'A well-fought series': Cards, Red Sox look in the mirror, see each other

News-DemocratOctober 22, 2013 

— The World Series isn't a new experience for the St. Louis Cardinals and the Boston Red Sox.

The teams have combined to make seven trips to the Fall Classic in the last 10 seasons, a run of dominance that began in 2004 when the Red Sox swept the Cardinals to end their 86-year championship drought.

Boston also won the World Series in 2007. The Cardinals won in 2006 and 2011. Boston and St. Louis previously met twice in the World Series --1967 and 1946, with the Cardinals winning both times in seven games.

The Cardinals own 19 National League pennants and 11 World Championships. The Red Sox have 13 American League pennants and seven World Series titles.

That both teams have again advanced this far comes as no surprise to Cardinals manager second-year Mike Matheny, who watched the Red Sox eliminate the Detroit Tigers in the AL Championship Series on Saturday night.

"I was listening to a lot of things that they had to say, and they sounded very similar to a lot of things we take pride in," Matheny said, rattling off a list of similarities. "This is about us. It's not about an individual. It's about doing the little things right. It's about family. It's us considering each other and thinking about the team.

"Those sort of things ring real true with us and what we've been able to do. You look at a (Boston) team that had a strong season just like we did. It's going to be a well-fought series."

Game 1 is scheduled for 7:07 p.m. Wednesday at Fenway Park in Boston, where the Cardinals will pitch right-hander Adam Wainwright (19-9, 2.94 ERA in the regular season) against Red Sox left-hander Jon Lester (15-8, 3.75 ERA). TV: Fox-Channel 2; Radio: KMOX-AM 1120 and WXOS-FM 103.3.

The teams don't just mirror each other in the intangibles department. Other similarities include:

* The best record in baseball at 97-65. It marks the first time since 1999 that the two top teams have met in the World Series.

* Solid starting pitching. The Cardinals will match Wainwright, rookie Wacha (4-1, 2.78), Joe Kelly (10-5, 2.69) and Lance Lynn (15-10, 3.97) against Boston's Lester, John Lackey (10-13, 3.52), Clay Buchholz (12-1, 1.74) and Jake Peavy (12-5, 4.17 with the Chicago White Sox and Boston).

* Dominant closers who were in different roles when the season began. The Cardinals' Trevor Rosenthal (three saves, 108 strikeouts in 75 1/3 innings) and Boston's Koji Uehara (21 saves, 101 strikeouts in 74 1/3 innings) were setup men for much of the season.

* Overpowering run-scoring ability. The Red Sox led the majors in runs with 853, while the Cardinals paced the NL with 783.

* Veteran leadership. The Cardinals have a ton of it led by Wainwright, Carlos Beltran and Yadier Molina. Boston can match it with David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury.

* An experienced starter who will be used in the bullpen. Shelby Miller led all major-league rookies with 15 wins for the Cardinals; Ryan Dempster was 8-9 in 29 starts for Boston.

"They've got a good team," said Molina, the Cardinals' All-Star catcher. "They've got some good players. They've got some veteran guys that know how to play the game the right way.

"We respect them, but at the same time, we've got some good guys over here that play the game the right way, too. We know how to win. It's going to be fun. It's going to be a good series."

Molina will be tested by the Red Sox baserunners. Historically a plodding, station-to-station team that relied on power hitters, these Red Sox boast plenty of speed.

Boston ranked third in the AL in stolen bases with 123; the Cardinals, formerly a team whose foundation was speed, swiped an NL-low 45. The biggest Red Sox threats: Center fielder Ellsbury (52 steals in 56 attempts), right fielder Shane Victorino (21) and second baseman Pedroia (17).

The Red Sox outhomered the Cardinals 178-125, a statistic boosted by Boston's use of the designated hitter in 152 games.

Unlike some NL teams, the Cardinals won't have to scramble to find a DH. Allen Craig, out since Sept. 5 with a sprained left foot, is expected to be activated to fill that role. Craig batted .315 with 13 homers and 97 RBIs in the regular season.

"It's huge," Molina said of Craig's return. "The bat that he brings to the lineup, he could be a difference. I'm happy to have him back and hopefully he'll help us win."

Craig has plenty of offensive support in Molina (.319-12-80), Beltran (.296-24-84), second baseman Matt Carpenter (.318-11-78 with 126 runs scored), left fielder Matt Holliday (.300-22-94 with 100 runs) and the October hero of 2011, third baseman David Freese (.262-9-60).

The Red Sox will lose their DH in Game 3, Game 4 and, if necessary, Game 5 in St. Louis. First-year manager John Farrell will have to decide whether to use the defensively challenged Ortiz (.309-30-103), usually a DH, at first base. If Ortiz plays first, that would eliminate Mike Napoli (.259-23-92) from the mix.

But it's not like the Red Sox will be hurting. They've still got Victorino (.294-15-61), Ellsbury (.298-9-53), Pedroia (.301-9-84), catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia (.273-14-65) and left fielders Jonny Gomes (.247-13-52) and Daniel Nava (.303-12-66).

Boston seemed to be on a downward cycle last season when it finished in last place in the AL East with a 69-93 record. This season, though, the Red Sox were in first place for all but 18 days.

"We've been watching these guys all season," Matheny said. "Obviously, they've had a very, very good season. When you watch at what they've been able to do compared to a year ago, you respect that kind of fight. That's the kind of team they have. They're a gritty team."

Wacha, the Most Valuable Player in the NLCS when he twice beat Los Angeles ace Clayton Kershaw, called Boston "a great team."

"Great lineup and great pitching staff," Wacha said. "It's going to be a tough battle for us. We've got to come out to the field and get ready to play every game. They're a dominant team and they're definitely going to be showing up just like we have been all year. It's going to be fun and I'm just really looking forward to it."

Wacha is 3-0 with a 0.43 ERA in three postseason starts.

"I'm pretty happy with the success I've been having, but the season's not over yet," he said. "We still have a lot of stuff we need to accomplish. In a couple of weeks, I'll be able to sit back and go over the season as a whole. But right now, we're still pushing to win a World Series and we're not finished yet."

Contact reporter David Wilhelm at dwilhelm@bnd.com or 239-2665.

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