After six thrilling games with the Detroit Tigers, the Boston Red Sox are returning to the World Series for the first time since 2007 when they swept the Colorado Rockies.
Boston will take on the St. Louis Cardinals in a rematch of the 2004 World Series, where the Red Sox won their first title in 86 years.
This time, the Sox and the Cardinals will each attempt to be the first team of the century to win three World Series titles. The Cardinals won the World Series in 2006 and 2011 against the Tigers and Texas Rangers, respectively.
But both pennant-winners are remarkably different from their past championship rosters. In fact, the only common name on the Red Sox roster that still remains from the 2004 team is fan favorite David Ortiz.
With mostly new faces on both sides in this classic rematch, there are storylines everywhere to follow when the series kicks off on Wednesday night. And with the best teams in each league facing each other for the first time since 1999, there is no clear favorite.
Both sides have strong lineups, as St. Louis thrived with runners in scoring position this season, hitting a record-setting .330 as a team. The Cardinals have taken advantage of opportunities to score again and again—which will be a huge challenge for Boston’s pitching staff.
Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha, Joe Kelly, Lance Lynn, and possibly Shelby Miller present the most talented bundle of starting pitchers the Red Sox have seen all year long. Boston struggled with the Tigers’ rotation in the ALCS, batting just .202 as a team with 73 strikeouts.
The 2013 Boston Red Sox have always found a way to continue winning games, but this series will be nothing like the 2004 version when the destiny-bound Red Sox easily swept the Cardinals.
The St. Louis lineup is disciplined and filled with veteran hitters like Matt Holliday, Carlos Beltran, and Yadier Molina. Unlike the Tigers, who relied heavily on Miguel Cabrera to score runs, the Cardinals were practically unfazed when star hitter Allen Craig went down with an injury. He should be ready to play as a designated hitter when games are played in Boston.
The Red Sox need to be careful on the base paths with speedy runners like Jacoby Ellsbury, Shane Victorino, Dustin Pedroia, and pinch-running specialist Quintin Berry. Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina is the most dangerous man behind the plate because of his excellent snap throws around the bases and above-average ability to gun down runners at second base.
The Red Sox also should not force David Ortiz into the lineup when the games are played under National League rules in St. Louis. Mike Napoli began to heat up against the Tigers, while Ortiz remained cold despite his crucial grand slam; unless Ortiz shows signs of life in the first two games in Boston, he may be significantly more valuable as a pinch-hitter later in crucial situations.
The Red Sox’s starting pitchers cannot afford to excessively waste pitches against the Cardinals lineup. This St. Louis team can grind out at bats like the Red Sox can, making it easy for Sox starters to throw 100 or more pitches before the seventh inning, regardless of the score. Boston’s bullpen is mediocre before Koji Uehara gets in the game, meaning starters like Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz need to shorten the bridge to the closer as much as possible. Starting pitchers playing deep into games will be a crucial component to winning the series.
All in all, this will be a tremendous World Series. With home-field advantage and the “Boston Strong” theme behind them, the 2013 Boston Red Sox may have what it takes to bring home their eighth World Series title.