Major League Baseball has reached its ultimate series of the season, with the St. Louis Cardinals and Boston Red Sox reaching the World Series and both looking for their third title in the past ten seasons.
These two clubs have been on very different paths lately: the Cardinals just missed a World Series berth last year after losing to the eventual champion San Francisco Giants in the National League Championship Series; the Red Sox finished in dead last in the American League East last season and failed to make the playoffs. However, each team proved to be the best in their respective leagues this season, and were the favorites to reach the World Series. Game 1 is Wednesday in Boston; here is a look at what players on both clubs will be most crucial for their club in winning the 2013 title.
Jon Lester, Boston Red Sox — Starting pitcher
Lester will start the first game of the series for the Red Sox Wednesday, which means he will get a second nod in either Game 4 or 5, depending on how the series is shaping up. He could also be pressured into a potential Game 7 start on short rest if it comes down to it. The Red Sox will rely heavily on their lefty and he has the potential to provide his team with more than half of the necessary wins to take home the trophy. He is 2-1 with a 2.33 earned run average in three starts this postseason; his only loss came against the Detroit Tigers in a 1-0 pitching duel against Anibal Sanchez. Lester has displayed he is up for the postseason challenge and the Red Sox will need at least two victories from him if they want to win.
Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals — Catcher
The Cardinals pitching staff boasts several great arms, but they’re turned into one of the league’s scariest bunch because of their battery mate Molina. Molina calls the best game in the sport, he keeps runners from advancing, he doesn’t give up past balls and he can handle the bat quite well. He is the most important player for the Cardinals and he will earn MVP honors if the pitching duel trend that has hit the 2013 playoff continues and the Cardinals come out on top. Even if his bat doesn’t produce much, what he does behind the plate for the Cardinals staff and bullpen is irreplaceable. Coach Mike Matheny, a former Cardinals catcher himself, knows exactly what he has in Molina and the Red Sox won’t dare to try and run on him. That could eliminate the Red Sox from having to play small ball if their bats can’t bring the pop.
David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox — Designated hitter
Ortiz is no stranger to the spotlight. This postseason alone he has provided the Red Sox with lasting memories and game-saving homeruns. If the Red Sox win it all, you can count on at least one game where David Ortiz made it happen.
Carlos Beltran, St. Louis Cardinals — Outfielder
Beltran has never been to the World Series, but he is a terrific career postseason player. If he is able to carry over his performance through this year’s postseason so far into the World Series, the Cardinals have a serious weapon that the Red Sox might not be able to handle.
Other players to watch:
Red Sox all-star second baseman Dustin Pedroia hasn’t been swinging a hot bat this postseason, which could mean a hot-streak is on deck.
Rookie starter Michael Wacha has pitched three gems for the Cardinals this postseason, he should get at least one more start in the World Series, possibly two.
Shane Victorino launched the Red Sox into the World Series with a grand slam against the Tigers — will he carry that momentum into a World Series MVP performance?
And for the Cardinals, will their leading hitter, Allen Craig, who has been out since the beginning of September with a foot injury, return to form? Craig drove in 97 runs and batted .315 on the season in just 134 games — he has yet to play in the postseason and could easily carry this club to a World Series win. He is healthy and will have the opportunity to bat in the designated hitter slot in the American League stadium.