Back in 2004, the Boston Red Sox made their glorious return to MLB‘s World Series and swept their NL opponents—the St. Louis Cardinals

As the Cardinals and Red Sox do battle in their World Series rematch beginning on Wednesday night at Fenway Park, it’s important to recognize the smaller matchups that will act as microcosms of this World Series. Who wins those matchups will go a long way in determining which team ends up winning baseball’s highest honor. 


Starting Pitching

One of the most important matchups in any series is the battle between the starting pitchers of each team. With the rotations of the Cardinals and Red Sox, it’ll be nearly impossible to ignore.

The Cardinals have an extremely solid starting rotation made up of studs like Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha. They will oppose Boston’s main aces, Jon Lester and John Lackey. Wainwright and Wacha both boast amazing postseason ERAs—Wainwright sits at 1.57 and Wacha at just .043. To put Wacha‘s impressive ERA into perspective, he’s given up just one earned run in 21 innings. 

The Red Sox aces aren’t too shabby either. Lackey and Lester have allowed just nine combined earned runs over 31 postseason innings of work, including against the Detroit Tigers’ star-studded offense. 

While both sets of aces are extremely solid, the true matchup will come between the other starting pitchers—Joe Kelly and Lance Lynn for St. Louis, and Clay Buchholz and Jake Peavy for the Red Sox.

For the Cards, Kelly has given up 18 hits in 16.1 innings in the postseason along with eight earned runs while Lynn has an ERA of 5.40 with seven walks. The Red Sox counter with Buchholz, who has given up 19 hits and 10 earned runs in 16.2 innings, and Peavy, who has only survived 8.2 total innings in his two games with an ERA of 8.31. 

A huge part of the 2013 World Series will not only come down to how the superstar starters pitch for both squads,  but more importantly, how the lesser starters perform with everything on the line. 


Carlos Beltran vs. Boston Red Sox Pitching

Carlos Beltran has been on an absolute tear this postseason. While he’s only batting .256, the hits he has gotten have been huge.

Beltran has two home runs, one triple and three doubles in the playoffs and has driven in 12 runs. When you’re thinking of just two playoff series, 12 runs makes a huge difference. 

However, Beltran won’t have it easy. The Red Sox pitching has been extremely solid and handcuffed some of the best batters in the league in the ALCS series against Detroit. The Tigers’ lineup was one of the most prolific in the league with the best team batting average during the regular season and ranked second-best in slugging percentage, on-base percentage and runs. Red Sox pitchers, however, were able to shut them out once and allow three or fewer runs in all but one game. 

The Red Sox have handled opposing big bats so far throughout the playoffs, but Beltran will serve as a worthy opponent in the World Series. 


Mike Napoli and David Ortiz against St. Louis Relievers

Another major matchup facing St. Louis will be the Boston bats of Mike Napoli and David Ortiz.

That might seem strange since Ortiz had just two hits in the ALCS, but not when you look at what he did. One of those hits came against the Tigers in Game 2 with the bases loaded. Ortiz hit one of two Boston grand slams in the ALCS, which essentially won the series for the Sox. 

Napoli had a similar series. He had six hits, including two doubles and two home runs to go with a .300 average and .700 slugging percentage. Napoli was a beast against the Tigers and will have to keep it up in the World Series for the Red Sox to survive.

Ortiz and Napoli both did their major damage in the later innings of the ALCS to dismantle the Tigers’ relief pitching. If the Cardinals want to have a shot at redemption for 2004, they’ll have to handle the big names in the Sox lineup late in games. 

The Cardinals have leaned on Trevor Rosenthal and Carlos Martinez thus far in the postseason to handle most of their relief work. Rosenthal has logged seven innings during the postseason and Martinez checks in at 6.2 innings. While Rosenthal still hasn’t allowed a run, Martinez is a bit different story. In his 6.2 innings of work Martinez has given up two earned runs, but only two hits. 

The Red Sox will rely on their big bats to show up late in games once again. If St. Louis wants to exact revenge, the Cardinals’ relief pitchers will have to be on their marks.

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