It is finally here. We have had one of the most exciting, intriguing and intense baseball playoffs in recent years. If you don’t believe me, just check this out. Ratings are up 9% overall from last season!
These two teams are very familiar in the postseason. In addition to 2004, both teams will meet for the 4th time.
Below are just a few of the things I can come up with the top of my head that Fox will be mentioning as side stories:
Big Papi leading the beards vs Wainwright & Molina leading the rookie pitchers.
Winning the 2013 World Series for Stan Musial
Cardinals revenge from 2004
Cardinal Red vs THE Red Sox
Will Big Papi dust off his glove to play 1B?
Will Allen Craig hit well at DH despite a foot injury?
East Coast alleged “best fans in baseball” vs Midwest alleged “best fans in baseball”
The list goes on and on. This will be an very intriguing and intense World Series pitting the first time since 1999 the top AL and NL teams with the best record overall are playing for who should be the champ.
Boston Red Sox:
Strengths: Boston is a team that plays very well offensively. They can beat you in low scoring games and beat you in high scoring games. Two of the biggest home runs in the ALCS was when Big Papi won game 2 with a grand slam and Shane Victorino won with a grand slam to clinch game 6.
The back end of their bullpen is also a strength. Koji Uehera has been the lock down closer that the Red Sox had hoped for. It was one of the many reasons why they are here and Detroit is at home.
Also mainstays like Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, and David Ortiz have been in the playoffs before and I am sure are motivated to not just win another ring, but win one for Boston.
Weaknesses: Boston has played well offensively however they have shown many times this postseason that a dominant pitcher can silence their bats at any time. Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer did exactly that.
Jake Peavy seemed very rocky against a Detroit team that was scuffling many times to score runs.
Additionally, Clay Buchholz pitched very poorly in game 2 and you could argue it was Detroit making bad mistakes in game 6 that cost them runs more than Buhholz pitching well. Starting pitching should be a concern for Boston.
Also, the Red Sox are hinting at David Ortiz playing first base during some of these playoffs. I know you want him in for the bat, but it automatically equals a defensive liability especially if he plays first in St. Louis. Look at game 6 of the NLCS and how the Cardinals exposed an injured Hanley Ramirez, and a fundamentally poor Yasiel Puig for examples.
St. Louis Cardinals:
Stengths: Obviously let’s begin with starting pitching. Adam Wainwright is definitely the true ace of the Cardinals. Can you believe Michael Wacha is definitely the ace of the playoffs? At age 22, the kid has no conscious, or nervousness in these playoffs. He just goes out there, pitches a great game and makes it look easy. Wacha is the best pitcher in this entire postseason. Don’t think for a second, the Cardinals were looking to wrap up game 6 on Friday night so they can go Wainwright possibly 3 times and Wacha twice and possibly pitching game 7 in relief if it gets to it.
The Cardinals are probably the BEST team in baseball this year to take advantage of team’s mistakes. They also are the best team hitting with runners in scoring position and also doing it with 2 outs.
They put up a baseball clinic in game 6 of the NLCS. You may not have noticed if you are a casual fan who looks at RBI’s and box scores.
In my opinion, I think Matt Carpenter was the unsung hero of game 6. That 11 pitch at bat to Clayton Kershaw where he got a double, not only got Kershaw frustrated, but got the crowd and the team excited which turned into 4 runs. At bats like that in the regular season are great. In the playoffs against tough pitching, they are an amazing thing of beauty.
Allen Craig also returning should help the Cardinals bench be a little bit more deeper.
In addition, Carlos Beltran is playing out of his mind and you can see the team also rooting for him to win an elusive ring. If they also can get anything out of David Freese hitting the way he did in 2011, they could be tough to keep off the scoreboard.
Weakness: The Cardinals are usually good defensively, however in Game 3 of the NLCS, what was up with Jon Jay? Mental mistake after mental mistake. He can’t do what he did at Dodgers stadium in Fenway. The park is too unique in the outfield to misplay balls. Also while Beltran did make a couple of great catches, he does have knee issues and is not able to cutoff balls appropriately in the gaps. It cost the Cardinals runs in game 3. Do not be shocked if you see more of Shane Robinson play if the defensive miscues continue.
Additionally, it’s not really a weakness but many of the Cardinals players have never been this far. They keep winning and keep playing well. The spotlight will be on them like never before. Mike Matheny will have to continue to create a calm and smooth ship even when some things don’t go well. He is definitely the manager of these playoffs.
(Side note: He was selected in the 1991 draft by the Milwaukee Brewers and started out in their system. You are welcome Cardinals fans).
Result: In the end, I just think while the Red Sox have the better offense and home field advantage, the Cardinals love to play underdog. They did it down 2-1 vs Pittsburgh, were underdogs to a huge payroll Dodgers team many times outplaying them, and now are to my surprise media underdogs to the Red Sox.
I don’t get why it is more one sided. Is it cause Boston is a bigger market? The whole Boston Strong theme where the Red Sox winning a World Series would be symbolic? Or is it that their players are on average veterans compared to all the rookies on the Cardinals?
Here is the deal. The Red Sox have shown that against Detroit that they had trouble hitting against their aces. Cardinals have Wainwright and Wacha. Wacha has had a near no hitter and a two hitter this postseason. Maybe the Red Sox beat one of them but I doubt they beat both. I would be shocked if the series is not tied 1-1 heading into St. Louis.
St. Louis plays the best at home and the best when it comes to situational hitting. On last Friday, the biggest stat about their 9-0 win against the Dodgers? ZERO HOME RUNS!!!
In the end I think the Cardinals to me just appear to be the better balanced team and yes they will win one for Stan like it should be written in the baseball story books.
Cardinals in 6