Birds v. Sox: Part IV

St. Louis holds an all-time 2-1 series edge over Boston heading into the 109th Fall Classic tonight on FOX. 

In 1946, a pair of all time greats clashed in what would eventually be dubbed the “Mad Dash”. Ted Williams’ Red Sox and Stan Musial’s Cardinals dueled seven games before Enos Slaughter scored the decisive run when he slid safe at home during the eighth inning.

In 1967, Mike Shannon and Tim McCarver rushed the mound in celebration as Bob Gibson finished his third complete game of the 7-game series. “They were all day games, of course,” McCarver said during a media obligation this week. “Trying to hit or catch Bob Gibson in a day game, it was virtually impossible to do either.”

In 2004, Boston fans finally rejoiced in reversing the “Curse of the Bambino”. The Red Sox completed an epic ALCS comeback down 3-0 to the Yankees before sweeping the 105-win Cardinals. It would mark the final World Series played at Busch Memorial Stadium.

So tonight, when John Lester throws his first pitch to Matt Carpenter, another incredible series will begin writing baseball history. The St. Louis Cardinals and the Boston Red Sox… Fenway Park and Busch Stadium…A true original Fall Classic.

Any pundit thinking they’ve configured the Rubik’s Cube should probably throw it away and start anew. These were the two best teams in baseball, with similar organizational blueprints. Young pitching, power bats, and good bullpens — both rosters have similarities, which help explain how each arrived.

Yadier Molina enters his fourth World Series. His only loss came to the hands of Boston in 2004, when he was a 22-year old rookie. He started Games 3 and 4 in place of Mike Matheny — who would never don the Cardinal uniform again until John Mozeliak introduced him as the manager last season.

For me, 2004 was my first World Series. I watched Pedro Martinez throw a gem, Jeff Suppan have a base running blunder at third base, and Molina get in the face of Manny Ramirez to make sure he wasn’t stealing signs.

To this day, Edgar Renteria’s soft tapper back to Keith Foulke for the final out replays in my head like a GIF — it’s just as disturbing as seeing Red Sox nation “Cowboy Up” on the home turf. Bastards.

So for many Cardinal fans, it’s a true sense of a rivalry when the sweet taste of winning sits four games away.

SCOUTING BOSTON

Boston was an unlikely pick coming off a horrendous 2012 campaign. Only five teams in all of baseball were worse than the Sox, who finished 69-93. Wholesale changes ensued. Boston traded for John Farrell, then manager of Toronto, returning to a pitching staff he knew quite well. Farrell spent four seasons as Terry Francona’s pitching coach. The young aces (Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz) needed a stabilizing, familiar voice. Farrell deserves serious accolades for righting the ship in just one season.

Boston rid themselves of Adrian “Mickey Mouse” Gonzalez and Carl Crawford for guys willing to sacrifice more grit like Mike Napoli and Shane Victorino. They shipped off Josh Beckett and traded for Jake Peavy. It was a diva, chicken-and-beer team as opposed to the driven, hard-nosed, fight-till-you-die type.

Each team has two big edges against one another.

Boston has better team speed. They swiped 11-of-13 bags against Detroit in the ALCS. They’re also a better team defensively if you believe in things called a “fielding bible” and “zone ratings”. I could give a damn about those so if you care for more on those, by all means.

St. Louis has the best two pitchers on either team: Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha. The Cardinals also have the best player on either team handling a pitching staff while also hitting well above .300. His name is Yadier Molina.

Wainwright: nothing like this. 

Both offenses have holes. Stephen Drew (3-for-35) has less postseason hits this October than Pete Kozma (5-for-25). Third basemen Will Middlebrooks has pop, but has just four hits and no homers this postseason. David Freese has seven hits including a home run this postseason — and he carries a career .306 postseason average (not to mention a World Series MVP award).

Mike Matheny should at least start Shane Robinson against both left-handers. He deserves it after going 3-for-7 with one home run and 3 RBI’s during the NLCS.

UNANSWERABLE QUESTIONS

  • Will Senor Octubre continue?
  • Can Allen Craig find himself?
  • Will Matt Holliday catch the ball?
  • Is Matt Carpenter back?
  • Does the STL bullpen have stage fright?
  • Will LHP stymie Redbird bats?

Answers to those and more start tonight in Boston for what should be a very good week of baseball.

Allen Craig: Ready to go … see ball, hit ball. 
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