World Series battle of the best: Boston Red Sox v. St. Louis Cardinals
By Collin Trotter
After a grueling season, featuring over 4,800 games played over a seven-month season, the stage for the MLB World Series has been finally set. Thirty teams began the season in April, each eager at the chance of hoisting the coveted World Series trophy. For 28 of these teams, that chance has been crushed, and will have to wait again for next year. For the St. Louis Cardinals and the Boston Red Sox, the dream is still intact.
On Wednesday, the 2013 World Series, a best-of-seven series to determine the champion of Major League Baseball got underway. Last October, it was the San Francisco Giants who took the trophy, but this year will see a new champion, as the Giants failed to reach the postseason. The Red Sox and Cardinals had the best record in their respective leagues (97-65), making it the first World Series since 1999 to feature the two teams with the best records in the National League and the American League. Despite similar records, the stories behind the teams’ journeys to the World Series are much different.
The Cardinals are no strangers to the postseason, as dictated by their recent success in the last decade. The Cardinals have been in the playoffs seven of the last 10 years, and have made it to the World Series four times in that during that span. In fact, had it not been for a devastating loss to the Giants in the National League Championship Series in 2012, the Cardinals essentially would be in their third World Series in a row. They won it all in 2011, and look to start towards their 12th championship in team history on Wednesday night.
The Cardinal’s success this year stemmed from timely hitting and great pitching, as they held the fifth best earned run average (ERA) and scored the third most runs of all teams in the major leagues. In fact, the Cardinals hit .330 with runners in scoring position this season, which was the highest since 1974. In the first round of the playoffs, the Cardinals took on their division rivals the Pittsburgh Pirates, and beat them in a decisive game five in a best-of-five series. In the NLCS, the Cardinals took on the Dodgers, but took care of them in six games, not needing to play game seven in a best-of-seven series. They were led by great pitching from ace Adam Wainwright and NLCS MVP Michael Wacha, who have combined to throw near a 1.00 ERA during the postseason.
On the other hand, the Boston Red Sox were not projected to do as well. In fact, many experts predicted the Red Sox to not even reach the postseason, after they shipped away many of their players in a 2012 blockbuster trade. Last season, the Red Sox finished with a record of 69-93, and were cellar-dwellers in the American League East division. It was their worst record since 1965, and no one expected them to turn it around as drastically as they did in less than a year.
This season, the Red Sox were an offensive powerhouse. They scored the most runs this season with 853, which was 56 more than the next closest team. They have been led all season by centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, who hit nearly .300 and stole 52 bags in only 134 games this season. The Red Sox had a fairly stress free run during the 2013 playoffs so far. They took the series against their division rivals Tampa Bay Rays by a margin of three games to one, and proceeded to conquer the Tigers in six games in the ALCS. The Red Sox pitching has been phenomenal during the postseason, averaging a mere three runs a game. Their bullpen has been nearly perfect, giving up only three runs in 32 innings pitched behind ALCS MVP Koji Uehara. In the ALCS, the Red Sox had two clutch grand slams from David Ortiz in Game 2 and Shane Victorino in Game 6.
There are many more storylines to look forward to with the impending World Series matchup.
The Cardinals and Red Sox feature two of the most clutch postseason hitters in all of baseball behind Carlos Beltran and David Ortiz. Beltran is eighth all time in postseason home runs with 16, two of which having come from his 2013 playoff campaign. He leads all players this postseason with 12 runs batted in (RBI). David Ortiz has eight RBI himself. His eighth inning grand slam in game two was one of the most memorable home runs in franchise history. He has 15 career postseason home runs, and is fifth all time with 54 RBI in his postseason career.
The Red Sox also feature rookie third baseman Xander Bogaerts, who became the youngest Red Sox player ever to start a postseason, at just 21 years of age. So far he has impressed the Red Sox faithful, racking up a .727 on base percentage.
It’s a matchup between young managers, with John Farrell of the Red Sox in just his first season and Mike Matheny of the Cardinals in his second with their respective teams.Cardinal’s slugger Allen Craig, who has been injured during the entirety of the postseason, also is expected to be back for the World Series, and is surely to bolster the already dangerous Cardinal lineup.
This World Series is even a story of facial hair. Yes, you read that correctly. The Cardinals feature a plethora of young, clean cut relievers, while the Red Sox have made it a team bonding experience to let their beards grow out until the postseason ends.
Red Sox vs. Cardinals: a rematch of the 2004 World Series won by the Red Sox, a series of 2013’s best teams and a battle between beards vs. no beards. World Series baseball is a time of year that all baseball fans cherish, because there isn’t much in the sporting world that is more intense. Many of these players have dreamed of this moment since they were little kids, and soon, some of them will be hoisting up the World Series. So sit back, relax, and watch the game’s greatest moment unfold.
Trotter’s Take- Personally not a huge fan of the Red Sox facial hair, but it won’t be enough to stop them from winning the World Series in six games. Jacoby Ellsbury wins the MVP, and Koji Uehara notches four saves.