Getting to the playoffs was a feat most didn’t even render possible for the 2013 Boston Red Sox.
After a last-place finish a year ago, winning the division was out of the question, and considering a trip the World Series would land you in a psych ward.
Well, on Wednesday night, the Red Sox will host the St. Louis Cardinals in a repeat of 2004 at Fenway Park for Game 1 of the World Series, and their 3rd trip to the October Classic in the last ten years.
It sounds moronic to the fans of other teams to hear Sox’ fans agonize over the pain of the last few years despite having had a ton of success in this decade, and people will complain about wanting to see some new blood play for the championship, but to those people, I say get over it. Do not try and take anything away from either of these two teams who have scratched and clawed to get to the final stage. Plenty of teams had their chances to take these two down, and none succeeded, so without further ado, let’s see who has the edge in the 2013 World Series.
Little bit difficult to predict. Here’s why:
The 260-pound Matt Adams may be featured at first base for the Cardinals. During the regular season Adams posted a line of .284/.335/.503 with 17 home runs and 51 RBIs. He certainly provides some power to the middle of the lineup, but has struggled to do so to this point in the postseason, hitting just .268 in 41 at-bats while striking out a ton.
There’s also the possibility that Allen Craig returns and starts at first. If that’s the case, Craig is one of the toughest outs in baseball (hitting .330 with RISP). He could provide a huge spark for a team who’s struggling at the plate recently. It would make sense for him to play DH when in Boston, but if heathy enough, he will likely play first once the series swings to St. Louis.
For the Sox, there will likely also be a platoon at first with Mike Napoli and David Ortiz. Taking either bat out of the lineup is not ideal, but Ortiz will likely get some work in at first when needed. Napoli’s bat generated some buzz in the ALCS with some timely bombs and if he starts feeling it, he can single-handedly win this series for the Red Sox. However, he is a streaky hitter and if he gets cold, expect a lot of strikeouts.
Matt Carpenter gave St.Louis a productive second basemen during the regular season, but has failed to carry that through to the postseason. Hitting just .053 in the Divison Series, Carpenter found a little more success in the NLCS, batting .261. With 199 hits on the year, it’s evident that the young infielder is more than capable of getting on base, but he’s going head-to-head with the heart of Boston here in Dustin Pedroia.
Despite Stephen Drew’s inability to put the bat on the ball this postseason (.086/.111/.143), he will likely start as SS for every game of the series against the Cardinals. His defensive presence can’t be understated; saving multiple runs in both the ALDS and ALCS, his glove needs to be on the field. There is hope that he can turn it up with the bat because this a guy who did hit 13 home runs and drove in 67 runs in the regular season, but if there’s a lefty on the mound, forget it.
Pete Kozma will be the starting SS for the Cardinals. His first full major league season was lackluster, batting just .217, and even worse, a .275 OBP. While Kozma plays a solid shortstop, he doesn’t have the track record that Drew has offensively so I give the edge to Drew.
For the Red Sox, this could be a toss-up between Will Middlebrooks and Xander Bogaerts, although with the way Bogaerts played in the series against the Tigers, the odds would seem to be weighed in his favor.
The 21-year-old Bogaerts has shown a veteran-like approach to his game this postseason, despite having fewer than 50 career at-bats coming into the playoffs. In six official at-bats in the playoffs, Bogaerts has five walks, three doubles, and has scored seven runs, the epitome of making the most of your opportunities. However, his youth and inexperience at third base is still a major concern going forward.
David Freese isn’t having great success in the postseason so far, but don’t think for a second that anybody could forget 2011. That year, Freese set a new MLB record for most RBIs in a postseason with 21, surpassing David Ortiz’s historic run in 2004 when he drove in 19. I understand it’s not 2011, but Freese put the Cardinals on his back that year and brought them a championship, there’s no saying he can’t do it again.
Edge: St. Louis
The tandem of David Ross and Jarrod Saltalamacchia has worked out great for Boston all year. Salty led all American League catchers with 40 doubles on the season and Ross has made for a great batterymate with guys like Jon Lester because of his experience behind the plate and intellectual pitch selection. More or less, Salty is the offensive option, and Ross is the defensive veteran option.
Unfortunately, the Cardinals have one of the very best in Yadier Molina. “Name that Molina” does not apply here as Yadier has made quite a name for himself after his 2013 campaign. He hit .319 while driving in 80 and racking up 44 doubles. It’s also worth noting that he threw out 20 of 46 base runners on the season, so with a strong arm, he has the ability to thwart the Red Sox running attack.
Edge: St. Louis
With Jacoby Ellsbury, Shane Victorino, Jonny Gomes, and Daniel Nava, the Red Sox have one of the best defensive outfields in the entire MLB. The speed of Victorino and Ellsbury is almost unmatched by any other team, and their range in RF and CF, respectively, are a huge reason why the Sox find themselves in the World Series.
Ellsbury has thrived in the postseason since he came into the league, batting .312 in 32 career games. So far this playoffs, he’s hitting .400 with 6 stolen bases, right on cue for another stellar playoff showing.
Victorino had the clutch grand slam in Game 6 to give the Sox the series, and continues to get on base any way possible. If those two guys can continue what they’re doing and put pressure on the Cardinals early and often, the Cardinals may be in store for a world of trouble.
Gomes and Nava will platoon left per usual, with Gomes getting the majority of the starts. The Red Sox are 6-0 when Gomes is in the starting lineup, and whether that’s just pure luck, or something more, I don’t know, but either one of those guys are a great option.
Jon Jay, Carlos Beltran, and Matt Holliday make up the Cardinals outfield. While I don’t believe they have the same defensive range as Boston’s outfield, they make up for it offensively with two of their best hitters stationed in the outfield in Holliday and Beltran.
Beltran is an outstanding postseason run producer. He has 37 RBIs in 45 career games in the postseason, including 12 RBIs this playoffs. He may be the Miguel Cabrera of this series, meaning the Red Sox will want to pitch very cautiously to him, and avoid letting Beltran be the one who beats them.
Matt Holliday has been a model of consistency since joining the Cardinals in 2009. His 22 home runs and 94 RBIs shored up the middle of the lineup and provided some protection for Beltran.
While I think this one is as close as it gets, the depth and efficiency of Boston’s outfield beats out the bats of St. Louis’.
Everybody seems to be talking about the Cardinal’s starting arms, and for good reason. Adam Wainwright and rookie Michael Wacha have been nothing short of phenomenal this postseason and Joe Kelly and Lance Lynn have provided solid starts for St. Louis behind them.
Wainwright is a 19-game winner with downright nasty stuff. He’s 2-1 this postseason with a 1.57 ERA in three starts. Wacha, a promising young pitcher, is somehow even better, going 3-0 with a 0.43 ERA in three starts. This duo overcame a powerhouse Dodger’s lineup while beating out Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke in the process, so they are no joke. Although, I still have my reservations on the rookie Wacha, who only made nine career starts before the playoffs started.
The Red Sox bring Jon Lester, John Lackey, Clay Buchholz, and Jake Peavy to the table. Lester has pitched as good as anyone this postseason, starting in a lot of huge games, and putting together a 2-1 record with a 2.33 ERA.
However, unlike Wainwright and the Cardinals, there is no definite ace on the Red Sox. Lester has certainly taken the reigns now, but Buchholz and Lackey could both be considered ace-like after their performance through the regular season. For Boston, the order of which the pitchers will go is not quite as important as it may be for St. Louis.
I think Peavy and Lackey are a much stronger 3-4 than Lynn and Kelly, so in terms of depth I’d give the nod to the Red Sox. But the way Wainwright and Wacha have pitched, it is impossible to ignore their dominance this postseason.
Edge: St. Louis
The Red Sox proved to the Tigers just how important the bullpen can be. In fact, the series was decided by it. The two deciding grand slams the Sox’ hit were given up the by the Tiger’s ‘pen and Koji Uehara locked down 3 saves to close the door on Detroit.
Breslow, Tazawa, and Uehara are the dominant string of relievers the Red Sox will feature in the World Series, while mixing in Brandon Workman, Felix Doubront, and Ryan Dempster.
On the opposing end, the Cardinals will feature a bullpen compiled off fire throwers who can all reach the mid-to-high 90′s; John Axford, Carlos Martinez, Randy Choate, Seth Maness, and Trevor Rosenthal.
This is a much, much better bullpen than the Tigers boasted and they have the right guy for the 9th in Rosenthal, who hasn’t given up a run in 7 innings this postseason.
Overall, the Red Sox went up against some of the best starting postseason pitching I’ve ever seen in the Detroit series, so to think that the Cardinals’ starters can repeat that type of performance seems farfetched. On the same token, to think all the Boston Red Sox’ starters can continue their efforts could also be viewed as skeptical.
It’s important to mention that the likes of Wainwright and Wacha have been facing National League lineups. When they come to Fenway, there will be no easy out sitting there in the 9th spot, meaning they cannot pitch around the hitter in the 8th spot to get there. Things are a little more challenging when there’s no easy outs sitting there in the lineup and I don’t think anybody on the Cardinals staff has faced a lineup quite this deep before.
The Red Sox will not be able to bank on getting to the bullpen to get their runs this time around. They will continue their patient approach, but they are going to need to put some runs on the board against these Cardinal starters because their bullpen is certainly capable of coming in, playing the match \ups, and shutting things down.
Potential X-factors: Xander Bogaerts, Allen Craig, Brandon Workman, Jon Jay.
Series Prediction: Red Sox in 5
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