Tag: 2013 World Series

Boston Red Sox vs. St. Louis Cardinals: Keys to World Series Game 6

Following their victory in Game 5 of the World Series, the Boston Red Sox are now just one win away from clinching their third World Series title in the past 10 years.

The remainder of the series will be played at Fenway Park, and the Red Sox would ideally like to close things out during Game 6. However, the St. Louis Cardinals are a strong opponent, and they are more than capable of winning two difficult road games.

There are a number of keys to World Series Game 6 that will have an impact if we see a decisive Game 7.

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World Series 2013: Cardinals’ Hitting Woes Open Door for Red Sox to Win Title

The St. Louis Cardinals’ hitters need to shake the rust, and fast.

With a day off in the series, St. Louis would’ve been wise to spend the day in the cage ahead of Game 6 Wednesday in Boston. However, as Los Angeles Times reporter Bill Shaikin noted, airplane problems made that a little difficult on Tuesday:

St. Louis is hitting just .218 and has been outscored 21-13 in its three losses to Boston through the first five games of the World Series. 

Carlos Beltran, the man who had waited 36 years for this opportunity, his first World Series appearance, is hitting 4-for-13. Beltran led the Cardinals with 24 home runs during the regular season, but he has been unable to take Red Sox pitchers yard.

Then there’s David Freese, the St. Louis native who turned into an October legend during the 2011 World Series with his extra-inning, walk-off home run in Game 6 against the Rangers. He is hitting a cool .200 against Boston.

At 5-for-22 through the first five games of the World Series, Matt Carpenter isn’t faring much better.

Allen Craig is leading the charge for the Cardinals by hitting .333 in the series, but he’s been hobbled by an injury to his left foot.

In Game 4, Craig hit a line drive off the wall in right field, usually an easy double, but because of his injury, he was limited to just a single. Two batters later, with Beltran at the plate, pinch runner Kolten Wong was thrown out, ending the game.

The situation is so dire for St. Louis that despite Craig’s inability on the basepaths, manager Mike Matheny elected to dress Craig, who can’t run, in place of Matt Adams, who can’t hit, in Game 5.  

Craig went 0-for-3 in the Game 5 loss, while Adams pinch-hit for pitcher Carlos Martinez in the eighth inning and struck out.

Adding insult to injury is the Boston Red Sox one-man wrecking crew that is David Ortiz. Ortiz is hitting .733 in the World Series with two doubles, two home runs and six RBI.

Ortiz went 3-for-4 on Monday night, helping the Red Sox to a 3-1 win. Ortiz is a lock to be named World Series MVP should the Red Sox win their third title in 10 years.

According to Shira Springer of the Boston Globe, the Red Sox have begun calling Ortiz “Cooperstown” because according to catcher David Ross, “he does Hall of Fame stuff.”

The one thing the Cardinals do have going for them? They roughed up Red Sox starter John Lackey for three runs and five hits in Game 2 to even the series at 1-1.

Lackey gets the ball for Boston in Game 6.

Beltran led the way that night, going 2-for-4 with an RBI. It might be up to the veteran to get it done Wednesday if he wants a shot at that elusive ring.

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St. Louis Cardinals’ World Series Troubles Extend to Team Plane

The St. Louis Cardinals have struggled throughout the 2013 World Series.  The team’s offense has been nonexistent, the defense has been questionable at times and manager Mike Matheny’s decisions have left many people scratching their heads.  Now they head back to Boston for Games 6 and 7, and even that is anything but routine.

Derrick Goold of StlToday.com reported from Boston about a mechanical failure on the team’s plane that would take them to Boston:

The Cardinals’ charter flight from St. Louis to Boston was delayed more than four hours by a mechanical issue that kept the plane grounded. The team waited for the glitch to be fixed, and eventually had to consider getting a new plane to make their way here for Game 6 of the World Series.

Players and coaches have reported that spirits remain high and that they are thankful the team allows their families to travel with them.  The inconvenience of delayed travel is something most people can certainly be sympathetic to.  The real question remains as to what effect it may have on the team going into a crucial Game 6 against the Boston Red Sox.

Michael Wacha will draw that start and put his stellar postseason performance on the line for one more game this year.  The rookie has been nothing short of phenomenal to this point in October.  He has faced the adversity of a struggling lineup throughout the playoffs but will now face a disruption in his preparation schedule.

Players like Carlos Beltran and Allen Craig have been battling through nagging injuries so far in the Fall Classic.  Sitting on an airplane for hours on a runway cannot be doing wonders for the stiff muscles and bruised bones they have sustained.  Both sluggers will need to be fresh, loose and ready to contribute if the team hopes to force a Game 7 this year.

The good news, according to Goold, is that the Cardinals were not set for a workout today in Boston.  The delayed flight is more of a nuisance than anything.  It will not provide much of a distraction from the plan going forward.

It has been a strange World Series to this point.  Jon Heyman of CBS Sports has gone as far as to call it the “Weird Series” based on the unorthodox incidents in the games to this point.  The Cardinals plane breaking down seems to be just another strange occurrence thus far.

Either way, the Cardinals plane will be up and running in the next few hours.  

Fans hope the offense will follow suit tomorrow.


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Should David Ortiz Be World Series MVP Even If the Red Sox Lose?

How much do you know about Bobby Richardson?

Not much, I’m guessing. Richardson had a couple of seasons in which he hit .300, but he ultimately retired with a pedestrian .266 average and a pedestrian .634 OPS. A modern baseball fan doesn’t think of him as one of the titans of the game.

Richardson does have one claim to fame worth knowing, though. In 1960, he won the World Series MVP. He did so despite playing for the New York Yankees, who lost to the Pittsburgh Pirates when Bill Mazeroski swatted a walk-off home run in Game 7.

To date, Richardson is the only player from a losing team to be named World Series MVP.

And this brings us to David Ortiz.

For the moment, Richardson and Ortiz have nothing in common, the key difference being that Big Papi certainly is a titan of the game. The Boston Red Sox‘s veteran slugger is a career .287 hitter with a .930 OPS and 431 home runs, numbers that make him one of the great hitters of his era.

In a couple days’ time, however, Richardson and Ortiz might have something in common. Ortiz is playing in the World Series now, and he’s playing well enough for an intriguing question to materialize.

Take it away, Mark Zuckerman of CSNWashington.com.

Granted, there is an element of silliness to this question. Ortiz and the Red Sox have a 3-2 lead over the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series, and Games 6 and 7 (if necessary) will be played at Fenway Park. The Red Sox are more likely to win it all than they are to lose it all.

But because the Cardinals are indeed a very good team, there’s certainly a chance the Red Sox could still lose the World Series. Regarding the World Series MVP, though, Zuckerman’s question is both relevant and a good one because Ortiz really has been that huge in the World Series.

In five games, Ortiz has come to the plate 20 times. In those appearances, he’s logged 15 at-bats. In those 15 at-bats, he has 11 hits. Four of those have been for extra-bases: two doubles and two home runs. He’s also walked four times, reached on an error and hit a sacrifice fly.

Ortiz has therefore reached based 16 times in his 20 plate appearances, and one of the outs he made brought home a run. That makes only three unproductive plate appearances in five games, which is absurd.

Equally absurd is Ortiz’s slash line. He’s currently hitting .733/.750/1.267. That’s a 2.017 OPS. Turn the sac fly he hit in Game 1 into the grand slam that it could have been, and Ortiz is hitting an even more absurd .750/.800/1.438 with a 2.238 OPS. 

As it is, the numbers Ortiz does have are already historic. Behold where Big Papi’s numbers currently rank in the realm of all-time great World Series performances, according to Baseball-Reference.com:

If you’ve gotten the feeling that you’ve been watching one of the all-time great World Series hitting displays, it’s not just you. That’s exactly what Ortiz has been up to against the Cardinals.

The four guys ahead of Ortiz on the World Series OPS ranks—Lou Gehrig, Billy Hatcher, Hideki Matsui and Babe Ruth—played on teams that won it all. One supposes that bodes well for Big Papi and the Red Sox.

But then, there’s the guy directly below Ortiz on the World Series OPS ranks: Barry Bonds.

Bonds is there because he hit .471/.700/1.294 in the 2002 World Series, in which he and the San Francisco Giants lost to the Anaheim Angels in seven games. That’s a 1.994 OPS, a number that presents a strong case for Bonds’ World Series performance as the greatest ever by a player on a losing team.

And since Bonds didn’t win the World Series MVP, he presents a fascinating case study. For if we take it for granted that Ortiz keeps right on hitting only to see the Red Sox lose the World Series, why would he be the best choice for the World Series MVP when Bonds wasn’t in 2002?

Well, there’s the obvious, which is that the numbers Ortiz is flirting with putting up in the World Series are better than the numbers Bonds put up back in 2002. And since this is an MVP discussion, there’s also the matter of what Ortiz’s numbers have meant to the Red Sox.

Take a moment to consider how Bonds did in the 2002 World Series relative to the rest of the Giants:

Bonds was stupendous in the ’02 World Series, but the rest of the Giants held their own around him. Heck, the MLB average in 2002 was a .748 OPS. Bonds’ supporting cast did better than that.

Now, consider how Ortiz has done in the 2013 World Series relative to the rest of the Red Sox:

Ortiz has a third of the Red Sox’s hits. He basically has 40 percent of their extra-base hits. His OPS is almost five times as large as that of his comrades.

That makes two major differences between Bonds in 2002 and Ortiz in 2013. The next major difference is that Bonds actually had some legit competition for the World Series MVP.

The award ended up going to Troy Glaus. And while he wasn’t as huge as Bonds was in the ’02 World Series, he was pretty darn good. Here’s the must-have comparison.

Bonds and Glaus both came to the plate 30 times. Bonds undeniably had the bigger impact, but Glaus’ impact was plenty big. A 1.313 OPS is definitely something to write home about.

And it’s not just in the conventional stats that Glaus held his own against Bonds. He did so in the other stats too.

For those who are wondering, “aLI” is Average Leverage Index. It’s a measure of the amount of pressure a hitter faced in a game or a series depending on the situations he was hitting in, according to Baseball-Reference.com. In the ’02 World Series, Glaus faced more pressure than Bonds did.

“WPA,” meanwhile, is Win Probability Added. It measures how a player impacted his team’s probability to win games. Glaus helped the Angels’ overall win probability almost as much as Bonds helped the Giants’ win probability.

“RE24” is Runs Added by 24 base-out situations. Just as win probability is a fluid thing that can be influenced by players in given moments, run expectancy is a fluid thing that can be influenced. That’s what RE24 is all about. Bonds was clearly better than Glaus in the ’02 World Series to this end, but a 4.57 RE24 for one seven-game stretch is pretty darn good.

Now that we’ve gotten all that out of the way, we can turn to back to Ortiz and try to find his Glaus.

And therein lies the dilemma: nobody on the Cardinals is really holding a candle to Ortiz through the first five games of the World Series.

The best option is Matt Holliday, who has an even 1.000 OPS. No other Cardinals hitter who has logged at least 10 at-bats is doing better than .801, and Holliday also owns four of the club’s nine extra-base hits. 

But while Holliday will do for a candidate for the World Series MVP award, he doesn’t come close to cutting it as a match for Ortiz:

The conventional stats obviously favor Ortiz to a huge degree. He’s also faced more pressure and positively influenced Boston’s win probability and run expectancies to a far greater degree than Holliday has for St. Louis.

Holliday, basically, is no Glaus. 

Obviously, there’s still time for things to change. The Cardinals aren’t dead yet, and there’s still time for Ortiz’s numbers to come back down to earth. 

The catch, however, is that even if Ortiz’s numbers do come back down to earth in the final two games of the series, they’ll still be outstanding.

Let’s say Ortiz comes to the plate four times in each of the next two games of the series and takes an 0-fer. If that happens, his batting line for the series will drop to .478/.536/.826. That’s a 1.362 OPS, which is still better than the OPS Glaus had in 2002.

An OPS like that is also one that Holliday would be hard-pressed to match, as gaining 362 OPS points in two games would require him to go on a tear. That could happen, but it’s not like he’s been an absolute terror for Red Sox pitchers in the series. The only Cardinals hitter they’ve struck out more than Holliday is Matt Adams.

Instead, it’s probably going to be up to somebody else on the Cardinals to wrest the World Series MVP away from Big Papi. Maybe Michael Wacha could put himself in line for the award with a huge performance in Game 6. Or maybe Joe Kelly could do so in Game 7. Or maybe Trevor Rosenthal could do it by finishing off the last two games of the series and adding to an impressive performance that has already seen him pitch 3.2 scoreless innings with eight strikeouts.

Even then, however, denying Big Papi the World Series MVP would be no easy call. It would essentially boil down to a choice between rewarding a guy who came up huge in the last two games over a guy who authored an all-time great performance through at least the first five games.

Since there are a ton of variables still in play, the best I or anyone else can say of this matter is “We shall see.” This is baseball, where weird things happening has long been the norm. 

But for now, what we know is that David Ortiz is the biggest, baddest dude left standing on the baseball landscape, and that the Red Sox have needed every last digit of the astronomical numbers he’s put up in the World Series. If the Red Sox hold on, he’ll be a slam dunk for the MVP award.

And even if the Red Sox don’t hold on, the people who determine such things may never get a better excuse to finally give Bobby Richardson some company.


Note: All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com. 


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World Series 2013: Red Sox Need to Get to Michael Wacha Early to Avoid Game 7

As the 2013 World Series shifts back to Fenway Park for Game 6, the Boston Red Sox are now one win away from winning their third championship in 10 seasons. The game on Wednesday will feature a rematch from Game 2 that saw St. Louis Cardinals rookie pitcher Michael Wacha outduel tough-luck loser John Lackey, 4-2.

Against Wacha in that game, Boston was able to drive up the young pitcher’s pitch count (114) to where he was out of the game by the end of the sixth inning. In order for them to avoid a Game 7 they will need to have the same approach of being patient against his changeup, which is his swing-and-miss pitch.

St. Louis manager Mike Matheny will have a quicker hook than usual with Wacha, as the Cardinals cannot afford to fall behind in the early innings. Jumping on him early may just force a knee-jerk reaction from Matheny to bring in a less-talented pitcher.

Wacha was far more effective in the regular season against left-handed hitters (.197 opponent batting average) than right-handers (.242). Shane Victorino’s presence could be a significant factor in this game if he is able to play.

Assuming Victorino and catcher David Ross are in the lineup, Boston will have six right-handed batters against Wacha. They need to take advantage of every possible matchup if they want to get something going against a pitcher who has now given up three runs in 27 postseason innings.

This is the second elimination game Wacha has been faced with this postseason. He was absolutely dominant against the Pittsburgh Pirates in Game 4 of the NLDS.

While the PNC Park crowd was certainly raucous for that game, the World Series stage is a different animal when facing elimination.

“It’s just a game,” Wacha told MLB.com. “I try not to get caught up in the moment. Try to stay composed on the mound. We know what’s in front of us now, and we need to keep on winning.”

Whether or not he is nervous, his pure pitching ability can be enough to neutralize the Red Sox lineup. The onus is on Boston to not chase his diving changeup, which is often down and out of the strike zone.

The question is, can some of the team’s struggling hitters lay off that pitch, especially if the Cardinals finally pitch around David Ortiz? It will certainly be difficult given how phenomenal Wacha has proven to be.

How do you see Boston’s approach against Wacha changing from game 2?


(All statistics obtained via Baseball Reference).



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How Michael Wacha, John Lackey Match Up in World Series Game 6

For the first time in 95 years, the Boston Red Sox can clinch a World Series title at home in Fenway Park, needing only a victory over the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 6 on Wednesday. 

Behind the stellar pitching of Jon Lester, dazzling hitting of David Ortiz and dominance of closer Koji Uehara, the Red Sox are bringing a 3-2 series lead back home after defeating Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright in Game 5. 

The Cardinals are at a disadvantage being down in the series and heading into enemy territory for the final games of the season.

Carlos Beltran certainly exudes confidence, though, as he told Paul Hagen of MLB.com,

Being able to win the second game shows us we can win over there. We just have to find a way to win and push it to a seventh game. We have the same confidence in [Wacha] as we have in Wainwright, so it’s a good feeling.

Now with a chance to end the baseball season on Wednesday night, Boston will send John Lackey to the mound against Cardinals rookie Michael Wacha. 

Here is how the two pitchers have fared in the postseason thus far. 

There hasn’t been a bigger story this postseason than the emergence of Wacha.

The 22-year-old rookie with just nine regular season starts under his belt has arguably been the best starting pitcher in October. 

Numbers like that are what we expect to see from Adam Wainwright among Cardinals pitchers, but Wacha has given the Cardinals a two-headed monster at the top of their rotation. It’s a good thing, too, because offense has been at a premium in this World Series. 

Wacha’s most dangerous weapon is a changeup that he will throw to anyone in any count.

That confidence is what makes the pitch so hard to handle. Typically a right-handed pitcher will only use the changeup to neutralize left-handed hitters, but as you can see from the data, the 2012 first-round draft pick doesn’t care who is hitting. 

The Red Sox couldn’t get anything going against Wacha in Game 2, save for David Ortiz’s two-run home run on a high changeup in the sixth inning to give Boston a temporary lead. 

Ortiz’s performance in the World Series has been unreal. He has gotten on base 15 times in the first five games (11 hits, four walks), tying a record set by Barry Bonds in 2002.

Bonds also holds the all-time record for reaching base in a World Series with 21. He had seven games to do so.

It’s possible Ortiz could tie or break the record, though the series would likely have to go the distance (or St. Louis’ pitching would have to fall apart in Game 6 for him to get six or seven more plate appearances). 

No one else in the Red Sox lineup has come close to matching what Ortiz has done, which makes you wonder how aggressive St. Louis manager Mike Matheny will be against him if runners are on base when Boston’s designated hitter steps up to the plate.

One final stat for Wacha—take a look at the pitchers he’s gone up against in the postseason and how the numbers compare. 

It’s a slaughter for Wacha, which is no easy feat considering he went up against Clayton Kershaw, the best pitcher in baseball, twice. This postseason resume is one nobody else in the World Series can touch. 

The Cardinals need Wacha to keep doing what he’s done all month if they want to keep their season alive.

On the flip side, what a great story this could be for John Lackey.

He was a pariah among Red Sox fans during his first two years with the team in 2010-11, posting the worst ERA (5.26) of any starting pitcher with at least 300 innings in MLB. He missed all of 2012 after undergoing Tommy John surgery, which undoubtedly played a role in his poor performance in 2011. 

It also didn’t help Lackey that he was a central figure in the “chicken and beer scandal” that became the narrative for why the 2011 Red Sox collapsed in September. 

This season saw the rebirth of Lackey, who had his best season, at least by ERA, since 2007 with the Los Angeles Angels. 

Lackey’s strong showing this season wasn’t just an added or welcome bonus for a good Red Sox team; it was a necessary component for the club to win a crowded American League East and make a deep playoff run. 

One area that does favor the Cardinals against Lackey is their right-handed hitting. The season splits versus right-handed pitching for St. Louis are incredible, made even stronger by Lackey’s weaker performance against right-handed hitting. 

The Cardinals did have some success against Lackey in Game 2, though not enough to say they completely figured him out. Two big hitters in the St. Louis lineup, Carlos Beltran and Matt Adams, will be batting from the left side, so Lackey figures to have an advantage over them. 

A big reason Boston manager John Farrell likely wanted to line up Lackey for two starts at Fenway in the World Series is the stark contrast in performance for the right-hander at home in 2013. 

Of course, the success in Boston isn’t limited to just Lackey. The Red Sox have the best home record in the American League during the regular season (53-28) and are 5-2 in the postseason. 

If the Cardinals get to Lackey, the numbers suggest it will happen right out of the gate or during the second time through the lineup. He had an ERA of 4.34 in the first inning and 5.59 in the fourth inning. 

Lackey did give up a run in the fourth inning of Game 2, the only one he would allow until that sloppy seventh inning that involved the Pete Kozma-Jon Jay double steal and Craig Breslow’s throwing error. 

Since I don’t think we will see any Red Sox players attempting throws down to third base on a bang-bang play again, the focus can be on the two best teams in baseball—one of them fighting to keep the season alive another day, while the other looks to end a great season in spectacular fashion. 

Do you really need any more hype than that?


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World Series Schedule 2013: Listings and Prediction for Fall Classic Conclusion

The 2013 World Series has been a memorable one for many reasons and has gone back and forth, but it’s sure to end with more excitement with the series’ final game (or two games) in Fenway Park.

Pitching matchups have made an impact on this series, but a couple of games have come down to wacky plays that you couldn’t otherwise predict. 

In Game 6 and potentially Game 7, many storylines—whether it be surrounding David Ortiz, Michael Wacha or even Koji Uehara—will continue to unfold and will decide who becomes world champions.

Let’s break down everything you need to know, as well as predictions, for the rest of the postseason.

*Game 7 if necessary


Game 6

The Red Sox are awfully glad to have won Game 5. Despite the obvious confidence in going back home for the final two games, Game 6 will be a doozie because of one player.

Rookie pitcher Michael Wacha has emerged as the Cardinals’ ace of the postseason, posting a perfect 4-0 record and a 1.00 ERA. His World Series debut was magnificent, with a two-run homer to David Ortiz as the only blemish on his 4-2 win. 

Boston is fortunate to have Ortiz rolling at his own historic pace, batting a jaw-dropping .733 on the series. ESPN Stats and Information broke down his incredible hitting chart:

Ortiz isn’t getting much help from the Boston bats, especially his fellow hitters at the top of the lineup. That was especially true last time they faced Wacha. 

One swing got John Lackey a lead in Game 2, but it’ll be tough for the Red Sox to get that type of cushion again versus a red-hot pitcher. The Cardinals will shut down the Boston bats in desperation mode, and their own hitters will be able to get up early on Lackey to force a Game 7.

Prediction: Cardinals win, 2-1


Game 7

Ironically, a season that has been all about pitching won’t come down to an epic duel on the mound. Both teams’ best pitchers will have been used up by Game 7.

Jake Peavy would be likely to get the start, unless if Clay Buchholz’s tiring arm holds up enough to convince the Boston coaching staff to give him the nod. Either way, it’ll likely be a by-committee performance to minimize the impact of either pitcher having a less-than-dominant performance.

The Cardinals could go with either Lance Lynn or Joe Kelly, but this game, as most clutch games inevitably do, will come down to the bats.

In Game 7, with no dominant aces getting the start, it’ll come down to which clutch batters come up big when runners are in scoring position. And you can’t shy away from the fact that the Red Sox have the advantage in that department.

Ortiz has been unstoppable, and a dominant pitching performance is about all the Cardinals can hope for to shut him down. With no Wainwright or Wacha, they won’t have that. 

Clutch-time Big Papi will send Boston into a frenzy by winning the World Series.

Prediction: Red Sox win, 6-4

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St. Louis Cardinals Preparing Allen Craig for World Series Start at First Base?

Allen Craig was one of the most prolific hitters for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2013.  His production at the plate, specifically with runners in scoring position, was a key component in the successful season for the team.  An injury in early September sidelined the first baseman, forcing the Cardinals to rely on young power hitter Matt Adams.

Adams has proven he can handle himself quite well at the plate and defensively at first base.  His production during the last month of the season softened the blow of Craig’s injury.  Even without Craig, the Cardinals kept winning and found themselves headed to the postseason with the National League’s best record.

The postseason brought a slightly different story for Matt Adams.

Through the second game of the World Series, Adams was struggling to produce, with only three extra-base hits in 49 at-bats and a paltry .245 batting average.  His four runs batted in have left the Cardinals hoping for Craig’s return before the 2013 season would come to a close.

The Cardinals’ arrival to the World Series brought some hope regarding Craig.  The series would begin in Boston and allow the team to utilize the designated hitter.

After multiple workouts after the close of the National League Championship Series, the Cardinals announced that Craig would be healthy enough to help the club in the World Series.  He would serve as the team’s designated hitter in Boston and be a competent bat from the bench when the games shifted to St. Louis.

The Cardinals escaped Boston with a split of the first two games.  Multiple sources, including MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch, noted that Allen Craig was taking ground balls at first base during workouts when the team arrived back in St. Louis.  

Does taking ground balls during workouts suggest that Craig is going to return to the lineup over Matt Adams?  Langosch seems to think that we will know very soon:

But the Cardinals continue to work Craig in the field with their eyes set on Game 5, when Boston will next send a lefty to the mound. It would be an ideal time to plug Craig back into the starting lineup.

The Cardinals are anxious to have Craig’s production back in the lineup but continue to progress slowly with the injury.  They do not want to push Craig too quickly, but they do want to maximize their potential for a World Championship this season.  

Craig has hit left-handed pitching better than Adams in 2013.  Adams has posted a .231 batting average while not drawing a single walk against lefties this season.  Craig, on the other hand, has produced a .779 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) and a .278 batting average against lefties.  

While MLB.com does not currently list an announced starter for Boston in Game 5, logic would suggest that Jon Lester would take the mound for the Red Sox.  Lester kept the Cardinals off-balance in Game 1 of the World Series, including Adams and Craig.  The duo combined for one hit and two strikeouts in eight at-bats against Lester in that game.

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny has said, according to the same Langosch article above, that Craig will be available both off the bench and as a defensive replacement in games due to the progress he has shown.  Craig provides the team a new dimension of production from the bench and another weapon against left-handed pitching going forward.

At the very least, Craig offers a more intimidating pinch-hitting option than Shane Robinson late in the game.  

A healthy Allen Craig could make all the difference for the St. Louis Cardinals.

All statistics are courtesy of Baseball-Reference.

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Cardinals vs. Red Sox: Biggest Keys as World Series Shifts to St. Louis

The Boston Red Sox stormed out of the gates in Game 1, taking advantage of some mistakes to grab an early World Series lead. The St. Louis Cardinals fought back to win Game 2 at Fenway Park, which sends the Fall Classic to St. Louis all square at one.

It doesn’t come as a surprise that the two evenly matched teams are deadlocked after two games. In fact, it wouldn’t be a shock to see them tied after six games as well. They were the best teams in their respective leagues this season and are now battling for the ultimate prize.

The Cardinals took control of home-field advantage with their victory in Game 2. Boston’s quest to get it back starts on Saturday night. Let’s check out the biggest key for each team as the series takes center stage at Busch Stadium.


Cardinals: Young Starters Thriving in the Spotlight

Sensational rookie Michael Wacha did his job in Game 2. He wasn’t as dominant as he was during his first three postseason starts, but he kept the Red Sox lineup at bay long enough for the Cardinals hitters to come out of their slumber and lead St. Louis to the win.

Now, the Cardinals need 25-year-old Joe Kelly and 26-year-old Lance Lynn to rise to the occasion. Boston’s lineup has been the best throughout the postseason, racking up eight more runs than St. Louis in one less game.

Kelly started the season as a reliever. He pitched so well after moving into the rotation that there was no way the Cardinals could take him out down the stretch. He’s coming off a rough start against the Los Angeles Dodgers in which he gave up four runs in five innings, however, and must bounce back in Game 3.

In Game 4, St. Louis is slated to send Lynn to the mound. The right-hander has been extremely streaky over the past two seasons. When he’s on, as he was en route to a 2.12 ERA with 36 strikeouts in 29.2 innings in September, he’s a major force. That’s what the Cardinals need.

How those two starters respond before the rotation flips back to Adam Wainwright will be crucial.


Red Sox: More Production From Bottom of the Order

The first two games have shown what the Red Sox already know: Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz are a rock-solid tandem in the middle of the order capable of coming up with big hits. Jacoby Ellsbury can also be a major asset atop the order.

In order to win the series, however, they are going to need some unsung heroes in the bottom part of the order to come up big starting in Game 3. Without that added production, there will be too much pressure on Pedroia and Ortiz to carry the load.

There is no shortage of possibilities. Daniel Nava, who had a terrific regular season, has gotten lost in the shuffle in recent games. Xander Bogaerts has extraordinary talent, but he is still searching for his way in the big leagues. Stephen Drew, who runs hot and cold, could break out of his slump.

The talent is in place, the Red Sox just need one or two players in the bottom part of the order to put together some better at-bats. If they do, the pressure on the middle of the lineup decreases and Boston should be in great shape.


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World Series 2013: Key Adjustments That Will Decide Fall Classic

The Boston Red Sox took Game 1 in dominant fashion, and the St. Louis Cardinals used opportunistic base-running to win Game 2.

Now, the 2013 World Series is tied at 1-1.

A pair of dramatic games has put the series in toss-up position, as neither team has a true advantage.

The question is, what adjustments much each team make to earn the advantage in the World Series?


Who’s at First?

As the World Series shifts to St. Louis, the most notable change will be the elimination of the designated hitter. Anyone who has ever watched baseball knows just how important the change will be, specifically for the American League champions.

In this instance, Boston will need to find a way to incorporate their top two run producers in the batting lineup.

During the 2013 postseason, designated hitter David Ortiz continues to build upon his Hall of Fame resume.

Current first baseman Mike Napoli, meanwhile, has finally found his hitting stroke, consistently generating runs.

Per Rob Bradford of WEEI.com, the Red Sox will take a gamble by starting Ortiz at first base in at least one game.

This is an even more rare decision than you may think.

Ortiz has played 32 games at first base since 2007, seeing time at the position in just six outings during the 2013 regular season. Napoli did play catcher earlier in his career, but he didn’t play a single game at the position during the 2013 regular season.

In other words, it’s looking like a “one or the other” type of scenario.

Ortiz is hitting .268 with five home runs and 12 RBI in 12 postseason games. Napoli has two home runs and five RBI in his past six appearances.

One way or another, a valuable player will be out of Boston’s starting lineup during its three-game road stint.


Using Allen Craig

During the 2013 regular season, Cardinals first baseman Allen Craig hit .315 with 13 home runs and a team-high 97 RBI.

During the postseason, Craig has played in just two games due to injury, hitting .286 with a walk and two strikeouts in eight plate appearances.

Craig has been playing at designated hitter during the World Series, and St. Louis will now need to determine just how much it can trust him as a fielder.

Craig isn’t incompetent, but he is coming off of a foot injury and hasn’t played the field since the regular season.

There’s no shortage of defensive versatility when it comes to the 29-year-old RBI machine.

He played 95 games at first base, 25 in left field and 22 in right field, which makes it easier for manager Mike Matheny to plug Craig in.

It simply can’t be ignored that he’s coming off of a foot injury that forced him to miss the NLDS and NLCS.

Should St. Louis place Craig in the outfield, Matheny would need to move either Matt Holliday or Carlos Beltran to keep them in the lineup. First base seems to be the most logical decision, but it depends heavily on how well Craig can field ground balls.

Matheny has a critical decision ahead of him.


Defense, Defense, Defense

If you haven’t noticed already, the most significant adjustments for both teams will be made on defense.

This isn’t just a reaction to the absence of the designated hitter but to the sloppy style of play that both teams have exhibited in the World Series.

It all starts with preventing unforced errors.

A case could be made that Game 2 was won by St. Louis’ opportunistic base running and Boston’s defensive mishaps.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Craig Breslow both made costly errors, thus resulting in St. Louis coming back from down 2-1 to ahead 4-2.

Game 1 wasn’t any different.

Pete Kozma committed two costly errors for St. Louis, and David Freese made one for the Cardinals.

Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina also let an easy pop fly drop between them, displaying just how influential defense has been in this series.

Whether Matheny and John Farrell opt to shift players around or simply try different formations, something needs to change.

Both teams have left errors decide the outcome of games, and that simply isn’t acceptable on this stage.

Both Boston and St. Louis have key adjustments to make.

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