The 2013 World Series is all knotted up after the Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals split the first two games. With the series now shifting to St. Louis, both teams are in desperation mode, as a 1-1 series signals the opportunity for momentum to be won in Game 3.

The question is, which players are under the most pressure to lead their teams as the World Series progresses?

It’s difficult to place too much blame on individual players, but neither team is without the presence of players who must step up. Both squads have received underwhelming production from some of their top stars, and as the series moves forward, said athletes must step up.

It all starts with the pitchers.

The question is, who are the players that will be under the most pressure?


Craig Breslow, Boston Red Sox

During Game 2, no individual player experienced as much of the blame for Boston’s loss as reliever Craig Breslow. He entered the game with two batters on base, but star John Lackey had been masterful, and a series of poor pitches and errant throws led to St. Louis’ win.

Unfortunately for the Red Sox fans hoping to bench the 33-year-old, there’s one fact that they can’t ignore: Boston needs Breslow in this series.

According to ESPN, the Cardinals hit .238 against left-handed pitchers during the 2013 regular season. There are specific players on the team who hit lefties well, but for the most part, the Cardinals were rendered helpless against southpaws.

For Boston, Breslow and Franklin Morales are the only left-handed relievers on its World Series roster.

Breslow will see action again, and more likely than not, he’ll be used sooner rather than later. Once he enters the game, Breslow will need to settle down, leave the fielding to the position players and shut down the opposing hitters.

If he can’t, the Bo Sox will only have one left-handed reliever to believe in. That’s no slight on Morales, but he does have a 6.75 ERA during the playoffs.

Breslow needs to put a disastrous Game 2 behind him as soon as possible.


Matt Carpenter, St. Louis Cardinals

During the 2013 regular season, Cardinals second baseman Matt Carpenter led the MLB in hits, doubles and runs scored. During Game 2, Carpenter came up with a key sacrifice fly that drove in the RBI that ended up tying the game.

Unfortunately, Carpenter has been downright horrendous as a hitter during the postseason. This all comes just one month after a legendary season.

It’s been as bad in the playoffs as it was great during the regular season.

Thus far, Carpenter has hit .160 with a .228 on-base percentage and a .240 slugging percentage. He has eight hits in 50 at-bats, four walks and three RBI, which has been a major reason the Cardinals have struggled to hit as a team.

As it presently stands, St. Louis is hitting .210 as a squad.

Carpenter was one of the rare Cardinals players to hit well against lefties, going .294 with four home runs and 22 RBI in 197 at-bats. Going up against a Red Sox rotation that will start Jon Lester again, it’s imperative that Carpenter gets his bat going quick.

If he doesn’t, the Cardinals’ momentum won in Game 2 will quickly dissipate.


Clay Buchholz, Boston Red Sox

The Red Sox are a team that grinds out at-bats and turns to its pitching staff to shut down opposing lineups. Entering the postseason, the one player that Boston could label as a regular season ace was right-handed pitcher Clay Buchholz.

During the postseason, he just hasn’t been the same player.

Buchholz was 12-1 with a 1.74 ERA, a 1.02 WHIP and 96 strikeouts in 16 games started. Buchholz threw 108.1 innings in those appearances, 101.8 pitches per contest and absolutely dominated every opponent that he came across with world-class precision.

In the 2013 playoffs, Buchollz has been playing like its 2012.

Buchholz has made three postseason starts in 2013, going 0-0 with a 5.40 ERA and a 1.44 WHIP. He’s struggled with his command, has allowed key runs during close games and is displaying signs of fatigue that should concern every Red Sox fan.

Buchholz has been prone to injuries, and thus far, it doesn’t look like he’s made a full recovery.


Lance Lynn, St. Louis Cardinals

During Game 4 of the World Series, the Cardinals will trust Lance Lynn to take the mound and lead St. Louis to a home win. Lynn was 15-10 with a 3.97 ERA, but during the past two postseasons, Lynn has an ERA of 5.56 in nine appearances and four starts.

The pressure is mounting.

Lynn will go toe-to-toe with Buchholz, which presents the opportunity for one struggling star pitcher to recover. Both men are All-Stars, but in Lynn’s case, masterful first halves of the 2012 and 2013 seasons seem to be a distant memory.

Two straight years of hot starts and slow finishes marks a player who deserves to be labeled as inconsistent.

Lynn allowed five runs in 4.1 innings against the Pittsburgh Pirates but has allowed two runs over his past 7.1 innings. He’s certainly settled down, but the big picture isn’t easy to overlook for a pitcher who has struggled on the grandest stage.

Going up against a pitcher, Buchholz, who is due for redemption, this will be a dangerous game for Lynn to play in.

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