The 109th World Series will feature the St. Louis Cardinals and the Boston Red Sox and will open Wednesday evening at Boston’s Fenway Park. This will be the fourth Fall Classic between the two, with the other meetings occurring in 1946, 1967 and 2004. St. Louis won the first two series, while the Red Sox swept the Redbirds in 2004 to win their first world championship since 1918.
Boston and St. Louis finished the regular season with identical records (97-65), marking just the third time in World Series history that teams with identical records will face each other. The 2013 Series also features two managers (Boston’s John Farrell and St. Louis’ Mike Matheny) making their managerial debuts in the Fall Classic.
The Cardinals were crowned National League champions for the 19th time following victories over Pittsburgh and Los Angeles in the NL playoffs, while the Red Sox dispatched of Tampa Bay and Detroit to reach the World Series for the 13th time. St. Louis has won 11 World Series titles while Boston has emerged victorious 7 times in baseball’s Fall Classic.
Adam Wainwright gets the opening game assignment, squaring off against Boston’s Jon Lester. The remainder of St. Louis’ rotation will probably be NLCS MVP Michael Wacha, Joe Kelly and Lance Lynn with rookie Shelby Miller available if needed. After Lester, Boston manager John Farrell will trot out John Lackey, Clay Buchholz and Jake Peavey. Although the Cards have an obvious (on paper) advantage, Boston’s starters are all capable of going 6-to-7 innings, then turning it over to the bullpen and closer Koji Uehara (ALCS MVP), who has been almost unhittable since early summer. The Cardinals have gotten good work from Trevor Rosenthal in the postseason. Advantage St. Louis.
Catcher-Yadier Molina, STL vs. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, BOS
Molina is the heart and soul of the Cardinals, both at and behind the plate. His handling of pitchers is unmatched, and baserunners test his arm reluctantly. Saltalamacchia is nowhere near as polished, and he’s struck out in 15 of his last 27 at-bats. A huge Redbird advantage.
1B-Matt Adams, STL vs. Mike Napoli, BOS
Adams has filled in impressively for the injured Allen Craig, but he lacks Craig’s clutch-hitting ability and experience. Napoli has been one of the Bosox unsung heroes of 2013, delivering several clutch hits late in the season and making positive contributions in the playoffs, making this is pretty much a dead-even matchup.
2B-Matt Carpenter, STL vs. Dustin Pedroia, BOS
These two serve not only as offensive sparkplugs for their respective lineups, but are very similar in their approach. Carpenter had his breakout season in 2013, while Pedroia has long been recognized as a star. As close a matchup as there is, Pedroia’s experience gives him the slimmest of edges.
SS-Pete Kozma, STL vs. Stephen Drew, BOS
This matchup provides the classic “good field-no hit” comparison, with very little offense expected from either. In the field, Drew’s occasional lapses in focus has cost the Red Sox on a few occasions, while Kozma, although not flashy, is fundamentally sound and has even delivered some postseason offense. The edge goes slightly to the Cards.
3B-David Freese, STL vs. Xander Bogaerts, BOS
Freese’s lingering right calf issue has hampered him at bat. His defense is sometimes shaky, and his October offense has been non-existent. Bogaerts wasn’t expected to be in the lineup until 2014, but Will Middlebrook’s subpar play left Farrell with little choice. The 21-year old has all the skills, but the World Series is not AAA-ball. For that reason alone, give a slim edge to the Cardinals.
LF-Matt Holliday, STL vs. Jonny Gomes/Daniel Nava, BOS
Holliday can (and has) delivered enough this season to keep him in the lineup, especially with the absence of Allen Craig. The Gomes/Nava platoon provides little power and is so-so defensively. Slight edge to Holliday’s experience.
CF-Jon Jay, STL vs. Jacoby Ellsbury, BOS
Jay may find himself platooned with Shane Robinson, since the latter is wielding a hot bat. No one has more 2013 postseason hits than Ellsbury, and the Bosox need for that to continue. He led the majors in stolen bases despite missing much of September, and how he manages against Molina could set the tone as to how the Series evolves. Advantage Boston.
RF-Carlos Beltran, STL vs. Shane Victorino, BOS
Beltran has proven to be an absolute beast in the clutch, while Victorino, despite his .125 BA in the ALCS, is still the gritty consummate ballplayer. Give the Cards an edge however.
DH-Allen Craig, STL vs. David Ortiz, BOS
Craig’s late-season foot sprain affected the otherwise power-deficient Cardinals. Big Papi continues to wield a potent bat, but other than his heroic grand slam in the ALCS, he’s been relatively quiet in the postseason. Ortiz may even play some 1B in Busch Stadium games, which should be interesting, to say the least. Give the Red Sox the slightest of advantages here.
Boston has been a running offensive team all season, but with Molina behind the plate, look for them to scale back considerably, unless they have early success testing his arm. Craig’s return gives the Cards needed punch, but how effective he is after a long layoff remains to be seen. All in all, it’s difficult to expect St. Louis’ stellar starting pitching to suddenly fall apart, and for that reason, the pick here is for the Cards to win in six games.