Red Sox and Cardinals Could Provide a Real Fall Classic

October 23rd, 2013 by Jim Chesko | Filed under Baseball, General, Sports.

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Remember how much fun it was in and around Philadelphia in late October in 2008 and 2009? The Phillies won their first World Series in 28 years in ’08, beating the Tampa Bay Rays, and returned to the “fall classic” the following year, coming up short in a six-game series loss to the New York Yankees.

Unfortunately, the Phillies have fallen further and further from returning to the Series over the past four seasons, but this year’s Red Sox-Cardinals matchup – pitting a couple of storied franchises that have met three times previously in October – could be a dandy.

And that would be a welcome event for true sports fans locally, considering the current state of the city’s four major teams. The Phillies are coming off their worst season since 2000, the Flyers can’t seem to score goals (and are a good bet to miss the playoffs for a second-straight year if things don’t change quickly), the rebuilding 76ers may be the NBA’s worst team, and the Eagles are trying to resolve a major quarterback quandary.

How they got here: The St. Louis Cardinals finished a National League-best 97-65, earning another Central Division title, then held off the Pittsburgh cardinalslogoPirates in the Division Series and took care of the Los Angeles Dodgers 4-games-to-2 in the National League Championship Series.

The Boston Red Sox, after finishing 69-93 in 2012, hired John Farrell as manager to replace the fired Bobby Valentine, and the BoSox started the season strong and never relented. Like the Cards, the Red Sox had a league-best record of 97-65, then disposed of Tampa Bay in the ALDS and the Detroit Tigers in the Championship Series, sending Jim Leyland into retirement. Of course, the deciding blow in Boston’s Game Six victory was a grand slam by former Phillie Shane Victorino, who now gets to play in his third World Series in six years.

Cardinals-Red Sox World Series history: The last time these two clubs met in the WS was in 2004, and it wasn’t much of a series. Curt Schilling and Pedro Martinez both picked up wins in their starts, and Manny Ramirez was the MVP as the BoSox rolled to a four-game sweep for their first championship since 1918.

But their two previous meetings were true classics. Both went seven games, and both went the Cardinals’ way.

In 1946, Enos Slaughter, Stan Musial and company won the final two games of the series to win the championship, Cards’ pitcher Harry Brecheen earned two wins as a starter and another in the deciding game with two scoreless innings of relief.

Then in 1967, Cards ace Bob Gibson hurled three complete-game victories (Games 1, 4 and 7) to lead the Redbirds to another title. Gibson even hit a home run in the clincher’s 7-2 victory at Boston’s Fenway Park.

Players to watch in the 2013 Series: First baseman Allen Craig hasn’t played since Sept. 4 due to a sprained left foot, but the Cards’ cleanup hitter saysbostonredsox he’s now good to go. Veteran outfielder Carlos Beltran finally gets to play in a World Series. Adam Wainwright is the Cards’ Game 1 starter, but the real question is, can rookie Michael Wacha keep doing what he’s been doing? Wacha, just 22 years old, was the MVP off the NLCS and is 3-0 with a 0.43 earned run average in the postseason. He’ll start Game 2. Trevor Rosenthal, with a 100 mph fastball, is the Cards’ closer these days. Catcher Yadier Molina – who was just a young kid and a backup on the 2004 Series-losing squad – is now one of the best backstops in the game and coming off a .319 season. Craig, Matt Holiday and Matt Carpenter all hit .300 or better too. David Freese is still trying to overcome a calf injury.

For Boston, Game 1 and 2 starters Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz both had stellar 2013 seasons. Closer Koji Uehara – the ALCS MVP – is pretty much unhittable right now. Slugger David Ortiz is the lone holdover from the 2004 Series-winning team and is still going strong (30 home runs, 103 RBI, .309 average this season). Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury are no slouches, either. And Phillies fans will want to see what the “flyin’ Hawaiian,” Victorino, can do for an encore.

So who wins?: The BoSox and Cardinals have each won two World Series titles this century; one of them will soon have a third. … Oddsmakers seem to favor the Red Sox to win the series – ever so slightly – but three out of five writers at The Sporting News pick the Cardinals. … The World Series may not be the sports world’s premier event any longer – the Super Bowl surpassed the fall classic ages ago – but it’s still must-see television for serious baseball fans. Of course, it’s a shame most of the games don’t end until around midnight on the East Coast, meaning a lot of us won’t make it until the final out. … The Chesko pick? Just a hunch more than anything else: CARDINALS in six.

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