Is anyone else feeling a sense of deja vu?
The World Series begins tonight, and the match-up is definitely a familiar one. The American League champion Boston Red Sox, who defeated the Detroit Tigers in six games, are going up against the St. Louis Cardinals, who also triumphed in six in the NLCS. The two teams faced off in the World Series just nine years ago in Boston’s curse-breaking season in 2004. Including this year’s Series, the Cardinals and Sox have combined for seven appearances in the past decade.
Fortunately, both teams are different now – only a few players remain from the 2004 rosters, and the match-up might even be a little more intriguing on paper. While it doesn’t have the star power of the 2004 World Series (it featured Manny Ramirez, Pedro Martinez, and Albert Pujols, among others), the two teams seem fairly even on paper.
The Red Sox and Cardinals are both built around solid pitching staffs and extremely efficient offenses. The overall quality of both teams is reflected in their regular season records, which were the two best in baseball.
While a Cards/Sox series might not have been the ideal match-up of many fans, it should at the very least be exciting to watch.
Who’s starting Game 1: This is the first game of the World Series, and a win here can create some momentum. The Cards are going with RHP Adam Wainwright, who pitched over 240 regular season innings this year and has remained effective during the team’s postseason run (1.59 ERA, 20 K in 23 innings over 3 starts). The Sox are handing the ball to Jon Lester, who pitched just 5.1 innings in his last start (2 ER, 3BB, 3K) yet still ended up with the win in the Championship Series’ penultimate game.
Offensive players to watch: In a 7 game series, it’s tough to pinpoint which players are going to make a true impact. In such a small set of games, anyone can end up a hero. Carlos Beltran and Matt Adams have been the most effective hitters for the Cardinals thus far, but I’m more intrigued by Matt Carpenter. He was the team’s best regular season hitter, and has yet to truly turn it on in the postseason. An improvement in his performance could swing the series.
Boston has a lot of bats who can make an impact. David Ortiz and Shane Victorino hit huge grand slams in the ALCS. Xander Bogaerts has been effective in his limited postseason experience. And it’s hard to ignore Jacoby Ellsbury, who is hitting .400 through the postseason thus far.
X-factor for Game 1: I think this one comes down to the pitching match-up. Wainwright has been a little more consistent overall, but Lester has shown the ability to throw his share of gems. In such a short series of games, a dud from one of your starting pitchers can be incredibly hurtful.
Prediction: Adam Wainwright has been performing well all season and I think he pitches a great one against the Sox. I think the Cardinals win this game by a run.