BOSTON (CBS) – As good as the matchup was between the Red Sox and Tigers in the ALCS, this World Series could be just as good. The Red Sox and Cardinals – on paper – are two evenly matched teams.
The difference? It could simply be one player rising to the occasion. Go back and look at the recent MVP’s of the World Series and the names aren’t your top echelon guys: Pablo Sandoval (SF), David Freese (St. Louis), Edgar Renteria (SF), Hideki Matsui (NY), Cole Hamels(PHI), Mike Lowell (BOS), and David Eckstein (St. Louis).
When you break down these two teams there is plenty to love on both sides, so get ready for what could be a lengthy series.
Here’s a breakdown of each team:
Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha, Lance Lynn, Joe Kelly vs. Jon Lester, John Lackey, Clay Buchholz, Jake Peavy
We watched the Red Sox starters do more than enough in both the ALDS and ALCS, and they’ll have to keep up the same pace in this series. Lester got some extra rest after his Game 5 start last Thursday in Detroit, so that should help in Game 1. If Lester is 95-96 in the first inning Wednesday night that’s a great sign. But Wainwright is a gamer as well. He has great stuff and a very nasty curve ball. If the Sox can make him throw that pitch for strikes – that’s your key. Boston’s hitters have been way too anxious, swinging at too many off-speed pitches. But then again, they are a great bunch if mistake hitters, especially Ortiz, Napoli, Salty, and Victorino.
John Lackey was brilliant in Game 3 looking like the ace he was for the Angels, and will get the nod in Game 2 because of it. He’s had some extra rest as well, so watch out. He’ll have to be good, if not better, going up against NLCS MVP Michael Wacha. The 22-year-old righty is nasty. The Sox will approach him the way they did Verlander and Scherzer, and just try to drive up his pitch count and manufacture some runs.
Clay Buchholz had some nasty stuff in Game 6 Saturday, but was only able to get into the 6th inning because he threw 85 pitches (comparable to 100 or so in the regular season). It looks like the Sox will back him up with Felix Doubront rather than Franklin Morales should Clay get into any early trouble. Lance Lynn is a hot or cold guy – but could be real tough at home in Game 3.
Jake Peavy is the happiest man on earth these days, and not just because he’s in the World Series. He gets a chance to bounce back from a tough ALCS Game 4 outing in Detroit. I would expect him to calm down, not nitpick, and throw well. Joe Kelly had a great regular season and gets a chance to show off his stuff in Game 4.
Koji Uehara looks like he could pitch every day from now until Christmas and would have very little difficulty. He is on one of the greatest runs in closer history — Mariano Rivera-like. He will have to stay that course if the Sox are to win the World Series.
John Farrell has done a brilliant job getting to Uehara by maxing out Craig Breslow and Junichi Tazawa. It will be interesting how this plays out in Games 3, 4, and 5 with National League rules. Brandon Workman’s role may be bigger while Ryan Dempster could play an important role too.
Uehara-Tazawa-Breslow reminds me of Foulke-Timlin-Embree of 2004.
As for the Cards, Trevor Rosenthal has been lights out for St. Louis since taking the closer role from Edward Mujica late in the season. He throws gas, and is another studly young arm out of this Cardinals machine-like organization.
The Cardinals rely on Carlos Martinez, Randy Choate, Seth Maness, and Kevin Siegrest. They also have John Axford and Shelby Miller (who was 15-9 in the regular season).
Dan Roche Previews World Series On Toucher & Rich:
The Red Sox have speed and power at the top of the line-up in Ellsbury, Victorino, and Pedroia, and then RBI guys in Ortiz, Napoli, and Gomes (or Nava). Salty/Ross, Drew, and Bogarts are hit or miss guys, but one of them could emerge as “the guy” who explodes in the Fall Classic like a Marco Scutaro or David Freese. The problem the Sox have had in this postseason is lack of patience. They can hit any fastball, but have a problem with off-speed stuff. If they are swinging at balls in the dirt as they did against Detroit, they’ll have to hope the Sox starting pitchers are “on” again and again.
For the Sox, any one if their 7-8-9 hitters have the potential to break out while Dustin Pedroia should be better than he has been this postseason. Remember, he set the tone in 2007 with a home run off Jeff Francis in Game One.
The Cardinals are deep offensively. Matt Carpenter is an underrated lead-off hitter, who may eat up Fenway Park. Carlos Beltran is dangerous in the 2-hole and loves the postseason spotlight. Matt Holliday is always one swing of the bat from changing a game or series. Allen Craig is a mystery man after he missed the past seven weeks with a foot injury, but hit .315 with 97 RBI in the regular season. If he isn’t rusty he could be huge as the DH at Fenway Park; something the NL teams usually have a tough time with in AL parks. Yadier Molina is a tough out while Matt Adams also brings some power. Freese had the World Series of a lifetime in 2011, and if he does that again, the Sox are done. John Jay and Peter Kozma are guys that could also suddenly emerge.
If Allen Craig can pick up where he left off seven weeks ago it will go a long way in lengthening this Cards line-up.
Edge: Red Sox
This is where the Cardinals could have a tough time because of the quirkiness of the outfield of Fenway Park. Matt Holliday, John Jay, and Carlos Beltran will have to deal with it while Gomes-Ellsbury-Victorino all thrive at Fenway.
Boston’s infield defense has been brilliant in the postseason, but the Cards have been very old as well. Both teams have just three errors throughout their playoff run.
The Sox have run the bases extremely well all season long, but the difference in this series is that they face the best defensive catcher in the game in Yadier Molina. He is joy to watch play the game, and you could go to any game he plays in and just watch him all game long and get your money’s worth. How he affects what the Sox do on the base paths could be a key to the series.
Edge: Even (because of Molina)
Both organizations have had a great year. They each have solid ownership, front offices, managers and coaching staffs. They have players that love the game and play hard, and both have great fans and ballparks.
I love this matchup and I hope it plays out just like the League Championship series did.
This Red Sox team is relentless. Any team that can beat David Price, Matt Moore, Justin Verlander, and Max Scherzer has to be special. The only question I have in my mind is can the Sox starters be as good as they have been up to now? The Cards lineup had their way with Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw in the NLCS, and the opposition taking the hill for the Cardinals is just as good as those four previously mentioned pitchers.
I just think the Red Sox are a slightly better team 1-25 and I believe that will show over a lengthy series.
One other potential big factor: in both 2004 and 2007, Jason Varitek credited the Sox advance scouting department with doing an amazing job in coming up with a game plan against the Cardinals and Rockies. He felt as prepared and confident as he’s ever been. This time around, Jason Varitek was a part of the advance scouting of the Cardinals. So, Tek could be huge again.
READ: World Series Predictions
My choice: Red Sox in 6.
Enjoy the Series!!!
Follow WBZ-TV’s Dan Roche on Twitter @RochieWBZ.
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