The World Series is now set and it will be the American League Champion Boston Red Sox taking on the National League Champion St. Louis Cardinals with Boston having the home field advantage by virtue of the American League winning the All-Star Game this year. The festivities all begin with Game 1 of the World Series from Fenway Park in Boston, MA Wednesday night at 8:07 ET, with the entire series televised nationally on FOX.
The posted series line at Pinnacle Sports has St. Louis as a decided underdog for the World Series at current odds of +122.
Despite being the underdogs, we feel that the Cardinals have a clear pitching edge in this series, and as the old adage says, “good pitching will stop good hitting”. The Red Sox finished second in the American League in batting at .277 trailing only Detroit Tigers, while the Cardinals finished second in the National League in batting at .269, just one percentage point behind the Colorado Rockies.
So as usual, this series should come down to which pitching staff does a better job of shutting down the opposing offense, and we honestly do not feel that the Red Sox will have a pitching advantage in any game unless they come back with Jon Lester in Game 4 while trailing the series. Also, St. Louis has a clear pitching edge in the first two games in Boston, which is crucial.
Thus, we are predicting the Cardinals to be crowned the 2013 World Champions despite their underdog price tag for the series. Here is our analysis of the rotations.
Game 1: The two aces square off here with Adam Wainwright of the Cardinals facing Boston’s Jon Lester. Wainwright is certainly well rested as he has not pitched since losing Game 3 of the NLCS to the Los Angeles Dodgers 3-0 on October 14th, meaning that he will be going on eight days rest. You cannot hang that loss on Wainwright though as he allowed just two runs on six hits in seven innings, meaning that he has now allowed four runs on only 17 hits in 23 innings in his three post-season starts after going 19-9 with a 2.94 ERA during the regular season with an obscene 219 strikeouts vs. 35 walks! That great command has continued in the post-season with 20 strikeouts vs. one walk. Lester finished 15-8 in the regular season, but his 3.75 ERA was a bit high relative to the other top pitchers in this series. He is 2-1 in the post-season including winning a key Game 5 of the ALCS vs. the Tigers on the road, but he labored through 98 pitches while lasting just 5.1 innings in that start.
Game 2: The Cardinals are starting probably the best pitcher over this post-season so far in the MVP of the NLCS Michael Wacha, and he will be opposed by Clay Buchholz, who has not pitched as well since coming off of a three-month stint on the Disabled List in September. Wacha certainly earned that MVP Award as he held the Dodgers scoreless through 13.2 innings in two starts including the deciding Game 6, and that was after taking a no-hitter into the eight inning in his only start of the NLDS vs. the Pittsburgh, settling for allowing just a solo homer in the eighth inning to Pedro Alvarez for the only run he has allowed in 21 post-season innings! While Wacha has been on fire, Buchholz has not looked like the pitcher that finished 12-1 with a 1.74 ERA in 16 starts since coming off of the DL, and he has struggled in his three playoff starts while allowing 10 earned runs on 19 hits plus five walks in only 16.2 innings, although he has been fortunate to escape with three no-decisions.
Game 3: The series shifts to St. Louis where the young and promising Joe Kelly will take the mound for the Cardinals against the veteran John Lackey. Kelly became a mainstay in the Cardinal rotation over the second half of the season and he finished at 10-5 with a nice 2.69 ERA over 124 regular season innings. He then allowed exactly two runs in each of his first two post-season starts before getting nicked up for four runs on seven hits in just five innings at Los Angeles in a Game 5 loss to the Dodgers. Still, Kelly showed enough throughout the year that he seems more than capable of containing the Red Sox here at Busch Stadium. Lackey finished 10-13 during the regular season, although we concede that he pitched much better than that with his 3.52 ERA, and he has had one good start and one bad start during the post-season. Lackey gives Boston a chance to steal a game in St. Louis if he brings his best effort, but he was not as consistent as Kelly throughout this year.
Game 4: Should the two managers opt to use their fourth starters, the Cardinals would turn to Lance Lynn while the Red Sox have a struggling Jake Peavy. It is likely that the team that leads this series with use its fourth starter here while the trailing team may opt to come back with its Game 1 ace, so stay tuned. Peavy looks like the weakest link for either rotation on this series, as after posting a 4.16 ERA during the season, Peavy was lit up for seven earned runs in just three innings in a Game 4 loss to the Tigers in the ALDS. Now Lynn is also the weak link in the St. Louis rotation, but at least he won 15 games during the season, which was among the best among all the fourth starters in baseball, and Lynn has severe home/away splits as he was a sparkling 9-3 with a 2.82 ERA here at Busch in 16 home starts!
Finally, a look at the bullpens reveals that St. Louis ranked 12th in the Major Leagues in bullpen ERA during the season at 3.45 while Boston ranked 21st at 3.70, although both pens have been superlative during the post-season, so we can call the bullpens a wash. Still, the Cardinals’ clear edge in starting pitching gives St. Louis great value as the choice to win this World Series at an underdog price.
MLB Pick: Cardinals +122 (Series)