Michael Wacha vs. Fenway Park
The 22-year-old rookie pitches Game 2, and possibly Game 6. Both will be at Fenway, where he’ll be hard-pressed to continue his bulletproof ways (3-0, .114 opponents’ batting average, 22 strikeouts, four walks in 21 postseason innings.) Another example of the St. Louis Cardinals way: because Wacha’s workload was managed so effectively during the season, he is under no postseason limitations.
Clay Buchholz vs. fatigue
Boston Red Sox starting pitchers have a 4.29 postseason earned-run average, compared with the Cardinals’ 2.57. If there’s a bigger edge for one team in this series, it’s tough to find. Buchholz has tired late in his three postseason starts and will be on a short leash. If he hovers around 88 or 89 miles an hour, Red Sox manager John Farrell will aggressively use his bullpen.
Yadier Molina vs. Jacoby Ellsbury
The Red Sox had an 87-per-cent success rate on the basepaths and until a botched hit-and-run in Game 4 of the American League Division Series, they’d stolen 45 consecutive bases. Molina of the Cardinals is the best catcher in the game; his 43-per-cent success rate throwing out runners was 15 per cent above the league average. Red Sox outfielder Ellsbury, who can burnish his gaudy free-agent résumé with a big series, stole 52 of 56 bases during the regular season.
Xander Bogaerts vs. vicissitudes of youth
At 21, he’s the youngest Red Sox postseason starter since Babe Ruth pitched in 1916, and Farrell’s decision to start him over Will Middlebrooks at third base in Games 5 and 6 of the AL Championship Series was genius. Bogaerts had three doubles and three walks in nine plate appearances. Although Bogaerts is really a shortstop, Farrell is expected to keep Stephen Drew’s lefty bat in the lineup against the righty-heavy Cardinals and keep Bogaerts at the hot corner.
David Ortiz vs. first base
The Red Sox slugger has played 13 games at first base since 2009, mostly in interleague play, and hasn’t made an error. Farrell says he would Ortiz at first in games at Busch Stadium (where the designated hitter is not in effect) and coupled with the rookie Bogaerts at third, the corners could be Boston’s soft underbelly.
Prediction: Cardinals in six games.
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