Birds and the Beards: World Series Preview

Thanks to the AL's All-Star win, the Red Sox will enjoy home-field advantage.

Thanks to the AL’s All-Star win, the Red Sox will enjoy home-field advantage.

By: Travis Thayer (@TheTravisThayer)

Game 1 Oct. 23 8:07 PM ET (at Boston)
Probable Starters: A. Wainwright (19-9, 2.94) vs. J. Lester (15-8, 3.75)
Game 2 Oct. 24 8:07 PM ET (at Boston)
Probable Starters: M. Wacha (4-1, 2.78) vs. C. Buchholz (12-1, 1.74)
Game 3 Oct. 26 8:07 PM ET (at St. Louis)
Probable Starters: J. Lackey (10-13, 3.52) vs. J. Kelly (10-5, 2.69)
Game 4 and *5 Oct. 27/28 (at St. Louis)
Probable Starters: TBD
Game *6 and *7 Oct. 30/31 (at Boston)
Probable Starters: TBD

*If Necessary

The St. Louis Cardinals and the Boston Red Sox are almost mirror images of one another.  They both had identical regular season records (97-65), and they both score about five runs a game while having excellent pitching.  Both teams won the pennant by a 4-2 margin, and they now meet in the World Series for the fourth time.  It’s not often you get the two best teams in the league play in the World Series.  The last year the top two teams played in the World Series was 1999, and these two teams shouldn’t disappoint.

Starting Pitching

The Cardinals have a slight edge in this category.  Rookie Michael Wacha has blossomed into an ace before our very eyes, which has allowed the Cardinals to match up with any rotation in the league.  Wacha along with Adam Wainwright were able to overcome a Dodgers staff that was headlined by the inevitable Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw and former Cy Young winner Zack Greinke.  It doesn’t stop there because Joe Kelly has shown the ability to win big games.  The Cards have enough power arms in their rotation to get them their 12th World Series title.  Although the Cards look to have the edge, don’t discount the Red Sox rotation.  Jon Lester will go in Game 1, and the Cards have been susceptible to left-handed pitching.  Following Lester will be 12 game winner Clay Buchholz, who posted a sub-two earned run average this season.  Games 1,2,5, and 6 will be the most tightly contested games because both teams ace’s will be on the hill.  I give the Cards the overall advantage, but Jon Lester’s left arm might be the key to the series. Edge: Cardinals

Relief Pitching

Closer Koji Uehara has been an absolute beast for the Red Sox.  Uehara has given up only one run in nine innings this postseason, while striking out 13.  It’s a done deal when Uehara gets in the game, and his setup man Junichi Tazawa has been lights out as well.  Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal has been equally as impressive allowing no earned runs in just seven innings.  Youngster Carlos Martinez has been impressive as well, and he is just another of the Cardinals young pitching weapons.  In this case, the relief pitching is a draw.  Uehara and Rosenthal are lights out right now, but we’ll see if either will be able to handle the pressure of closing out a World Series game. Edge: Push

Defense

Again, both teams are really close in this category.  The Cardinals had a fielding percentage of .988 in the regular season to Boston’s .987.  The Cards committed five fewer errors than Boston, and it would appear that St. Louis is the better defensive team.  Yadier Molina is the best defensive catcher in the game, but I’m not sold on the entire infield in St. Louis.  Pete Kozma and Matt Carpenter aren’t the sharpest double-play combo in the league, and Matt Adams isn’t in the lineup for his defense.  The outfield is a little susceptible as well.  Beltran and Holiday don’t cover the corners very well, and Jon Jay is coming off a miserable series in center against the Dodgers.  The Sox won’t have the edge at catcher, but their collective defense is better.  Dustin Pedoria and Stephen Drew combine to make up one of the better middle-infields in the bigs, and youngsters Xander Boegarts and Will Middlebrooks provide above average defending at third base.  Their outfield also possesses more speed and athleticism than the Cardinals.  Jacoby Ellsbury is one of the premiere centerfielders in the game, and Shane Victorino is solid in right.  Jonny Gomes is solid in Boston because he doesn’t have to cover much ground.  The only thing that may hurt the Sox down the road is David Ortiz at first base.  He will surely play there when in St. Louis, but he’s been there before and I don’t expect it to be a problem.  Edge: Boston

Hitting

Have I mentioned how similar these teams are?  Both teams can flat-out hit the ball.  What I like most about both teams is that they aren’t afraid of the moment.  Both teams have proved time and again that they can get the big hit in the biggest of situations.  I don’t even have to go through each player to tell how good each team is.  This series will be full of storylines, and great pitching – but as always it will be the key hits that decide the series.  The difference is Mike Napoli and David Ortiz.  Both are two of the best big-game hitters, and I think those two together will outdo the brilliance of Carlos Beltran. Edge: Boston

This World Series has the potential to be an all-time great.  This may be the most evenly matched World Series in recent memory, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it goes all the way to Game 7 on Halloween night.  The series could go either way, but I’m going with the team with the home-field advantage and the awesome beards.  Boston in 6.

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