Special to GreensboroSports.com courtesy of Stuart Barefoot, local sports fan, UNCG graduate, who does wear shoes…
This doesn’t happen often but the two best regular season teams in baseball will face off when the Boston Red Sox and the St. Louis Cardinals meet in the World Series (the last time this happened was 1999 when the Yankees beat the Braves.) Game 1 will take place Wednesday night at Fenway Park with Jon Lester on the bump for the Sox. His counterpart, Adam Wainwright, gets the start for the Cards. To reiterate it, the 2013 World Series will feature the two teams with the best record in their respective leagues. Playoff systems work, so take note BCS.
I have a beard and a few tattoos. Yet when I watch the Boston Red Sox I feel inferior in both departments. While they look more like a hockey team or post-punk rock band, the Red Sox are very good at baseball, hence their advancement to the World Series. Boston’s best asset is their offense. They lead the American league in runs, OPS and slugging percentage during the regular season and have a flair for the dramatic in the playoffs, with both David Ortiz and Shane Victorino hitting clutch grand slams during the ALCS. They’ll be facing a stacked rotation in Wainwright, rookie standout Michael Wacha, Joe Kelly and Lance Lynn. Wacha in particular has been very good, surrendering just 1 ER over his last 30 IP.
Boston’s rotation isn’t too shabby either. Jon Lester, Clay Bucholtz, Jake Peavey and perhaps surprisingly John Lackey have all pitched well enough. But it’s been their bullpen anchored by Koji Uhera who may be the most worrisome for the Cardinals. Uhera pitched six (crucial) scoreless innings, picking up three saves and a win.
St. Louis has a very similar offense to the Red Sox. All of the pundits and writers acre calling them an “American League style offense.” With Allen Craig returning to the lineup, as a likely DH when they play at Fenway and as a pinch hitter in St. Louis, their already stud like offense will be even more beefy. While they roll out some players well known, such as Carlos Beltran, Yadier Molina and Matt Holliday, the Cardinals have had some unlikely heroes during the regular and post season. Matt Carpenter who has held the leadoff spot throughout the playoffs has been the table setter, and Matt Adams and Shane Robinson have added some stability to bottom part of the lineup. All in all, it’s a very well balanced baseball team in St. Louis.
One problem facing the Red Sox is what to do with first base when they go to St. Louis. David Ortiz has been their most reliable hitter all season and during the playoffs and has been the DH the majority of the time. According to SBnation, Boston has opted to start Ortiz at first base when they play at Busch Stadium and will use regular first basemen Mike Napoli as a pinch hitter and possible late inning defensive replacement. Napoli had a fantastic ALCS, belting a pair of homers on top of his stellar regular season where ha hammered 23 homers and posted OPS of .842 so not having him in the starting lineup at times is less than ideal. Plus, Ortiz is a defensive liability these days, having played just six games at first base this season. The upside to having a bat like Napoli’s coming off the bench is it gives Red Sox manager John Farrell the luxury of inserting Napoli in the game as a pinch hitter in a situation that maybe Napoli is more inclined to succeed.
Objectively speaking, this series should go to seven games. Two mega talented teams with a great mixture of sly veterans and up and coming young stars, anchored by solid pitching and highlighted by big offense. This matchup ever so slightly favors the Red Sox, so my prediction is the Sox in seven. If you disagree you’re not crazy, it should be a very competitive series.