World Series

The World Series opens on Wednesday night in Boston and the two best teams will face off for only the second time in divisional play.  The Red Sox and Cardinals both posted identical records of 97-65 and hosted their respective LCS.  They’ve met three previous times in the Fall Classic with St. Louis winning the first two in seven games in ’46 and ’67.  In ’46, Enos Slaughter scored on what was dubbed the “Mad Dash” in the seventh game, which turned out to be the deciding play.  In that series the Red Sox and Cardinals alternated wins in every game. In ’67, Bob Gibson pitched three complete games in the series including a shutout. Gibson pitched in the seventh game and hit a solo home run in the 5th inning to put it away for the Cardinals who would win 7-2. Previous to these two encounters the Red Sox had never lost in a World Series, having previously played and won five.

Most recently, in 2004 the Red Sox and Cardinals met and the Red Sox completely dominated the series with the bats of David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez. The Red Sox were coming off their historic comeback against the Yankees, when they battled back from being down 0-3 in the ALCS.  The biggest play in that series was Mark Bellhorn’s Game 1 8th-inning two-run home run that snapped a 9-9 tie and kept the momentum going for Boston. Manny Ramirez was given World Series MVP after going 7-17 over the four games.  Over the ensuing 9 years to present, the teams have combined to win three championships; St. Louis won in 2006 and 2011, and Boston won in 2007.  The 2013 World Series should be a battle for team-of-the-millennium.

The Series should be a fantastic matchup with no expectation for a short series. The two teams are too well-rounded to fail in competition. The Red Sox boasted the best offense in baseball, with the Cardinals not too far behind. Unlike each team’s LCS, the other’s bullpen and fundamentals are superb. The Cardinals will be getting back one of their stars in Allen Craig, who hasn’t played for some time because of a foot injury.  The Red Sox are fortunate to have stayed healthy and are now seeing the emergence of star-in-the-making Xander Bogaerts.

The starting pitching for both teams is tremendous, especially with the play of rookie Michael Wacha who’s been outstanding since his debut at the end of May. The Red Sox are going to need to get a little bit more out of their front line starters, particularly Clay Buchholz who – after sitting out three months of the regular season – hasn’t returned to dominance in the postseason.

The keys to this Series will be the play of the Red Sox at home. They’re going to need to maintain the home field advantage that failed them against Detroit. The Cardinals are way too good to be given an away gift. The Red Sox were the best home team in baseball this past year by a wide margin and they need to generate more offense than they did in the ALCS.  If the Red Sox can win the first two games at Fenway then they should be in good shape to win their 8th Championship, surpassing the Giants.

The Cardinals’ keys are to continue to be the most fundamentally sound team in baseball.  If St. Louis continues to not beat themselves by pitching and playing defense as they have all year then they’ll be in very good shape. The back end of the bullpen has been phenomenal with Martinez and Rosenthal and that’ll be crucial for the late innings. The Cardinals’ bats came alive in the clinching game of the NLCS and in so doing beat arguably the best pitcher in baseball, Clayton Kershaw. However the Cardinals have been off since Friday and that may hamper them in the opener. The Cardinals need to stem the tide early against the Red Sox who’ll be looking to jump on Adam Wainwright early in the game.

The first two games of the Series will be the biggest for both teams under the 2-3-2 format; however with homefield advantage for Boston and the way they’ve been able to solve every team up until this point it’s hard to pick against them.