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Tuesday, September 23, 2014         

MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL


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The Big Picture: Cardinals v. Red Sox

By Associated Press

POSTED:


Cardinals

After winning their 19th pennant, the Cardinals are seeking their 12th World Series title. They nearly repeated as NL champs in 2012 before blowing a 3-1 lead against San Francisco in the NLCS. This year, they opened a 3-1 lead over Los Angeles before dropping Game 5. But the Cardinals closed it out by thumping Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw in the Game 6 clincher. …

When the season is on the line, nobody’s been better than St. Louis. After winning the final two games of their best-of-five division series against Pittsburgh, the Cardinals are 8-1 when facing postseason elimination the past three years. …

The pressure was on throughout the regular season and the Cardinals (97-65) pulled away at the finish from Pittsburgh and Cincinnati to win the NL Central after never leading by more than four games nor trailing by more than four. To win another championship, they’ll need a long list of youngsters to keep coming through for second-year manager Mike Matheny. …

After setting a franchise record by batting .330 with runners in scoring position, the Cardinals were minus Allen Craig’s big bat during the playoffs. Adams hit eight homers filling in at first down the stretch but can be vulnerable against lefties. His two-run homer in the eighth inning all but sealed Game 5 against Pittsburgh. …

Joe Kelly was a fill-in for the second straight year but ended up being the team’s most consistent starter for about six weeks. …

The 23-year-old Shelby Miller also is a top-end talent, but he was left out of the playoff rotation and has pitched only one inning of relief this postseason. …

The bullpen anchors are also young, led by the hard-throwing Trevor Rosenthal. He has been dominant since taking over as the closer late in the season. …

St. Louis had plenty to overcome this year after losing ace Chris Carpenter, closer Jason Motte and shortstop Rafael Furcal to season-ending injuries before the season even started. Still, the Cardinals racked up their most wins since 2005, when they won 100 games. …

Wainwright tied Washington RHP Jordan Zimmermann for the NL lead in wins and joined Dizzy Dean (1934-35) and Mort Cooper (1942-43) as the only St. Louis pitchers to lead the league twice.

Red Sox

Boston (97-65) returned to the postseason for the first time since 2009 after one of the most tumultuous periods in franchise history. Following an unprecedented collapse in September 2011, the Red Sox brought in manager Bobby Valentine to restore order to a clubhouse that had grown complacent under two-time World Series champion Terry Francona. Players rebelled against Valentine and the team won just 69 games — its worst finish in almost half a century. The rebuilding began with the August 2012 trade of Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford to the Dodgers. …

The AL’s victory in the All-Star Game gives them the extra home game in the World Series. …

Under new manager John Farrell, the Red Sox became the second AL team in the three-division era to go from worst to first. Then they defeated the wild-card Rays 3-1 in the division series, winning both home games. Boston beat Detroit 4-2 in the ALCS to capture its 13th pennant, going 2-1 at Fenway Park despite nearly getting no-hit in the opener. Grand slams by David Ortiz in Game 2 and Shane Victorino in Game 6 rallied the Red Sox to victory. …

This was Boston’s first AL East title since 2007 and just the second since 1995. …

Ortiz is the only player remaining from the 2004 World Series title team. Dustin Pedroia, Jon Lester and Jacoby Ellsbury were also on the 2007 champions. …

The Red Sox never lost more than three games in a row this season, the first major league team to do that since the 2005 Cardinals. Boston has dropped three straight only twice since May. …

The Red Sox were successful on 86.6 percent of stolen base attempts, the best in AL history since baseball started keeping track of caught stealings in the 1920s. Boston was successful on its final 39 tries during the regular season and 11 of 13 in the playoffs. …

This is the fourth time Gomes has been a part of a big turnaround. The 2008 Rays won 31 more games than the year before; the 2010 Reds won 13 more, the 2012 Athletics won 20 more and this year’s Red Sox won 28 more than the previous season.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

Cardinals

» 2B Matt Carpenter (.318, 11 HRs, 78 RBIs, .392 OBP; led MLB with 199 hits, 126 runs and 55 doubles)

» RF Carlos Beltran (.296, 24, 84)

» LF Matt Holliday (.300, 22, 94, .389 OBP)

» C Yadier Molina (.319, 12, 80)

» DH Allen Craig (.315, 13, 97, MLB-best .454 average with RISP)

» 3B David Freese (.262, 9, 60)

» 1B Matt Adams (.284, 17, 51 in 108 games)

» CF Jon Jay (.276, 7, 67, 10 SBs) or Shane Robinson (.250, 2, 16 in 144 ABs)

» SS Pete Kozma (.217, 1, 35) or Daniel Descalso (.238, 5, 43)

Red Sox

» CF Jacoby Ellsbury (.298, 9, 53, 92 runs, MLB-best 52/56 SBs)

» RF Shane Victorino (.294, 15, 61, 21 SBs)

» 2B Dustin Pedroia (.301, 9, 84, 42 doubles, 17 SBs)

» DH David Ortiz (.309, 30, 103, .959 OPS)

» 1B Mike Napoli (.259, 23, 92)

» LF Jonny Gomes (.247, 13, 52) or Daniel Nava (.303, 12, 66)

» C Jarrod Saltalamacchia (.273, 14, 65)

» SS Stephen Drew (.253, 13, 67, 8 errors)

» 3B Xander Bogaerts (.250, 1, 5 in 44 ABs)

PROJECTED ROTATIONS

Cardinals

» RH Adam Wainwright (19-9, 2.94 ERA, 223 Ks, NL-high 2412⁄3 IP)

» RH Michael Wacha (4-1, 2.78 in 15 games, 9 starts; NLCS MVP)

» RH Joe Kelly (10-5, 2.69 in 37 games, 15 starts)

» RH Lance Lynn (15-10, 3.97).

Red Sox

» LH Jon Lester (15-8, 2.75, 2131⁄3 IP)

» RH John Lackey (10-13, 3.52, 2 CG)

» RH Clay Buchholz (12-1, 1.74)

» RH Jake Peavy (12-5, 4.17 with White Sox and Red Sox).

RELIEVERS

Cardinals

» RH Trevor Rosenthal (2-4, 2.74 ERA, 3 saves)

» RH Carlos Martinez (2-1, 5.08 in 21 games)

» RH Seth Maness (5-2, 2.32, 16 GIDP in 62 IP)

» LH Randy Choate (2-1, 2.29 in 64 games)

» LH Kevin Siegrist (3-1, 0.45, 392⁄3 IP, 17 hits, 50 Ks, 18 BBs)

» RH John Axford (7-7, 4.02 in 75 games; 1-0, 1.74 in 13 games with Cardinals after trade from Milwaukee)

» RH Edward Mujica (2-1, 2.78, 37/41 saves)

» RH Shelby Miller (15-9, 3.06 in 31 starts; led MLB rookies in wins)

Red Sox

» RH Koji Uehara (4-1, 1.09, 21/24 saves, 101 Ks, 9 BBs, 73 games; ALCS MVP)

» RH Junichi Tazawa (5-4, 3.16, 71 games)

» LH Craig Breslow (5-2, 1.81)

» RH Brandon Workman (6-3, 4.97 in 20 games, 3 starts)

» LH Felix Doubront (11-6, 4.32 in 29 games, 27 starts)

» LH Franklin Morales (2-2, 4.62)

» RH Ryan Dempster (8-9, 4.57 in 32 games, 29 starts)

MATCHUPS

While these teams haven’t run into each other in interleague play since June 2008, they have met in three memorable World Series throughout the years: St. Louis won seven-game thrillers in 1946 and 1967 before Boston rolled to a 2004 sweep that halted its 86-year championship drought. Aside from Yankees-Dodgers, there hasn’t been a more frequent matchup since that first Red Sox-Cardinals clash. …

Both model franchises rank among the most successful in baseball over the past 15 years. The Red Sox are seeking their third World Series title in 10 seasons. The Cardinals are going for their second in three years and third since 2006. …

Both clubs won 97 games this season, tying for the best record in the majors. It marks the first time since the Yankees swept the Braves in 1999 that the top teams in each league have met in the World Series. …

St. Louis led the National League with 783 runs. Boston topped the majors with 853. …

The designated hitter creates key questions for both teams, as it often does in the World Series. Allen Craig seems a perfect choice for the Cardinals when AL rules apply in Boston — he said Sunday he has recovered enough from a sprained left foot that’s sidelined him since early September. And if Craig is healthy enough to play first base, then Matt Adams could slide to DH. Matt Holliday and Carlos Beltran could also be candidates, opening room in the outfield for two superior defenders in Shane Robinson and Jon Jay. But when there is no DH allowed in the NL park, the Red Sox have a difficult decision to make. They can keep Ortiz in the lineup at first base, but that puts Mike Napoli on the bench. A proven postseason slugger, Napoli hit two big homers in the ALCS. He used to be a catcher, but hasn’t caught all season. …

Adam Wainwright took a tough-luck loss in the NLCS but is 4-1 with a 2.10 ERA and four saves in 16 career postseason games, including seven starts. He even helped St. Louis to a championship as a rookie closer in 2006. …

Michael Wacha, the NLCS MVP, has been almost unhittable lately, displaying remarkable poise for a 22-year-old rookie. …

With plenty of speed at the top of the lineup, the Red Sox like to run. With a rocket arm behind the plate, Yadier Molina makes it tough — he threw out 19 of 45 runners trying to steal this year. That matchup should be interesting. On the other side, St. Louis is short on wheels and rarely tries to steal. …

Few in this matchup have faced the opposing pitchers, but Shane Victorino and Jonny Gomes, two former NL players, each have homered off Wainwright.

—Associated Press

 






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