• Starting pitchers: Adam Wainwright (19-9, 2.94 ERA) vs. Jon Lester (15-8, 3.75 ERA)
• Scouting report on Wainwright: To win the ALCS, the Red Sox had to overcome one of the best starting pitcher trios ever seen in the form of Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and Anibal Sanchez of the Detroit Tigers. Now, Game 1 of the World Series has them facing one of the best starting pitchers they’ve never seen in the form of Wainwright.
“I know I’ll have my work cut out for me,” Wainwright said. “One of my favorite things to do in the world is game plan for a game. I’ll spend a good amount of time today and tomorrow coming up with a nice plan.”
If it’s anything like the plan Wainwright has had in place for his three postseason starts so far, the Red Sox may be in trouble. The 32-year-old has gone 2-1 with a 1.57 ERA in those starts, including the only complete game thrown of the postseason (Game 5 of the NLDS against the Pittsburgh Pirates).
Despite the unfamiliarity with Boston, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny believes the team is similar to his own.
“You hear some of the things that they say and it’s a lot of similar things that have been preached in our clubhouse,” Matheny said. “Grinding out at-bats and playing tough, playing hard, playing all the way through nine. Those are the things that I believe set good teams apart and that’s what they’re all about.”
Grinding out at-bats will be tough against Wainwright, who walked only 35 batters in 241 2/3 innings pitched during the regular season and has walked only one batter in the postseason (23 innings pitched). However, the right-hander also allowed a NL-high 223 hits.
• Scouting report on Lester: Unlike Wainwright, Lester has faced his opposition before, throwing 7 1/3 innings and allowing two runs on nine hits in a June 2008 start against St. Louis at Fenway Park. The only remaining Cardinals hitter from that game is Yadier Molina, who started at first base and went 0-for-3 against Lester.
“I’m a visual person so I like to prepare for a team by watching what I’ve done against them in the past,” Lester said. “That’s going to be a little tough [with the Cardinals] but that’s where you rely on your scouting department.”
The most blaring statistic Boston’s scouts will tell Lester? St. Louis’ batting average with runners in scoring position is a robust .330. Considering that reliable RISP statistics started being kept in 1961, the total easily topped the previous high set by the 2007 Detroit Tigers (.311)
“You just have to bear down in those situations,” Lester said. “The biggest thing is don’t let it turn into a big inning, that’s where you get into some trouble in the postseason.”
Lester has gone 2-1 with a 2.33 ERA in three postseason starts for Boston so far. The 29-year-old was on the mound for Boston’s last World Series win, Game 4 of the 2007 sweep against the Colorado Rockies.
Three Cardinals players to watch
• Allen Craig, DH: The leading candidate for player to watch during the entire series, Craig hasn’t played in a game since Sept. 4, a result of a foot injury. Before going down, the 29-year-old was considered a candidate for the NL MVP, hitting .315 with 13 home runs and 97 RBIs. Craig’s .454 batting average with runners in scoring position was the best in the majors during the regular season. Matheny expects to keep Craig limited to designated hitting at Fenway and pinch hitting at Busch Stadium for the time being.
• Matt Holliday, LF: Part of the 2007 Rockies team that lost to the Red Sox in the World Series, Holliday has been up-and-down the past two months. September saw the 33-year-old hit .378 in 23 games before slumping to a .244 average in 11 October games. Holliday has found success in his six games at Fenway, hitting .346 with a home run and three doubles. Holliday has faced Lester six times, getting two hits in the process.
• Carlos Beltran, RF: Oft-described as the Cardinals’ postseason inspiration, Beltran will be playing in his first World Series. With 45 playoff games already under his belt, the 36-year-old should be no stranger to the big stage as he has hit .337 with 16 home runs in his previous postseason experience. Beltran has faced Lester three times without being retired, going 1-for-1 with two walks.
Three Red Sox players to watch
• Jacoby Ellsbury, CF: All eyes figure to be on Ellsbury for the Red Sox this series as the speedy outfielder takes his 92.8 percent stolen-base success rate up against Cardinals catcher Molina’s 43 percent caught-stealing rate. Ellsbury has stolen six bases in seven attempts so far this postseason.
• David Ortiz, DH: Wednesday will mark Ortiz’s ninth career World Series game as this is his third time playing in the Fall Classic. In his previous eight games, the left-handed slugger hit .321 with a home run and eight RBIs, four coming each year (2004 and 2007).
• Stephen Drew, SS: After a poor performance in the ALCS that saw Drew collect one hit in 20 at-bats while striking out 10 times, the World Series will represent a clean slate for Boston’s shortstop. Unfortunately Drew’s numbers against Wainwright don’t bode well for him as he’s collected only two hits in 21 plate appearances against the Cardinals ace.
Three Key Considerations:
• The Red Sox and Cardinals have met three times in the World Series before (1946, 1967 and 2004), with the Cardinals winning the first two matchups in seven games and Boston sweeping St. Louis in 2004.
• Farrell said Monday that he plans to utilize Ortiz at first base when the Red Sox play with NL rules at Busch Stadium. Farrell is unsure how many games Ortiz will play, but the move will shift regular first baseman Mike Napoli out of the lineup.
• Starters John Lackey and Clay Buchholz were once again flipped in the rotation, as Lackey will draw the start in Game 2 and Buchholz will pitch in Game 3. Farrell said the move was motivated by the chance to get Lackey to pitch as soon as possible from his last start Oct. 15 in Game 3 against Detroit.
The 26th marked the 90th Anniversary of Babe Ruth’s trade to the Ney York Pinstripes. Now, though I’m sure we’re all pretty much ‘over it’, it is still a pretty important date in baseball history. Sure, it was the opening of a floodgate for Boston talent to the lowly Orioles / Highlanders / Yankees in part engineered by the President of the American League and shifted the center of the baseball universe… but hey, sh!t happens.
To read a bit more insight into the happenings of Red Sox Nation before and since ‘The Trade’, I
highly recommend Jerry Gutlon’s It Was Never About the Babe, an insightful and objective look at the managerial history of the Scarlett Hose from the origins of the American League to the breakdown of late 2008 with coverage of every owner, GM and superstar of note including all the dark, displeasurable, miserable stupidy which carried on behind the scenes. It doesn’t slam anyone, it isn’t filled with rumor and blah blah woulda’ shoulda’ coulda’. It includes interviews with office insiders, those around baseball and others generally in the know.
Another great read for any fan of the Nation is Mark Frost’s Game Six, an extremely detailed
journey into Game Six of the 1975 World Series, which is as we all know, regarded as the greatest WS game of all time. Duh. With interviews of… well everyone involved in the on-field / off-field / behind the scenes action and biographies of the players and managers involved. Seems like a long and drawn out affair, but really it rolls along quite nicely and is a great read. I’d easily recommend it for any serious member of The Nation or baseball fan who takes his history seriously.
Speaking of history….
Jason Bay has reportedly signed with the New York Metropolitans. Eh, he’s used to playing for a bumbling managerial staff who squanders talent to dissapoint a bandwagon fan
base while getting buried on the backpage.
I sure do love it when players sacrifice their talent and happiness for getting the ‘big’ payday.
That should mean Scott Boras is ringing the dinner bell for any suitors who wanna’ get serious about Matt Holliday. We’ve signed Cameron and the Yanks are supposedly looking to Jermain Dye, so the two biggest glutons at the buffet are out.. wink wink. So we’ll see what shakes loose.
It’s finally Christmas. Weeks of Black Fridays, Black Saturdays, Red Thursdays and blue balls from the yammering of commercials and blah blah blah.
24 Hours of A Christmas Story made for an excellent break from the rather hum-drum board game we call The Hot Stove Season.
Now aside from this so-called ‘Blockbuster’ on the part of the Yanks to aquire the former Yankee Javy Vasquez (if he’s so friggin’ awesome why does everybody trade him?) for Cabrera, the ‘Where’s Waldo?’ game with Scott Boras and all the Matt Holiday offers pouring in from all over the globe and the Jason Bay blah blah discussions.. it’s been a rather boring week.
But we all know the true meaning of Christmas is to remind us all that the blessing of Spring Training is only a month away, which means The Super Bowl is around the corner (Go Pats!) and the other two leagues will finally get thier long drawn out pre-seasons done and get the playoffs started (which any real Celtics / B’s fan knows is the only season that counts). It also means that the FA market should go into super-market sweeps and start moving like Herme’s Jerked Prunes through Theo Epstein’s bowels! (if you’ve seen Futurerama… you know the Carribean Drano)
So Merry Christmas to all…. even you Yankees fans… And to all, well, ya’ know.
… To you ‘A-Rod/A-Roid’ lovers haters et al,… Alex was on his way to Boston in 2004. Bags were packed, ticket punched one and done. The MLBPA squashed the deal due to the ‘restructuring’ of his contract. All the Yanks did was keep the contract AS IS and make the deal we didn’t. Can’t ya’ just be happy or miserable in silence after all these years? 2004, 2007 who cares? Both of those important years on the A-Rod timetable were far more important to the Sox for far better reasons. Ever think what those teams may have looked like if A-Rod was on board? Probably not series champions due to various payroll dumps or line-up changes. OK? Done. Finis.
Now.. one has to agree with a semi-popular thought going around in Jason Bay is over-rated. Well, he just may be. But the ‘Nation is familiar with him, so we want him. But he’s over 30, dissapeared mid-season (very very strange in a contract year) and has some pings and dings, but more over, is not a gold glove caliber fielder. Holliday? Damn, he’s a Boras client… who can properly see through the smokescreen without NASA certified detection systems? He went from Blah in Oakland (in a middling line-up) to BAM! in Birdtown. But who’s to say the uber-MVP wasn’t slightly responsible for that? Pujols is, as inferred, a machine. Rumor has it (and pretty much confirmed it through Olney and Gammons) the Sox made an offer to Holliday, for 5 years or so at about $82.5million before signing John Lackey to 5 years or so for $82.5million.
Adrian Gonzalez. Is staying in San Diego.
No one (not even in baseball) had a clue Lackey was on board… and as I’ve stated previously… this winter, expect the unexpected.
Yes, to say that I am relieved the Sox have finally clinched the Wild Card is an understatement, but seriously boys, what’s up with the champagne? The darlings of the stretch run have been the Twinkies and their down to the wire, still on-going, race past the Tigers of Detroit. The Scarlett Hose on the other hand have lost five in a row and backed into the playoffs on the shoulders of Texas’ rather deteriorated line-up who was gracious enough to lose yet again… Let’s recap: The Red Sox lost to the Jays (again?) for a fifth straight loss and then end the evening with a celebration?
Yeah, I understand that getting into the playoffs is a major accomplishment in any sport, especially one where the schedule is easily the longest for games played and travel time, etc… but you’ve lost 5 straight… cheer, applaude each other and drink a beer. Hoo-rah! Hip-Hip-Hooray! and the like… but champagne spraying and all the love is reserved for not only winning your way in, but winning something significant. Winning the ALDS, ALCS and most obviously the World Series is a champagne drenched goggles wearin’ celebration… not backing in. Hell, backing in is too kind. Falling in is the better term. The Red Sox haven’t been the display of near perfect baseball as much Tampa Bay and Texas have been examples of lost opportunity and injured potential. If the Rays had met expectations this season we’d be singing a much different tune nevermind if the surprising Rangers (nearly this years 2008 Rays) hadn’t broken down.
I’m looking forward to watching the Sox compete in yet another great playoff series versus the L.A. Angles and possibly the age old battle of good n’ evil with the New Yorkers (should the Twinkies not carry the momentum in and crush them) but I’m also putting the mediocre second half and thus the champagne wishes with World Series dreams finale behind me. After all, as I write this, they’re losing to Toronto again!
On to new business… or the business of giving the business ’cause business is good. Jason Bay, as we all know, is a FA this coming winter and the price tag is expected to be high, especially after he has salvaged what began to look like an ‘oops’ season in 2009. Here’s the kicker… so is Matt Holliday. Now, I’ve stated before that St.Louis would be off their nut to let Holliday go, especially as he and Pujols are looking to be the new Ruth/Mantle or Papi/Manny, but…. and let’s be greedy for a moment… what if the Sox could make push for both? Hmmmmmmm? Hey the damn Yankees can do it, why can’t we? Imagine an Opening Day roster with Bay in Left and batting fourth behind V-Mart and Holliday in right taking the fifth spot…. drop Youk in the sixth spot with Big Papi (barring some change on managment’s stance) behind him and let your mind run free. Yeah, obviously there’s a lot of flexibility in that order in regards to where you hit Youk and Petey behind Jacoby (should he finally officially be annointed the lead off guy) but damn…. think of it. Now… wait for it… think of adding Prince Fielder! Supposedly the Brewers might be open to negotiating a trade for Cecil’s little boy in the off-season due to his big-ticket. Granted, that will take some serious push in the form of pitching prospects and maybe a young hitting prospect and is far from any serious consideration at this point (to the common man, but we all know these guys don’t drop hints just for the fun of it… except J.P. Ricciardi of Toronto), but he may be tailor made for crushing the ball in Friendly Fenway for the next five years or so (health will become an issue at some point). Obviously such moves would make Ortiz, Lowell and most of all J.D. Drew (we’re paying like $9 million for Julio Lugo to play well in St. Louis, so we can dump these guys payrolls) extremely expendable and each has made great contracts with great loyalty and a ring (or two) from the club but Varitek is going to be dealt with in the off-season and if the Captain (however unfortunate) is expendable, so are they. Sad but true.
p.s. Joe Mauer is possibly a free agent next year…. ooooooooh. Hey, they let Santana go cause of the $dough$ so who knows… if he’s not a Twinkie he’ll be wearing pinstripes or red sox.
On the sad but true note…. Eric Wedge (very short tenure as a player for the Sox) was fired by the Cleveland Indians today… well sort of. Must have been a great conversation to sit in on… “Sorry Eric, but we’re letting you go. Hey, do you think you can finish the season first and then pack your sh!t and leave?” Yeah, it didn’t go quite like that, but this tells you the Indians have no managerial prospects out of the current coaching staff.
Should the Twins and Tigers require a one game playoff to decide the Central (which I doubt as it seems like the Twinkies have karma on their side… oh and consistent talent), it may require an extra day to play. The Twinkies own the homefield over the Detroit bengals and common sense dictates the game be played (if necessary) on Monday… however the Baggie-Dome will be unavailable as it hosts Brett Farve and whoever he’s playing for this season versus the Green Bay Packers for Monday Night Football. Who knows what an extra days rest might do for either team and the impact on the ALDS.