This one's for all the marbles. The Cardinals and Red Sox will battle in the 2013 World Series, and both storied franchises are no stranger to the Fall Classic. This is Boston's third World Series in the last ten years, and it's St Louis' fourth in the last decade. Boston looks to win their eighth World Series, while the Cardinals look to win their 12th.
Whichever team wins will pick up their third trophy in the last ten years, and they'll do it with vastly different rosters from when the teams played back in 2004. The only Cardinals player on their 2013 roster that was on that team was catcher Yadier Molina, while manager Mike Matheny was the starter behind the plate and Molina's mentor. As for the Red Sox, only David Ortiz remains from the curse-breaking team from 2004, while no less than six members of that team have jobs in television today.
Game 1: October 23, 8 PM on Fox, in Boston. Adam Wainwright vs Jon Lester.
Game 2: October 24, 8 PM on Fox, in Boston. Michael Wacha vs John Lackey.
Game 3: October 26, 8 PM on Fox, in St Louis. Clay Buchholz vs Joe Kelly.
Game 4: October 27, 8 PM on Fox, in St Louis. Jake Peavy vs Lance Lynn.
Game 5: October 28, 8 PM on Fox, in St Louis. TBA.
Game 6: October 30, 8 PM on Fox, in Boston. TBA.
Game 7: October 31, 8 PM on Fox, in Boston. TBA.
The Cardinals get a huge break for the World Series with the return of Allen Craig to the lineup. Craig will be the team's primary DH during the games in Boston and represents a huge upgrade over what they would have had to use – either Shane Robinson, Kolten Wong, Daniel Descalso, or Adron Chambers, none of whom possess the offensive skills that Craig does. Chambers is off the roster thanks to Craig's return, but he's not a huge loss, as Robinson is a very similar player. It's worth noting that the Red Sox only have one left-handed starter (Jon Lester), which helps dim the struggles against southpaws that the Cardinals had this year. The Cardinals offense has been relatively quiet this Postseason, and their middle of the lineup trio of Matt Adams, Matt Holliday, and Yadier Molina need to step up and give Carlos Beltran some help.
On the other hand, the Red Sox offense was sleep walking in the ALCS against the Tigers, but still managed to prevail thanks to key grand slams in Games 2 and 6 by David Ortiz and Shane Victorino, respectively. It'll be interesting to see how short of a leash John Farrell has on Will Middlebrooks at third base this series. Middlebrooks has been awful this Postseason, driving in just one run and scoring two in nine games. Meanwhile, Xander Bogaerts has three doubles and five walks in six games this Postseason, coming off the bench in all but one of them. Stephen Drew has also been putrid in the playoffs, while Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Jonny Gomes, and Dustin Pedroia have all struggled as well.
The status of Clay Buchholz is still a question for Boston. He's penciled in to start either Game 3 or 4 in St Louis, but if Boston falls down 2-0, I wouldn't be surprised to see Felix Doubront get the start for the Red Sox. Aside from the Buchholz mess, Boston has a potential issue with Jake Peavy, who had an awful start in Game 4 of the ALCS. Jon Lester and John Lackey each getting two starts is probably the best-case scenario for Boston, as both have been excellent in these playoffs.
The Red Sox have a bit of an issue though, because the Cardinals' twosome of Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha have been better than the Lester/Lackey duo, striking out 42 and walking just five in 44 playoff innings this year. Joe Kelly and Lance Lynn have both struggled in the Postseason, and Kelly's issues against left-handed hitters should have David Ortiz salivating.
Aside from Franklin Morales, Boston's bullpen has been a shutdown crew. Koji Uehara has struck out 13 without a walk in nine Postseason innings, and Jose Lobaton's Game 3 ALDS winner remains the only run he's allowed. Craig Breslow, Brandon Workman, and Junichi Tazawa have all also performed very well setting up for Uehara, though Breslow's mild command issues could pose a problem.
St Louis has also put together a great performance from their bullpen, led by their own dominant closer Trevor Rosenthal. The rookie has struck out nine hitters in seven innings for the Cardinals, and has gotten into action in six of the Cardinals' seven playoff wins this year. Randy Choate and Seth Maness have been great in their defined roles ahead of Rosenthal, though neither strikes out many batters. There's also the presence of another dynamic rookie, Carlos Martinez, who shut down the Dodgers near the end of Game 4 to help snuff out their attempts at a rally.
These are two very similar teams with a blend of young talent and experience. Both teams have top-heavy rotations and great bullpens, seemingly indicating to me that the games will be low-scoring. I think the biggest x-factor on either side for me is Buchholz. If he's healthy and pitches like he did early in this season, the Red Sox could have the edge due to his presence. If Buchholz gets hammered, the pendulum swings to the Cardinals side of things. It'll be an interesting series loaded with good baseball in either case.