The Red Sox will try to take this improbable season all the way home and try to bring the World Series trophy to Boston for the third time in ten years. Here are a some ramblings on the upcoming series and a prediction or two as well.
* Will the youthful Cardinals, especially all of their hard throwing young rookie pitchers wake up and realize they are in the World Series? And if so will that diminish their performances? Even if the Cards hurlers continue to fire away, the Red Sox have many good fast ball hitters and may be a match for the Cards kids.Trevor Rosenthal may throw a blazing fastball as closer, but I like Boston's chances against him more than I like St. Louis' versus Koji Uehara.
* The St. Louis rotation starts off strong with veteran Adam Wainwright and rookie Michael Wacha. But the next two in line, in some order, is Lance Lynn and Joe Kelly. Wainwright is very, very good but he is no Justin Verlander and Wacha despite his sizzling postseason is at best even with Max Scherzer and probably a notch or two below the presumptive 2013 AL Cy Young Award winner. Then the aforementioned Lynn and Kelly are not even in the same area code as Tigers' third and fourth men, Anibal Sanchez and Doug Fister. In other words, the Cardinals have a strong front of the rotation, but have nowhere near the rotation that the Sox just beat in six games.
* The Red Sox have outpaced all of baseball this year in stolen bases. Not only in number of bases, but in being successful around 93% of the time. St. Louis just may have the antedote to slow down or stop this part of Boston's game in All Star catcher Yadi Molina, who throws out a high percentage of would be stealers with his strong arm. But Jacoby Ellsbury for one, should have the speed to take a base or two even against Yadier. But even if the Sox do not steal bags, their aggressiveness on the bases can still be a weapon. A strong arm behind the dish still does not stop Red Sox runners from going first to third or scoring from second. I feel the Sox on the base paths will still be a factor in the series.
* St. Louis is much less experienced at the World Series than you think. Even though the Cards won it all two years ago in 2011, only seven players remain from that series. ( Wainwright was out all of 2011 with an injury). And their roster for the post season has contained ten rookies ( that will go down to 9, with Allen Craig back for the WS).
* How will the Red Sox cope with no DH in Games Three through Five in St. Louis? It has to be a disadvantage because the only defensive position DH David Ortiz can play is first base. And even though first baseman Mike Napoli was a catcher until this year, his potential hip condition and the fact he has not caught in a year, means he can only play first as well. And since these two gentlemen are the 4-5 hitters in the lineup, you must go without one of them each game for three in a row. To me the best way to counteract this loss is for the top of the order to wreak havoc like they did versus the Rays in the ALDS. Ellsbury, Victorino, and Pedroia can have some runs on the board before they get to the 4-5 spots.
*Another interesting question is who will bat fifth in St. Louis? This may depend entirely on who performs with distinction in the first two games. The candidates are Jonny Gomes ( or Daniel Nava if he plays over Gomes, I do not think he will), Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Stephen Drew ( very unlikely unless is goes 8 for 9 in Games One and Two), or Xander Bogaerts. I think it is likely Gomes, but Bogaerts could push himself into contention with a hot World Series start. And by the way in Game Five, Lester will pitch and likely David Ross will catch meaning the fifth hole certainly will go to Gomes or Bogaerts.
* In both the ALDS and ALCS, first year Sox skipper John Farrell was reputed to be at a disadvantage over the more experienced and playoff savvy managers Joe Maddon and Jim Leyland. That did not necessarily turn out to be true, but it will not be a factor in the World Series. John Farrell with three years of big league managing on his resume is one year ahead of Cards skipper Mike Matheny, who had never managed at any level until taking over the Cards in 2012. This will be the first World Series as a manager for either. Matheny is in his second postseason as manager as he led his team to the NLCS in 2012 as well. ( where they blew a 3-1 lead and lost to the Giants) Any advantage there may be for Matheny is more than offset by John Farrell's experience at Terry Francona's side in the 2007 World Series as Sox pitching coach.
* Prediction time. I did not bathe myself in glory by picking Stephen Drew as ALCS MVP before the series began. But in my defense I would like to point out so far I have predicted the Sox in 4 over Tampa Bay and Sox in six over Detroit. Bingo. ( and let's be real, picking the post season can be a real crapshoot) So I confess I may be blinded by the shiny new toy, but I will take Xander Bogaerts as
World Series MVP. His approach versus the Tigers pitching in 11 plate appearances was outstanding and he came close to hitting a couple of home runs( which were both doubles). I think he will feast on the fireballing Cardinals.
The Sox will split the first two at Fenway and take two of three when they get to St. Louis ( and the soft underbelly of the Cards rotation.) Then the Red Sox come home to clinch the World Series at Fenway Park for the first time since 1918( thought you were done with that phrase, didn't you).
Sox in Six