The Boston Red Sox and the St. Louis Cardinals meet in the 109th World Series beginning Wednesday night in Boston at Fenway Park.
A grand slam by outfielder Shane Victorino in Game Six of the ALCS on Saturday clinched Boston’s third trip to the Fall Classic in the last nine seasons, defeating the Detroit Tigers 3-2 in the series. The 2013 season has been an incredible turn around for Boston, who struggled to a 69-93 record last year.
St. Louis finished off the Los Angeles Dodgers the previous night with a 9-0 drubbing headlined by 22-year-old righty Michael Wacha’s masterful seven innings of shutout ball. It’s the second World Series appearance for the Cards in three seasons.
They needed seven games, seven RBI and a .348 average from MVP third baseman David Freese to defeat Texas in 2011. In the two years since, the Cardinals have completely retooled their rotation, as not one starting pitcher from that championship team is currently on the playoff roster.
Due to the AL’s All-Star Game victory, the Red Sox have home-field advantage, and will host Games One and Two, before the series shifts to Busch Stadium for Games Three, Four, and if necessary Five. There will be two days off between Games Two and Three for travel, and the same between Five and Six should the series return to Boston. The full schedule is available at MLB.com.
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Adam Wainwright will start Game One for St. Louis against Boston’s Jon Lester. Wainwright has scattered four runs with a 0.78 whip over three starts for a 2-1 record, while Lester has the same record with 14 strikeouts and a 2.33 ERA.
Wacha will meet Clay Buchholz in Game Two, and Boston’s John Lackey faces Joe Kelly in Game Three.
These two teams have met three other times in the Series, with Boston taking the most recent battle. St. Louis needed seven games in both 1946 and 1967 to deny the Red Sox the world title, until 2004.
Motivated after coming back from an unprecedented 3-0 deficit against the rival New York Yankees, the Red Sox ended their 86-year championship drought with a 4-0 sweep of the Cardinals. It was a different era for both teams, with outfielder Manny Ramirez earning Series MVP honors, and Albert Pujols entering his prime at first base for St. Louis. It was also the seventh Series lost by the Cards in 18 appearances.
Boston doubled up St. Louis 24-12 in four games that year, but both teams appear more equal this time around. The Red Sox combined for a .202 team average with 73 strikeouts in the ALCS, with Jacoby Ellsbury and Mike Napoli leading the way with 24 total bases, five RBI, and four extra-base hits.
Carlos Beltran is once again powering the Cardinals lineup, knocking in 12 runs, with four extra-base hits, and two home runs in these playoffs. The outfielder is also now tied for eighth all-time with 16 career postseason home runs.
Freese is far removed from his breakout postseason performance in 2011. In 37 at-bats he’s picked up seven hits for a .189 average, but came through with a huge two-run home run in the deciding Game Five against Pittsburgh in the divisional round.
In terms of the pitching matchups, the Cards hold a considerable advantage with a 2.34 team ERA. Wacha’s gone 3-0 in three starts with 22 strikeouts and a 0.43 ERA, and the bullpen has give up a paltry six runs all postseason.
The Boston staff has surrendered four more runs and walks throughout the postseason for a 3.05 ERA, led by Lester and Lackey’s four wins over five starts. Reliever Koji Uehara has also totaled five saves over nine innings of work, the most of these playoffs.
Prediction: The Red Sox have proved they can overcome solid starting pitching in the ALCS, and should do it again. Expect a long series, with Boston using their solid power in the lineup to edge St. Louis.
TV Channel: All the games will be broadcast by FOX.