Tonight, the Cardinals and Red Sox open season on the World Series at Fenway Park and it’s hard to find a part of me that isn’t excited to see the Redbirds compete for their 12th championship title. Baseball isn’t an easy sport to love. It takes patience, exasperates your nerves and requires a particular brand of devotion only developed at a very young age. It was hard to tell what would come of the 2013 Cardinals but if any team has earned the right to return to the center stage of the playoffs, it St. Louis. Minus three starters, a shortstop, closer and their RBI machine first basemen for the most important stretch of the season, the Cards used 20 different rookies to climb their way back to the top. They beat their division rival Pirates in 5 games and outlasted the hapless and mercenary assembled Dodgers in 6 games to reach the World Series. It’s a helluva story that will see an end in about 10 days. The best team in each league meets this week in the World Series and the winner will be justified. Who wins and why? I believe the Cards will win in 7 hard fought stressful games and here are a few reasons why that can happen. I will leave the ridiculously detailed observations to the stat hounds on twitter. I am going to swing the blunt stick here for the pleasure of my readers who don’t have all day.
4 Reasons Why The Cardinals Win The Series.
*The Cardinals have a better 1-2 punch in their rotation at the moment and that means everything because these two will pitch twice in the series and determine the initial momentum and the outcome. For the last month, no combo has pitched better than Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha. Wainwright has been nails for the better part of September and all of October. He is an ace and has pitched like one. If he can make it out of the first inning, Waino has been nearly unhittable. Coming up behind him is the rookie sensation Wacha. He didn’t just pitch good the past 2 weeks. He has dominated hard hitting good teams. He dominated the Pirates in the division series to keep the Birds in it and proved his mettle by beating the Dodgers twice in the NLCS. What makes you think the Red Sox will have a shot against him at Fenway or Busch Stadium? Wacha is the deal breaker when it comes to which starting pitching has the edge. I am sorry but Jon Lester, Jake Peavy, Clay Buckholtz and John Lackey don’t scare me and neither of them form a 1-2 combo better than Waino and Wacha.
*Allen Craig is back and that is great for many reasons. First, his bat in this lineup instantly it deadly. This is a guy who drove in 97 runs in about 5 months. Craig doesn’t do it by bashing home runs. He collects his RBI by knocking in runners with 2 outs and the stress levels higher than the roof of a stadium. He doesn’t have to crush the ball or swing the bat like Thor like his teammate Matt Holliday. Craig has a nice and easy going swing that lobs base hits to all fields. His timing won’t be an issue. If he had to catch up to the Cards’ young arms fastballs there would be problems. Most of the Red Sox rotation relies on command and offspeed pitching, and Craig has shown the ability to hit any breaking ball. He is a smart sound RBI machine that is the offensive X-Factor for the 4 games in Boston. There is a chance he could play first base for 1 of the 3 games at Busch and the good thing is he has until Saturday to prep his legs for that. Home field advantage is nice but without it allows the Cards to see what Craig can do on the base paths. If he plays first, Mr. Matt Adams carries his sledgehammer back to the bench for late inning heroics. If not, Craig sits at Busch as the most deadly man in the stadium waiting for his chance to make a dent. A healthy and effective Allen Craig makes the two lineups seem pretty even. Allen Craig and Wacha are difference makers ladies and gents.
*Our bullpen is better than the Red Sox pen. Sure, the team gave Edward Mujica a guest spot again but still bolster a group that throws hard moving heat and can break off the curve when needed. Have a problem with David Ortiz? Bring out Randy Choate or Kevin Siegrist. Need a double play? Ask Seth Maness to spin a sinker up there and the inning is over. Have a problem with switch hitters? Siegrist can handle them and there also is a guy named Carlos Martinez down there waiting to make an impact. Martinez has been pitching lights out of the pen lately, filling himself with confidence and arrogance on the mound. At the end there is a man named Trevor Rosenthal who has been a door slammer this month. Rosenthal is also pitching with more confidence since taking over the closer role. He shut down Washington in the final week of the season and didn’t run in any problems with Pittsburgh or Los Angeles. Just remember this. The Red Sox outlasted the Detroit Tigers because the Detroit bullpen pathetically blew two fine games pitched by Max Scherzer. If Waino, Wacha or Joe Kelly hand a lead to this Cardinal bullpen, it won’t be blown and it definitely won’t happen twice. The turning point in the Detroit-Boston series was the Tigers pen blowing a 5-1 Game 2 lead. Once that happened, the series was swung in the other direction towards Boston. They were given a life and took advantage. Against our hard throwing arms, they won’t see a shred of that advantage this next week.
*Carlos Beltran. Yeah, I am getting sentimental here but I have a feeling Beltran will finally capture his long awaited World Series ring. He has waited 15 years to get here and I doubt the Cards will let this opportunity slip away. There is no guarantee Carlos will return next season so this is the best shot to deliver the veteran a smooth ride home. Beltran has been a great teammate and ambassador of the game in St. Louis and came here to win it all. This team may get down but it won’t let sadness reach their savvy old right fielder again like it did in 2012. Beltran is a postseason beast and will take care of business. We wouldn’t be here without his heroic efforts in game 1 of the NLCS and I have a feeling we are in for a couple more signature Beltran moments the next week or so. Sure, the Red Sox are playing for the grieving city of Boston, which is still reeling from the bombing earlier this year. The Cards are playing for simpler reasons that include Beltran and a guy named Stan Musial, who passed away right before spring training. The Cards have honored their fallen legend by playing in a manner that would make Stan proud and that won’t stop this week.
One Reason The Cards may have trouble
*The defense playing in Fenway park. Left and center field are deal breakers. Matt Holliday was taking fly balls off the green monster in left field and Jon Jay will be manning a center field with an awkward and potentially hazardous layout. The two games the Cards lost in the NLCS were games the defense let the pitching down. The Cards either play great defense or throw the ball around and drop pop ups and miss fly balls. Make a mistake in this sandbox American League park and the entire game and series could be flipped in another direction. The Cards must play GOOD DEFENSE. Avoid errors, make the throws and catch everything you can. Simple duty if you let it be.
Both the Cards and Red Sox finished 97-65 and got to the World Series. It’s a rare moment where the best of the best meet in the final round and picking a winner isn’t easy. Both teams are playing with momentum but I think the Cards are on a higher level due to their takedown of Clayton Kershaw twice in the League Championship series. The Red Sox couldn’t solve Max Scherzer in two start lasting nearly 14 innings and needed the horrible Detroit bullpen to cough up the leads. The Cards got to the World Series by destroying Kershaw and the Dodgers. After that raucous triumph, no one on the Red Sox pitching roster scares me. Bring it on Boston! Your city will be quite strong without another world championship ring. Prepare to fall. At 730pm tonight, the 2013 World Series begins and I can’t wait.
Thanks for staying and GO CARDS,
Dan L. Buffa