Tuesday, October 22, 2013

World Series Preview

It has finally arrived. The holy grail of baseball is upon us. These next few days will determine whether the season was a success or failure for the Red Sox and Cardinals, both of whom are no strangers to the World Series. The teams have met 3 times before in the World Series, with the Red Sox sweeping the Cardinals in the most recent meeting in 2004. Both teams won 97 games this year and this series is shaping up to be as even as it gets.

Cardinals Preview- 

The Cardinals rolled through the Dodgers in 6 games in the NLCS after narrowly defeating the Pirates in the NLDS. The starting rotation has clearly been the Cardinals biggest strength so far this postseason and rookie Michael Wacha has been nothing short of dominant in his first postseason. Wacha has maintained a .30 ERA over his past 4 starts, going 29.2 innings and allowing a measly 9 hits to opposing batters. This matchup has the potential to be a true test for Wacha as the Red Sox have hit right handed pitching better than any other team in the league this season. Starters Wainwright, Kelly, and Lynn are also right handed, along with the majority of the Cards pen, so it will be interesting to see how manager Mike Matheny handles this conundrum. The Cardinals batters struggled at times during the NLCS, scoring just 21 runs in the 6 games against the Dodgers, but the offense truly exploded against Clayton Kershaw, arguably the single best pitcher in baseball, in game 6. Matt Holliday and Shane Robinson provided power for the Cards but the true focal point of their offense is Carlos Beltran. Simply put, Beltran is one of the best postseason hitters ever. He has hit .337 in the playoffs to go along with 16 homers and 37 RBI in just 45 games. This, however, will be Beltran's first World Series so it will be interesting to see if his success can carry over. 

Players to watch:

The Cardinals Pen- The Cardinals have one of the best lineups and starting rotations in baseball. Then again, so did the Tigers, yet the Red Sox beat them in 6 games. The way the Red Sox achieved this was by running up pitch counts of the opposing starters early and feasting on the relievers. The Cardinals pen will be nothing short of pivotal in this series. The work that the starting rotation does will mean nothing if the pen cannot close out games for the Cards. Closer Trevor Rosenthol is inexperienced but has the stuff to shut down the Sox lineup, and set-up men Edward Mujica and Carlos Martinez have been fantastic this entire season and postseason. The title hopes of the Cardinals could rest in the hands of their pen.

Red Sox Preview:

Preview- Is there a more fun team to watch in the MLB than the Red Sox? Much like the 2004 team that swept the Cardinals in the World Series, this team is full of jubilant personalities and players that simply love playing baseball. Manager John Farrell echoed this sentiment following the ALDS series against the Rays, "They like to have fun, by evident by the beers and all that stuff. This is a group that loves to be together, and they know how to party together, I know that." The offense has looked shaky at times but they seemingly have a knack for winning games. Two grand slams and counting this postseason have also provided major boosts for the Sox. Koji Uehara and the rest of the pen have also been spectacular thus far and will try to continue the success against the Cardinals batters. The Sox rotation, however, has struggled this postseason, posting a 4.46 ERA so far. Lester has been solid for the Red Sox but after that, the rotation has been very inconsistent. Lackey was brilliant in the ALCS, throwing 6.2 shutdown innings against the potent Tigers offense, but he struggled against the Rays in the ALDS. The key for Lackey will be home-field advantage; during the 2013 season, Lackey had an impressive 2.47 ERA at home while posting a 4.48 ERA on the road. Farrell clearly realized this while setting his rotation for the World Series as he has Lackey slated to start game 2 at home as opposed to having him start game 3 on the road as many predicted. Buchholz had a great regular season but has struggled in his 3 postseason starts, allowing 10 earned runs in just 16.2 innings pitched. Peavy has also been horrendous for the Red Sox, sporting an ERA that is close to 9 in just 8.2 innings pitched over his 2 starts. If the rotation continues to fail to produce, the Red Sox will be in deep trouble against the Cardinals offense. 

Player to Watch-
It will be very interesting to see what John Farrell does with 1B/C Mike Napoli for the road games in St. Louis. David Ortiz certainly won't see the bench for more than one game as he is the Red Sox's star and one of the best hitters in postseason history. Napoli, however, is the hottest hitter for the Red Sox right now and it will be hard to bench him. One option for John Farrell is to have Napoli catch a game behind the plate, play one game at 1st base, and have him sit one game. Napoli has yet to catch a game this season, but if Farrell has him catch Game 3, and then has him rest in Game 4, he would be more than ready to return to 1st base by Game 5.


*****NOTE- Clay Buchholz has been scratched from Game 3 and will supposedly start game 4 instead. As such, we now predict the Cardinals to win game 3 and the Red Sox to win game 4. 

Game 1- Adam Wainwright vs. Jon Lester
Emotions run high as the series opens at Fenway. Red Sox take this one 5-2

Game 2- Michael Wacha vs. John Lackey
Michael Wacha has been the best pitcher in the MLB over the past month and he shuts down the Sox in this one. 4-1 Cards

Game 3- Joe Kelly vs. Clay Buchholz
As the series shifts to Busch Stadium the Red Sox regain the momentum and win this game 7-4.

Game 4- Lance Lynn vs. Jake Peavy

Peavy struggles in this one as the Cardinals tie the series up 2-2 with a 6-3 win in this game

Game 5- TBA

Late-inning heroics help the Red Sox squeak out a win in this pivotal game 5 to head back to Boston up 3-2. Final score- 4-3

Game 6- TBA

The Red Sox close out the series at home for the first time in nearly a century. 3-1 Red Sox

WORLD SERIES MVP- Xander Bogaerts 

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