and OPS during the regular season, but were stymied by Detroit pitching in the ALCS. Boston is batting just .236 in the postseason and show little resemblance to the potent lineup that took the field all summer. Jacoby Ellsbury has been a threat from the leadoff spot with a .467 OBP and six stolen bases in the postseason. With Ellsbury on base, the lineup revolves around Big Papi, David Ortiz. The bottom of the order has provided very little help in the playoffs.
Clay Buchholz won his first 12 decisions this year, before missing three months with an injury. Both he and Jon Lester have been everything the Red Sox had hoped for in the postseason. John Lackey, no stranger to World Series success, has given the Sox a lift. Jake Peavy hasn’t been sharp and doesn’t have a good history against the Cardinals.
The bullpen has been the strength of the team in the playoffs, led by ALCS MVP Koji Uehara. The pen is deeper than the Cardinals’ relief corps, so the Boston starters shouldn’t feel undue pressure to go deep into games.
Mike Napoli, a catcher-turned-first baseman, will likely come off the bench in Games 3, 4 and 5 in St. Louis. There is an option to put him behind the plate, but he hasn’t caught any games this season. Manager John Farrell can mix and match a few positions, namely left field and third base. Left fielders Daniel Nava, a switch-hitter, and Jonny Gomes, who hits southpaws well, provide Farrell with late-inning options. Xander Bogaerts and Will Middlebrooks will share the hot corner most likely.
The Red Sox outfield defense is strong with Ellsbury in center and Shane Victorino in right. In the infield Stephen Drew is a solid shortstop and Dustin Pedroia is one of the best in the business at second. It will be interesting to see how well Ortiz handles himself at first base at St. Louis.
Keys to Winning
The Red Sox are tough to beat at Fenway Park as the Rays and Tigers have found out recently. The ballpark has been magical for the Red Sox this century. The Red Sox must hold serve in the first two games. Boston’s bat slumber better be over because if they don’t wake up, the St. Louis pitchers can dominate. The starting pitching can be inconsistent, especially on the road, so getting quality starts allows the bullpen to take over and slam the door.
Players to Watch
Offensively, Farrell expects the top of the order — Ellsbury, Victorino, Pedroia and Ortiz — to produce. But what the bottom of the order contributes could be a key to the series. The Cardinals have been susceptible to left-handed pitching, and while the return of the right-handed hitting Craig helps, lefties Craig Breslow and Franklin Morales will be called on to get some clutch outs.
.731 Career slugging percentage for Carlos Beltran of the Cardinals in the postseason. It ranks third all-time behind Babe Ruth (.744) and Lou Gehrig (.731) among players with at least 150 plate appearances in the postseason.
7 Players on the 2013 St. Louis roster who earned a World Series ring in 2011. An eighth, Adam Wainwright, was injured and did not appear in the 2011 World Series, but played a crucial role as the closer for the 2006 champions.
4 Players on the 2013 Boston roster who earned a World Series ring in 2007.
23 Games won in the NLCS since 2000 for St. Louis. No other National League team has played in that many NLCS games during that time.
28 More wins for Boston in 2013 than in 2012. That was the greatest improvement by any team in the majors this season.
PREDICTION: Boston in 7