With the way Michael Wacha has been pitching, the St. Louis Cardinals may become a regular fixture in the postseason.
The young right-hander has been phenomenal in this year’s playoffs, posting a 3-0 record with a miniscule 0.43 ERA. This comes on the heels of a near no-hitter in his last regular season start. Wacha has been a pleasant surprise for a team that has relied on its pitching in the past.
During the 2011 playoffs St. Louis leaned heavily on ace Chris Carpenter. Carpenter won two of his three World Series starts as the Cardinals edged the Texas Rangers in seven games. In that postseason Carpenter went 4-0 with a 3.25 ERA.
This Cardinals team once again used dominating pitching to make a return trip to the Fall Classic. In addition to Wacha, Adam Wainwright has become the ace of the staff, posting a 1.57 ERA in his three starts. The rotation is set for both pitchers to make two appearances. And history has shown you can win a series with just two pitchers, especially when those two are in the kind of zone Wainwright and Wacha are in. But don’t hand over the World Series trophy just yet.
Boston pitchers might not have the same kind of gaudy numbers, but they are an experienced group familiar with postseason pressure. Jon Lester and John Lackey have been stalwarts in the rotation. Lester sports a 2.33 ERA while Lackey carries a respectable 3.00 ERA into the series. All you need to remember is this group out-pitched the Detroit Tigers duo of Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer.
The Red Sox will count on Jacoby Ellsbury to keep setting the table for the big hitters. Ellsbury is hitting .400 this postseason and leads the team with 10 runs scored. Boston only had two players with home runs going into game six of the ALCS against the Tigers before Shane Victorino smashed a grand slam to win the series.
Boston manager John Farrell has a tough decision to make when the series shifts to St. Louis. What to do with David Ortiz?
Ortiz leads the team with three home runs and can play first base if necessary. But that means taking Mike Napoli’s bat out of the lineup. Napoli is second on the team with two home runs. How Farrell uses Ortiz and Napoli will be an interesting scenario to watch.
Prediction: Runs could be at a premium. Errors and smart base running could be the difference in a series that will feature dominate pitching. I think it will come down to a game 7 matchup that could have Lester facing Wainwright on short rest. I like Boston to win in seven games.
Notes of interest:
- Cardinal 1B Allen Craig is expected to make his postseason debut. Craig, who led the Cardinals with 97 RBIs in the regular season, has not played since Sept. 4.
- Carlos Beltran has 12 RBIs in 11 games to lead the Cardinals.
- Ellsbury has six of the Red Sox’s 11 stolen bases.
- Since 2004, Boston is 8-0 in the World Series. The Red Sox swept the Cardinals 4-0 in 2004 and the Colorado Rockies 4-0 in 2007.
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