World-Herald staff writer Rob White takes a look at the World Series, including five things we know about the Red Sox and Cardinals, five questions about each team and a positional break down.
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Five things we know
1. Carlos Beltran is one of the greatest clutch hitters in postseason history: In 45 career postseason games, the Cardinals right fielder has hit .337 with 16 homers, 37 RBIs and an OPS of 1.173. Don't forget his tour de force in the opener of the NLCS against the Dodgers, when he drove in all three Cardinal runs and threw out the potential go-ahead run at the plate. Now, for the first time, he's playing in a World Series.
2. David Ortiz is one of the greatest clutch hitters in postseason history: In 76 career postseason games, the Red Sox designated hitter has hit .272 with 15 homers, 54 RBIs and an OPS of .899. Don't forget his game-tying grand slam in Game 2 of the ALCS with the Tigers, effectively changing the momentum of the series. He's playing in his third World Series, where he's a .321 hitter with a 1.013 OPS.
3. We saw Michael Wacha first: It was a chilly early-season Sunday afternoon and everyone was impressed with the performance by youngster Michael Wacha, who gave up one run on five hits with two walks and four strikeouts in 5 2⁄3 innings for a no-decision. That was at Werner Park on May 5, a game in which Omaha beat Memphis 2-1 in 10 innings. But, impressive as Wacha was that day in Class AAA, no one could have predicted his late-season big league dominance. In his last four starts, three in the postseason, the 22-year-old is 4-0 with a 0.30 ERA, having allowed nine hits in 29 2⁄3 innings while striking out 31.
4. There's something in the beards: They may make traditionalists cringe, but certainly the beards being fashioned by most members of the Red Sox have at least contributed to the team's chemistry. After their late-season collapse in 2011 was followed by one of the franchise's worst seasons in decades last year, Boston has turned things around by turning in their razors. Somewhere, Charlie Finley is thinking about his 1972 Oakland A's team and smiling — but unlike that World Series winner, this group gets along.
5. This is a real World Series: This is the third time in the wild-card era — and the first since 1999 — that the team with the best record in each league has advanced to the World Series. Three weeks of power pitching and clutch hitting has been fun to see, but there's also something to be said for being the best during the course of 162 games. This matchup maybe gives fans the best of both. And it pits two of history's — and recent times' — most successful franchises. The Red Sox are going for their third title in 10 years and eighth overall, while the Cardinals are shooting for their third championship in eight years and 12th overall.
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Five questions about the Red Sox
1. Can Boston keep hitting clutch grand slams?: Heroic as David Ortiz and Shane Victorino were, St. Louis' bullpen is much better than Detroit's. Late-inning, four-spots may not be available.
2. How much will losing the designated hitter IN St. Louis affect the Red Sox?: You figure Boston will keep Ortiz's bat in the lineup for Games 3, 4 and 5. But he's played first base only a handful of times recently, and never more than 10 games in a season since 2004. That also means that Mike Napoli, the converted first baseman who hasn't played catcher at all this season, will likely sit — he had 23 homers and 92 RBIs this year.
3. Will Boston be able to generate some early offense?: The Cardinals' starting rotation doesn't measure up 1 through 4 to Detroit's, but the 1-2 punch of Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha does. Star second baseman Dustin Pedroia has hit .256 in the postseason, and Victorino is at .237. Leadoff hitter Jacoby Ellsbury has gotten the job done with a .400 average and .467 on-base percentage in the postseason.
4. Xander Bogaerts or Will Middlebrooks?: The Red Sox started Bogaerts, 21, at third base in the final two games of the Detroit series, and he responded by going 2 for 4 with a pair of doubles. Middlebrooks, who has excellent power, is hitting .174 in the postseason.
5. Will anyone ever get to Koji Uehara again?: After putting together one of the best seasons by a reliever ever (4-1 with a 1.09 ERA and a ridiculously low 0.565 WHIP), the veteran gave up a game-winning homer in Game 3 of the division series at Tampa Bay. Since then, the ALCS most valuable player has worked 7 1⁄3 scoreless innings, allowing four hits and no walks while striking out 11 with one win and four saves.
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Five questions about the Cardinals
1. Can Allen Craig make an impact after missing seven weeks?: After sitting out since Sept. 4 with a foot injury, one of the National League's best run-producers (97 RBIs in 134 games) is back in the lineup. If Craig is sharp, he and Matt Adams would both be in the lineup (with one as the DH) for the games in Boston — and Adams' (or Craig's) formidable bat would be available off the bench for the games in St. Louis.
2. Is David Freese capable of another MVP performance?: The Cardinals' third baseman took baseball by storm as the MVP of the 2011 NLCS and World Series. He followed up with an excellent 2012 but slumped this season, batting .262 with nine homers and 60 RBIs. He's 7 for 37 (.189) with one homer and four RBIs this postseason.
3. Is Matt Carpenter going to get rolling again?: An overlooked (perhaps) MVP candidate after leading the NL in hits (199), runs (126) and doubles (55) while posting a .392 on-base percentage and 6.7 offensive WAR, the second baseman hit .053 (1 for 19) against the Pirates in the division series, then opened the NLCS by going 2 for 11. He finished 4 for 12 in the final three games, with two doubles and two RBIs.
4. Will the Cards keep Joe Kelly and Lance Lynn in the rotation?: Each has had his moments this postseason, but you wonder if St. Louis manager Mike Matheny will stick with Kelly (0-1, 4.41 ERA) or Lynn (2-1, 5.40) for another start, or perhaps insert Shelby Miller (15-9, 3.06 regular season). A three-man rotation, with Adam Wainwright going in Games 1, 4 and 7, seems like the right move.
5. How out of place does Randy Choate feel in the bullpen?: Choate, the 38-year-old LOOGY (left-handed, one-out guy), has an average fastball of 86 mph. Meanwhile, the rest of the Cards' bullpen includes youngsters Trevor Rosenthal (97 mph) and Carlos Martinez (97), veteran John Axford (96), lefty Kevin Siegrist (95), deposed closer Edward Mujica (92) and ground-ball specialist Seth Maness (91).
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Position-by-position look at how the Cardinals and Red Sox match up
Cardinals: Matt Adams. Though he doesn't look athletic, Adams can really hit. Quick hands and a sound swing helped him post 17 homers and 51 RBIs in only 296 at-bats.
Red Sox: Mike Napoli. The former catcher stayed healthy at first base and fit perfectly in Boston with his ample beard, patient approach and powerful swing. A proven postseason hitter, Napoli had two big homers in the ALCS.
Edge: Red Sox
Cardinals: Matt Carpenter. Catalyst for the NL's highest-scoring offense, Carpenter had a breakout season that earned him his first All-Star selection.
Red Sox: Dustin Pedroia. The heart and soul of the gritty Red Sox since their 2007 championship, Pedroia plays with a dirty uniform and an all-out gusto that translates into leadership and wins.
Cardinals: Pete Kozma. A light-hitting glove man, Kozma has a knack for feisty at-bats in October.
Red Sox: Stephen Drew. After hitting .253 with 13 homers and 67 RBIs in his first season with Boston, he slumped to 3 for 35 (.086) in the playoffs but kept playing superb defense.
Edge: Red Sox
Cardinals: David Freese. A hometown favorite in St. Louis, he's coming off a mediocre regular season and has slumped in the playoffs.
Red Sox: Xander Bogaerts. A premier prospect, Bogaerts was called up in August and hit .250 in 44 at-bats over 18 games, then replaced slumping Will Middlebrooks in the final two games of the ALCS.
Cardinals: Yadier Molina. Baseball's best defensive catcher also batted .319 with 44 doubles and 80 RBIs, handled St. Louis' young pitching staff expertly, and is a top MVP candidate.
Red Sox: Jarrod Saltalamacchia. A switch-hitter with power, “Salty” strikes out an awful lot, but when he gets hold of one he can hit it a long way.
Cardinals: Matt Holliday. A six-time All-Star, Holliday is a streaky hitter who nevertheless puts up consistent power numbers by the end of each season.
Red Sox: Jonny Gomes or Daniel Nava. The Red Sox are 6-0 when Gomes, a power hitter, starts this postseason. Nava is an underrated switch-hitter who batted .303 with 12 homers and 66 RBIs.
Cardinals: Jon Jay. While his best attribute is a quality glove, Jay can hit the ball in the gap or steal a bag.
Red Sox: Jacoby Ellsbury. The speedy sparkplug that gets Boston going, Ellsbury led the majors with 52 steals (in 56 tries), and swiped 6 of 7 in the playoffs while batting .400.
Edge: Red Sox
Cardinals: Carlos Beltran. With 12 RBIs this postseason, the 36-year-old Beltran has only added to his résumé as one of the game's greatest playoff performers.
Red Sox: Shane Victorino. One of those winning players who is much better than his statistics will ever show.
Cardinals: Allen Craig. An RBI machine, Craig batted a major league-best .454 with runners in scoring position and knocked in 97 despite missing most of September with a sprained left foot.
Red Sox: David Ortiz. After his 2012 season was shortened by an Achilles injury, “Big Papi” bounced back with 30 homers, 103 RBIs and a .959 OPS at age 37.
Edge: Red Sox
Cardinals: The young staff is led by Adam Wainwright, a reliable ace who is often at his best in October. The rising star is 22-year-old rookie Michael Wacha, who has been almost untouchable since barely falling short of a no-hitter in his final regular-season outing. The back half of the rotation (Joe Kelly, Lance Lynn, perhaps Shelby Miller) is where St. Louis could be vulnerable against Boston's deep and powerful lineup.
Red Sox: Much improved over last year, the Red Sox rotation begins with left-hander Jon Lester, 2-1 with a 2.33 ERA in three playoff starts (a 2.49 ERA in 11 career postseason games). Behind him is Clay Buchholz, along with veterans John Lackey and Jake Peavy. Lackey won both his playoff starts, and won Game 7 of the 2002 World Series as a rookie. Buchholz went 12-1 with a 1.74 ERA during an injury-interrupted season. Peavy, the 2007 NL Cy Young winner, struggled in two playoff starts.
Cardinals: The closer is another hard-throwing rookie, Trevor Rosenthal. Flashing a 100 mph fastball, he has excelled since assuming the ninth-inning role late in the season. New setup man Carlos Martinez, right-hander Seth Maness and lefty Kevin Siegrist all have good stuff.
Red Sox: Koji Uehara has been a lights-out savior as the surprise closer. Steady setup man Junichi Tazawa neutralized Miguel Cabrera in the ALCS, and lefty Craig Breslow tossed seven shutout innings in the playoffs.
Cardinals: The addition of Craig would make the Cardinals deeper at home and give them a couple more options on a weak bench that lacks pop. Shane Robinson is the best available bat, and the versatile Daniel Descalso provides solid defense.
Red Sox: All sorts of depth and power available, including Nava or Gomes, Middlebrooks or Bogaerts, catcher David Ross or Saltalamacchia, and Mike Carp. Add Napoli to the mix when Ortiz starts in St. Louis, and the Red Sox have plenty of desirable weapons to employ.
Edge: Red Sox
MANAGER Cardinals: Mike Matheny. In two seasons at the helm, Matheny has guided St. Louis to Game 7 of the NLCS last year and now the World Series. He knows how to manage a pitching staff and appears to possess the golden touch with young players.
Red Sox: John Farrell. Following a successful run as Boston's pitching coach, the no-nonsense Farrell returned this year to manage the team when the Red Sox traded infielder Mike Aviles to Toronto as compensation. He's been the perfect antidote to Bobby Valentine in the Boston clubhouse.
Cardinals in 7. Boston's inability to get started against Detroit's formidable four-man starting rotation doesn't bode well against a St. Louis staff that may not be as accomplished but certainly has top-shelf arms behind Wainwright. St. Louis' bullpen, though young, is much more reliable than the Detroit's. The Red Sox can manufacture runs with their speed, but Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina negates that option with his arm (Detroit's Alex Avila could not). Boston will have to sit either Ortiz or Napoli in the games in St. Louis, while the Cardinals are adding a threat in Craig, who has been out since September.
— Capsules by Associated Press. Edges and the pick by The World-Herald's Rob White.