Red Sox, Cardinals well-matched in World Series

Red Sox, Cardinals well-matched in World Series
October 23, 2013, 10:45 am

Who will win the World Series?

In the last 25 years, there have been just four seven-game World Series. It’s time for a fifth.

I’m also picking the Boston Red Sox over the St. Louis Cardinals.

After compelling Division Series and two mostly entertaining League Championship Series, maybe I’m just pulling for an exciting World Series.

But, I think these teams have the potential for a truly great World Series.

For just the third time in World Series history, the teams enter with the same record. Both were 97-65 during the regular season, though the Red Sox won their Division Series in four games while the Cardinals took five games to win theirs. (The last time teams had the same regular season record was 1958, the Yankees and Milwaukee Braves.)

Not only do they both have the same regular season record, but they’re the teams with the best records in their leagues for the first time since 1999.

Boston had a truly impressive season, never losing more than three games in a row, beating the talented Tampa Bay Rays in four and holding off Detroit in six.

After nearly being no-hit in the first game, the Red Sox were gasping until the eighth inning, but David Ortiz’s grand-slam propelled them to a Game 2 win. Had they fallen behind 2-0, Jim Leyland’s farewell may have waited another 10 days.

Instead, Boston hosts the first two games of the World Series, beginning tonight. Jon Lester faces Adam Wainwright, and on Thursday, John Lackey and Michael Wacha are scheduled.

After Friday’s off day, it’s scheduled to be Clay Buchholz and Jake Peavy in Games 3 and 4 against Joe Kelly and Lance Lynn.

Both teams have deep pitching. Neither Felix Doubront (11 regular season wins) nor Shelby Miller (15) is listed as a starter. Doubront pitched two innings in the ALCs while Miller threw an inning in the Division Series.

The Red Sox have returned to the World Series for the first time since 2007 when they swept Colorado in four games. Three years earlier, they disposed of the Cardinals in four.

Only Lester, Ortiz, Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia remain from that World Series team. Buchholz played on the team and no-hit the Orioles in Sept. 2007, but wasn’t on the postseason roster.

St. Louis is back for the second time in three years. There are some familiar names remaining from the 2011 champions, who bested the Texas Rangers in seven, but lots of new ones, too.

Lynn was on that staff, but Wainwright had Tommy John surgery that year. Wacha, Kelly and Miller are all under 25, and so are relievers Trevor Rosenthal, Seth Maness and Kevin Siegrist.

Wacha was the compensatory pick the Cardinals received after the Los Angeles Angels signed Albert Pujols two months after the 2011 World Series.

Since the young St. Louis pitchers have already been through two rounds of playoffs, the World Series shouldn’t be daunting for them, but they will face a well-balanced team.

Not only have Ellisbury, Ortiz and Pedroia been in the World Series before, so have Mike Napoli and Shane Victorino.

Napoli drove in 10 runs in the Rangers’ 2011 World Series loss, and probably would have been the Series MVP had Texas won. Victorino was in two Series with the Phillies. Lackey pitched in the 2002 series for the Angels.

This year’s feel good story is the Cardinals’ Carlos Beltran, who has 16 postseason homers, but will play in the World Series for the first time. His teams had lost in the NLCS three times before finally winning. Among active players, only Miguel Tejada and Torii Hunter have played in more without a World Series appearance.

St. Louis’ bullpen is young and deep. Boston’s is just deep, especially at closer.

Koji Uehara won the MVP in the ALCS, and his split-finger promises to confound the Cardinals hitters—as long as the Red Sox are leading late in the game.