Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Balanced Cardinals will be too much for Red Sox

Two storied franchises are set to do battle in Major League Baseball’s 109th World Series beginning Wednesday night. The St. Louis Cardinals, who are in their 19th World Series and fourth in the last 10 seasons, have won 11 titles. They take on the Boston Red Sox, who are making their third appearance since 2004 and have won seven World Series crowns in 12 previous tries. The teams have met three times in the World Series with the Cardinals winning in 1946 and 1967 while the Red Sox took the last meeting in the 2004, when they swept St. Louis and wiped away 86 years of agony without a championship.


Let’s take a glance at each team.

St. Louis Cardinals
Manager – Mike Matheny

How They Got Here
  • Won NL Central with 97-65 record
  • Beat Pittsburgh Pirates 3-2 in NLDS
  • Beat Los Angeles Dodgers 4-2 in NLCS

Probables
What to Watch For

The Redbirds will want to make a strong statement with their one-two punch of Wainwright and Wacha with the series starting in Boston. Should they be able to steal one of these games, or even both, it would make things very difficult for Boston in St. Louis.

The Cardinals will get Allen Craig back, but he’ll likely be rusty after missing seven weeks with a left foot injury. He was having a fine season before the injury, hitting .315/.373/.457 with 13 homers and 97 RBIs. Craig hit .457 in 152 plate appearances with runners in scoring position. It will be crucial that Craig and the other Cardinals batters to take advantage of any such situations against a formidable Boston pitching staff.

The Cardinals will need to continue to get good performances from their bullpen and more importantly from their late-inning options of John Axford, Kevin Siegrist and Carlos Martinez along with closer Trevor Rosenthal should they hold a late lead. Once a team is up in a World Series game, there is no room for error and teams certainly do not want to drop any momentum by failing to hold in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings.

Carlos Beltran will be participating in his first World Series. Beltran, a prolific postseason batter, would love nothing more than to duplicate his success on the biggest stage of all.

Boston Red Sox
Manager – John Farrell

How They Got Here
  • Won AL East with 97-65 record
  • Beat Tampa Bay Rays 3-1 in ALDS
  • Beat Detroit Tigers 4-2 in ALCS

Probables
What to Watch For

The Red Sox will need to find a way to score on Wainwright and Wacha. This is no easy task. Wainwright has allowed four runs across 23 innings this postseason and holds a 2.10 ERA in 55.2 postseason innings in his career. Wacha has been nearly untouchable since his final regular season start. He parlayed a near no-hitter against the Washington Nationals into three fantastic playoff starts where he has accumulated 21 IP and has given up just eight hits and one run.

The Red Sox top two hurlers, Lester and Lackey, will have to match Wainwright and Wacha, though Boston may hold an edge with Clay Buchholz the potential Game 3 starter over Cardinals’ suspected starter Joe Kelly.

Farrell has said that David Ortiz will play first base for at least some of the time when the series shifts to St. Louis and the DH is not available. This is a downgrade in defense for sure, but it also removes Mike Napoli’s stick from the equation which could be a cause for concern.

The Red Sox must take advantage of run-scoring opportunities by putting together big hits. The Red Sox have already had their fair share of such hits this postseason and they’ll need to continue to get clutch performances, because they will not be able to run much on Cardinals’ backstop Yadier Molina.

How many innings can Koji Uehara pitch? Expect Farrell to test the boundaries if he has a one-run lead in the eighth.

Prediction

I didn’t pick either of these teams to reach the World Series. The one reason I chose their opponents to move on was based mostly on pitching. While I thought it was close, I felt the Tigers starters would outperform the Red Sox starters and they did. The difference was that Boston got to the Tiger’s bullpen on more than one occasion with big hits.

I also thought the Dodgers one-two punch of Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke would carry them to the World Series. That did not work out so well, as the Cardinals rode Wacha over Kershaw in a tight 1-0 win in Game 2 of the NLCS and then routed the NL Cy Young candidate in the NLCS clincher.

I’ll still lean toward the stronger pitching staff at the front end, where I think the Cardinals hold a slight edge with Wainwright and Wacha. Wainwright is a proven winner in the postseason and Wacha is simply on fire. Another big difference is the Cardinals have a much better bullpen than the Tigers. I would not suspect many leads being blown by the Cardinals.

Plus the Cardinals offense matches up fairly well against a superb Boston lineup which led MLB in runs scored. They may not have as many bashers as the Red Sox, but the Cardinals can score with timely hits and an occasional bomb.

The Cardinals have just a bit more balance than the Red Sox and will win their 12th World Series title in six games.

Logos courtesy of sportslogos.net

Christopher Carelli is a freelance sports writer/editor and the Director of Content Strategy for Sportsideo. Besides his work here, Chris is a New York Yankees contributor for Yahoo Sports. Connect with Chris on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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