Why You Play The Game

This is what all the work is for.  This is what makes those workouts in the winter, those exercises in the spring, that daily grind during the summer all worth it.  This is why you get up early and stay up late.

Folks, we’re blogging the World Series.  Fans of 28 other teams can’t say that.  We’re still going long after other blogs have started looking at the roster for next year or commenting on a new managerial hire.  We’re still talking about baseball games and it’s glorious.

If we’re excited, just imagine what the players feel like!

Tonight Game 1 of the World Series will occur in Fenway Park.  They won the 1967 Series when it started in Fenway, though obviously lost the 2004 version that began there.  It’s fun to look at the history of these two teams in World Series play, but that’s going to mean less than nothing once the first pitch is thrown.

Before the NLDS and NLCS, I looked at five keys for the Cardinals.  I did OK on the NLDS ones, so let’s quickly take a look back at what happened against the Dodgers.

1. Get at least a split in the first two games.  Check.  Even did better than that with a sweep, something that was key for the win.

2. Get strong starting pitching.  Check.  Only one game was the starting pitching even close to iffy and that was Game 5.

3. Beat a lefty.  Check.  How about beating the best lefty in the game….twice!

4. Think like Mark McGwire.  No grade.  I don’t think there were any obvious situations where they attacked hitters or adjusted their batting approach because of their former hitting coach on the other bench.  That said, those adjustments might have been made behind the scenes.

5. Stay loose.  Check.  Joe Kelly‘s stand-off with Scott Van Slyke proved that no matter the national narrative, this was a fun-loving bunch not uptight on the big stage.

With that in mind, let’s look for keys to the World Series.

1. Get Michael Wacha to continue his run.  Wacha has been dominant in this postseason, winning the NLCS MVP and allowing just one run.  While you can’t expect that he’s going to be perfect each time out, if he can continue that sort of streak, allowing minimal damage, the Cardinals have that 1-2 punch that can be so deadly in short series.

2. Allen Craig must be 75% or more.  We don’t know what we are going to get from Craig, who has been out since early September.  Will Mike Matheny be able to put him right into the heart of the lineup?  If so, will his rust play a factor in stalling rallies?  If Craig is pretty close to the Craig that we saw all season long, this lineup is much more dangerous than it was in the first two rounds, when at times there seemed to be three automatic outs.

3. Get a strong start from Kelly or Lance Lynn.  The Cardinals can win the Series by just winning starts from the front half of the rotation, but that means those guys not only have to be very good, they have to be backed with some offense.  If either of them slips, you have to get a win somewhere else.  Kelly and Lynn seem to be the ones that are most likely to suffer from Boston’s patient, grinding attack.  Both tend to give up more walks and hits than they should and that will cost them against this lineup.  If they can pitch to their potential, it would make the road a lot easier for St. Louis.

4. Get early leads.  While the Red Sox bullpen might not bring the firepower that the Cardinals’ does, there is no doubt it is an effective group.  You also figure that Koji Uehara will not allow those comebacks like Neftali Feliz did a couple of years ago.  If you are down in the ninth, you are pretty much done.  The St. Louis bullpen has been outstanding for a long time, so get a one-run or two-run lead to them and there’s a strong likelihood of a win.

5. Enjoy the moment.  We look at what the Cardinals have and what they will have for a few years and we think that we’ll have plenty of these opportunities.  Next year, when Oscar Taveras comes and Jaime Garcia is back and perhaps there’s a new shortstop, this team could be even better.  However, look at the Nationals for a cautionary tale.  They expected a run of post-season success and, at least this year, they were well off of it.  You don’t know what’s coming down the pipe and this could be the only chance for some players to be on the biggest stage.  Hopefully they can soak it in without being overwhelmed.

Adam Wainwright goes for the Cardinals tonight.  He’s faced a few of these Red Sox from their time in the National League, but what they’ve seen of him, they’ve not liked.

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP
Shane Victorino 23 22 5 1 0 1 3 0 2 .227 .261 .409 .670 0 0 0 1
Stephen Drew 21 19 2 1 0 0 0 2 5 .105 .190 .158 .348 0 0 0 0
David Ross 12 11 2 1 0 1 3 1 4 .182 .250 .545 .795 0 0 0 0
Jonny Gomes 11 10 2 1 0 1 3 1 4 .200 .273 .600 .873 0 0 1 0
Ryan Dempster 4 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 1 0 0 0
Mike Carp 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0
Total 74 68 11 4 0 3 9 4 15 .162 .219 .353 .572 1 0 1 1
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 10/23/2013.

Shane Victorino should be starting and you expect that Stephen Drew will as well, though you wonder if looking at this, the Sox might not shift Xavier Boegarts there for the night.  If Wainwright can continue this success and extend it to the rest of the lineup, it could be a very good night for the Redbirds.

Jon Lester, the left-hander, will take the mound for the home team.  We know how much the Cardinals have struggled with lefties and even though they just beat Clayton Kershaw, that might continue.  There’s been minimal exposure to Lester, though you hope that “new pitcher experience” is countered by the fact there is a lot of video and scouting on him.

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP
Matt Holliday 6 6 2 0 0 0 1 0 1 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0
Carlos Beltran 3 1 1 0 0 0 0 2 0 1.000 1.000 1.000 2.000 0 0 0 0
Yadier Molina 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0
Total 12 10 3 0 0 0 1 2 1 .300 .417 .300 .717 0 0 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 10/23/2013.

We’d take the team hitting .300 off of him tonight, wouldn’t we? I guess it depends on where the hits are.

The Cardinals and Red Sox are a lot alike.  Both have strong offenses, good pitching, and a strong bond between teammates.  With similarities this strong, it’s hard to definitively pick a favorite.  Obviously, I feel like the Cardinals will win and doing some general breakdown I feel better about that, but you really never know.  A bad day by a reliever, a ball hitting a pebble, a brain cramp from a fielder, all of these things could be the difference between a parade and a cold winter.

The Red Sox haven’t lost a World Series game since Game 7 of the 1986 Series (the day after Bill Buckner and Mookie Wilson).  They swept St. Louis in 2004 and the Rockies in 2007.  That streak has gone on long enough.  Let’s end it tonight!

PS:  A fellow BBA member, Paul Sullivan, has been doing daily podcasts.  Daily, folks!  I have trouble doing them twice a month!  Anyway, his first year wraps up today.  Even though he’s a Red Sox fan, it’s worth a listen!

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