Oct 23, 2013, 12:31 PM EST
WORLD SERIES GAME 1: ST. LOUIS CARDINALS AT BOSTON RED SOX
Where: Fenway Park, Boston, MA
Gametime: 7:30 p.m.
Radio: ESPN Radio
Weather: Chance of rain, 47 degrees, wind 6 mph
Starting pitchers: STL – Adam Wainwright (19-9, 2.94) / BOS – Jon Lester (15-8, 3.75)
Over eight months after pitchers and catchers reported for spring training, we are finally down to two teams. The St. Louis Cardinals and Boston Red Sox will face off in the World Series for the fourth time in major league history, and the first time since 2004. Boston swept that series, but these teams are much different clubs nine years later.
Here’s how Mark Zuckerman and I see the series playing out:
Mark Zuckerman’s keys to a Cardinals’ win
1. HOPE CRAIG HAS AN IMMEDIATE IMPACT — Allen Craig was MLB’s best clutch hitter during the regular season (he batted an astounding .454 with runners in scoring position) but the Cards slugger hasn’t played since spraining his foot on Sept. 4. He’s ready to return now and will serve as DH for Games 1 and 2, but can he just step right in and contribute? If he can, St. Louis’ already-deep lineup becomes even more formidable.
2. WACHA IS NO JOKE — Who could have imagined the most-dominant pitcher in the Cardinals’ rotation (and perhaps any rotation from any postseason participant) would be 22-year-old right-hander Michael Wacha. But the rookie has been completely un-hittable and has earned the Game 2 start. The Red Sox have never seen him in person, and that should play right into Wacha’s hands, giving him an opportunity to continue his remarkable coming-out party.
3. DON’T WAIT TIL THE 9TH — No closer in baseball was tougher to beat this season (or this postseason) than Koji Uehara, who has allowed only one run in nine October innings. If the Cardinals plan on winning this thing, they better take a lead earlier and not count on producing a ninth-inning rally. Because it ain’t gonna happen against Uehara.
PREDICTION: Cardinals in 7
Chase Hughes’ keys to a Red Sox win
1. LESTER AND LACKEY — Through the first two games the Cardinals possess a clear advantage in starting pitching. In Adam Wainwright, their Game 1 starter, they have a former World Series winner with a terrific history in the playoffs. And in Michael Wacha they have the most dominant player so far in the 2013 postseason. Jon Lester and John Lackey will have to bring their best stuff to Fenway to give the Red Sox a chance to win, especially since Game 3 shifts to St. Louis where the Cardinals are 4-1 in the playoffs.
2. KEEP RUNNING — Boston’s 11 stolen bases in this year’s playoffs are as many as all the other teams have recorded this postseason combined. It was a major part of their game during the regular season and helps them score runs in a variety of ways. But now they go up against one of the best defensive catchers in the game in Yadier Molina. The Cardinals backstop has yet to allow a stolen base this October, and will look to eliminate that part of Boston’s attack.
3. ELLSBURY LEADS THE WAY — Jacoby Ellsbury has been arguably the best position player in the 2013 postseason. Through ten games he’s got 16 hits including three doubles and a triple, ten runs and six stolen bases. He already has four multi-hit games in the postseason. Ellsbury sets the table for the rest of the Red Sox lineup which hasn’t exactly been hot this October, but has come up over and over with timely hits.
PREDICTION: Cardinals in 6
PITCHERS AND CATCHERS REPORT IN
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As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2014 schedule (subject to change)...
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