With the World Series beginning on Monday in Boston there’s never a better time for a SERIES PREVIEW! St. Louis is trying to win its second title in three years, while Boston wants to defeat the same foes with which they “curse the reversed” nine years ago.
The argument can easily be made that Red Sox hitters looked absolutely foolish during the series. In fact, if not for three timely homeruns (two Grand Slams), the Red Sox were most likely going to lose that series. Sure, after three games they were 12-90 (.133) at the dish with 43 strikeouts but they seemed to solve Detroit’s puzzling pitching in Games 4 and 6. So in the latter half of the ALCS, Boston bats seemed to reverse the fortunes and get to the staff. Jonny Gomes has officially won the Left Field job and Will Middlebrooks has officially lost his spot at Third Base. Xander Bogaerts has looked ultra-patient (he’s 21!) in high-pressure situations and there’s no reason to assume Jacoby Ellsbury won’t keep playing like he did in Game 5, a 4-5 night. Their biggest worry is Games 3-5 when they must decide who starts at First Base: David Ortiz or Napoli? (I’d go with Ortiz even though he played a dismal series minus the huge Grand Slam.) Also, the rotation they are about to face, no matter how good Michael Wacha has been, is not up to the standard of a Scherzer or Verlander territory. That bodes well for Boston.
Boston’s offensive woes were mirrored by St. Louis in their series with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Before lighting up Clayton Kershaw in the 9-0 shellacking, they were batting a meager .133 against Dodgers arms. Yes, Zack Greinke and Kershaw are very good pitchers, but not managing much against Ryu, who had a 7-inning shutout performance, was a spot of worry. The Cardinals are getting back First Baseman and cleanup hitter Allen Craig, he of the .315 batting average and 29 doubles during the season. The struggles of Shortstop Pete Kozma (.067 BA) and David Freese (.190) should concern the Cardinals. Also, Matt Carpenter, the Second Baseman, may be the most valuable player the Cardinals have because he’s the lead-off hitter and the catalyst and averaged six pitches seen per at-bat in the NLCS. Six. Wow. He can force starters from the game early which, in postseason baseball, is extremely valuable.
The rotation for the Red Sox is headlined by one, revitalized Jon Lester. After his abysmal 2012 campaign he logged over 210 innings this year, but left a gallon of gas for the last mile. His average velocity on his fastball, per BrooksBaseball.net, is an astounding 94.28 MPH, which is high for a Starter. John Lackey must be considered the Game 2 starter because of his outrageous splits at home (6-3, 2.47 ERA) to away from Fenway (4-10, 4.48). It would also make more sense to start Lackey in Game 2 because Bucholz would be going on four days rest and he looked absolutely exhausted in the 5th inning of Saturday’s clincher against Detroit. Jake Peavy needs to pitch better, which he can do simply by not walking in a run, in his next start – most likely Game 4 in St. Louis.
As mentioned before, the St. Louis rotation isn’t loaded til near explosion with the best of the new shiny toys, but they do have a few decent arms they can throw. Michael Wacha and Adam Wainwright, while good in their respects, won’t be able to come close to being in Scherzer/Verlander echelon. That means more trouble for the back-end as Joe Kelly and Lance Lynn will most likely watch a lot of balls sail into the gaps in St. Louis, a hitter-friendly venue. Lynn is your quintessential “Jekyll and Hyde” guy. He ranked ninth in the National League in strikeouts this year, but also fourth in walks and fifth in hit batsmen. They won’t repeat the performance of Detroit’s third and fourth starter, especially not a playing-out-of-his-mind Anibal Sanchez. So while their rotation might not be as good as Detroit, their bullpen (which is what really cost MoTown the series) is superb. Trevor Rosenthal, Seth Maness, and Carlos Martinez all show more shutdown ability than Jose Veras or Joaqin Benoit. Even Edward Mujica struggled down the stretch; he’s a competent 6th or 7th inning arm Matheny shouldn’t have a problem going to in a jam.
Notice Carlos Beltran’s conspicuous absence from the St. Louis page? Yeah, that’s because he’s the one that the Cardinals lineup will hinge around. The dude is CLUTCH – more than those ESPN commercials – and is playing in his first World Series in his illustrious 15-year career. Hitting .308 in the NLCS didn’t hurt, including some crucial base hits. Beltran will be looking to continue that hot-hitting streak against the vulnerable back of the Red Sox rotation.
Clay Bucholz could be starting a high-pressure Game 3 in St. Louis if the Sox split 1-1 at home so the crucial first game in Busch Stadium will come down to Bucholz. Who is he anyway? Is he the 9-0 1.71 ERA guy from the first half of the year or the guy who labors in the fifth inning and gives up three homeruns in two games? Since the latter is the most recent we must believe he is trending that way, therefore Bucholz must come out and be a stopper for this Red Sox team that will need his best contribution possible in Game 3.
While it’s impressive the Cardinals are even in this series after losing Mega-Super-Extra-Bright-Star Albert Pujols to greed – ehrm, the Angels – just two seasons ago, the Boston Red Sox have been carried here by Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz. They won’t let the Cardinals stand in their way of a complete reversal and shutting up all the haters who projected them as cellar-dwellers in the AL East.
Pick: Boston in 6 Games