It’s been less than 24 hours since Koji Uehara struck out Matt Carpenter to finish off the World Series, and I want Spring Training to be here already. Unfortunately, I can’t control time, so the best we can do is wait and keep looking forward to February.
In the meantime, congratulations to the Boston Red Sox for knocking off my Cardinals 4 games to 2 for their eighth World Series title. Boston now sits alone in 4th place for most World Series championships. Looking back on the six games, it was pretty clear that the Red Sox were just the better team–they deserved the title.
Nothing against the Cardinals–they put together an outstanding season in the toughest division in baseball. However, their style of play ended up hurting them at the end, like it did during their major slumps throughout the regular season. The Cards were a single-double team that depended on timely hitting rather than home runs to drive runs in. For the most part, it worked–97 wins doesn’t happen by accident. But when a team like that encounters a pitching staff as hot as the Red Sox staff (minus Craig Breslow), it doesn’t bode well.
Throughout the regular season, St. Louis hit .330 as a team with runners in scoring position, and shattered the previous record of .311 by Detroit in 2007. During the World Series, Boston pitchers held Cardinals hitters to a .242 average in those situations. Time after time, Red Sox pitching eluded big innings by forcing weak groundouts and pop flies.
Boston’s staff also got a boost from Jon Lester, who pitched like a true ace in his two wins. Lester’s combined line: 15.1 IP, 9 hits, 1 ER (1 HR), 1 BB, 15 K, 0.65 WHIP, 0.59 ERA. Lester did this against a Cardinals lineup that hit .269 in the regular season, and against the Cardinals’ ace, Adam Wainwright, who still pitched well despite his two losses.
And who can forget about David Ortiz–the World Series MVP–who hit .688 in the six games, reaching base 19 times throughout the series. Cardinals pitchers eventually got the hint, and resorted to walking Big Papi intentionally, because every time Ortiz made contact, he hit the ball hard. It’s tough to lose when your #4 guy is on base more than 3 out of 4 plate appearances.
Some Cardinals fans have pointed the finger at Mike Matheny for his treatment of the bullpen, but I don’t think that’s fair. In Game 4, Matheny pulled starter Lance Lynn in favor of ground-ball machine Seth Maness, who promptly gave up a 3-run shot to Jonny Gomes. In Game 5, fans criticized Matheny for leaving Wainwright in too long, allowing Jacoby Ellsbury to single home another run before the inning ended. Who knows what would’ve happened if Lynn had faced Gomes, or lefty Kevin Siegrist had faced Ellsbury? Maybe we’re talking about Game 7 tonight. But I don’t think it’s fair to criticize Matheny for trusting two guys (Maness and Waino) who have gotten out of some very difficult situations this entire season, over an inconsistent Lynn and rookie Siegrist.
So in the end, Boston’s staff and lineup simply outplayed those of the Cardinals. It wasn’t a question of who wanted it more, or a question of what if? Nor was it one player or manager’s fault. The Red Sox simply deserved this championship.
If nothing else, we can at least remember this Series as one of many unique happenings:
- The umpires’ painful, albeit correct decision to overturn the “out” call at 2nd base in the first inning of Game 1, allowing the Red Sox to load the bases with one out rather than have runners on the corners with two outs. Mike Napoli later cleared the bases with a double.
- Uehara picking off pinch-runner Kolten Wong to end Game 4 and knot the series at 2-2. Poor Wong–he’s a good player, and he’ll rebound from that.
- Most bizarre of all, the walk-off obstruction call to end Game 3. We may never see that end another game, let alone a World Series game–for years to come.
I’ll be back to run down some offseason plans for a few teams, and to look forward to next season. But for now, I offer the words of Rogers Hornsby:
People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.
Until 2014, baseball.
I cannot wait for tonight. This World Series is going to be fantastic on so many levels. I originally picked Tigers over Dodgers when the playoffs started, but I have no problem with this outcome. I just hope the games are as good as advertised.
With Game 1 starting tonight, I thought I would take a look at some of the storylines of the 2013 World Series.
1. Will Yadier Molina’s bat show up?
The Cardinals catcher had an extraordinary slashline in the regular season of .319/.359/.477 (including just 55 K’s in 136 games), but his offense was noticeably absent against the Dodgers in the NLCS. Molina hit .227/.320/.227, with 4 K’s, and 2 huge double plays that killed Cardinals rallies in the team’s Game 5 loss. The Cards will need Yadi’s bat to heat up in the middle of the lineup and put the pressure on Boston’s pitching staff. Molina is a great two-strike hitter, and knows how to push the ball to the opposite field, and showing off those skills is paramount to the Cardinals’ success in the World Series.
For the record, I’m not at all worried about his ability to call a game behind the plate or gun down opposing base stealers. He’ll be fine there–there’s a reason Michael Wacha got out of that bases loaded-one out jam in Game 2.
2. Speaking of Wacha, how will the Cardinals’ rookie pitchers react to the largest stage in baseball?
So far, so good in the 2013 playoffs. But this isn’t just any series, it’s the World Series. Entering the playoffs, I had the Cardinals losing to the Dodgers in the NLCS, in large part due to the youth of their staff. I also did not have much confidence in starting Wacha over 15-game-winner Shelby Miller in the NLDS. Well, I’ve been incredibly wrong so far. However, it’s still concerning to me that the Cardinals depend so much on rookie arms, especially considering the dangerous and experienced lineup that Boston has.
Boston victimized the Tigers bullpen for two grand slams in six games, and while the probability of that happening again is extremely small, the chance of one of the Cards’ rookie pitchers making a mistake is legitimate.
3. Can the Red Sox offense make an impact in the first 5 innings?
Maybe it was just the Tigers pitching that was overpowering, but for the first three games of the ALCS, the Red Sox lineup did just about nothing against the Tigers’ starters outside of a Mike Napoli homer off of Justin Verlander. In fact, the Red Sox offense didn’t score a run in the first 5 innings of the first four games of the ALCS! Boston has two games with the DH until they have to sacrifice either Mike Napoli or David Ortiz, so they need to score early, establish leads, and develop their offense by the time the series heads back to St. Louis if they want to have a shot at winning it all.
4. Can anyone stop Kohi Uehara?
This guy is as money as it gets coming out of a bullpen. According to Bleacher Report and Baseball-Reference.com, Uehara has allowed just two earned runs and two walks since JULY–and of course he’s kept it going throughout the playoffs. That confidence has spread throughout the Sox bullpen, and has made the unit one of the most fearsome in recent playoff history. If Boston can get a lead late into the game, consider it pretty much done.
5. Will Allen Craig be a factor?
The Cardinals made it to the World Series without a guy who hit .454 this season with runners in scoring position. If he can do anything like that, the Cardinals will have a huge boost in their lineup. The big question, though, is if he can even hit at a respectable clip after sitting out the last 6+ weeks. If Craig cannot get his timing back relatively quickly, the Cards are looking at a huge hole sitting in the middle of their lineup.
Prediction: Call it a homer pick, but I’ll take the Cardinals in seven games. If the Cardinals can win one in Fenway before going home to a weakened Boston lineup without the DH, they will have a significant advantage. Plus, Carlos Beltran has waited his entire career to play in the World Series, let’s get him a ring.
Either way, should be a terrific series, and I am so excited to watch (if necessary) seven amazing baseball games.