With evenly matched teams, homefield advantage could help to determine World SeriesPosted on October 24, 2013 | by Brittany Yu
For the first time since 1999, the teams with the best records in their respective leagues are playing in the Fall Classic. With 97 wins each, the St. Louis Cardinals and the Boston Red Sox will face each other in what is one of the most evenhanded series in recent memory, despite last nights results. Both teams led their leagues in scoring, and both have dominant pitching, whether it comes from the starting rotation or the bullpen.
The Red Sox have been hitting a significant amount of home runs recently, but most of their offensive advantage is on the basepaths. Boston stole a total of 123 bases in 142 attempts in the regular season, and they already have 11 stolen bases in 10 postseason games. This bout of base-stealing will likely diminish, as the Cardinals have five-time-Gold-Glover Yadier Molina behind the plate.
While this is technically a rematch of the 2004 World Series, the rosters are quite different from what they were nine years ago.
Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz led the Red Sox’s rotation, while the Cardinals had Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha as the team’s one-two punch. The Boston bullpen is anchored by closer and AL Championship Series MVP Koji Uehara, who posted a 101-9 strikeout to walk ratio during the regular season. But the Cardinals have a stronger bullpen overall, with Trevor Rosenthal and a dependable group of middle relievers.
The outcome of this year’s World Series might come down to homefield advantage. The AL won the All-Star Game for the first time in four years, so Boston has a slight advantage over St. Louis. Allen Craig will be making his much-awaited return from the disabled list as the designated hitter for Games 1, 2, 6 and 7 in Boston.
In last night’s game, Adam Wainwright and Jon Lester, both well-rested from their most recent championship series starts, faced off in Game 1, but Boston’s left hander showed clear dominance. Whether it was homefield advantage or Boston’s hitting, Wainwright allowed five runs in the first two innings and had a terrible gaff caused by miscommunication that is sure to show up on ESPN’s Not Top 10.
When second base umpire Dana DeMuth’s call was reversed, the Red Sox secured an early 3-0 lead after Mike Napoli’s base-clearing double. The Cardinals defense made two errors early in the game and three overall. Boston’s explosive offense and St. Louis’ poor field play led to a 5-0 score by the end of the second inning and a final of 8-1.
The winner of Game 1 has won the World Series 22 of the last 27 years, but only time will tell if Boston can follow that pattern. NLCS MVP Michael Wacha starts tomorrow, and will need to help the Cardinals win to create momentum going into their three home games. The Red Sox need to continue with solid offense and pitching while the Cardinals must play clean baseball to have a chance in this series.
A version of this article appeared in the Thursday, Oct. 24 print edition. Brittany Yu is a contributing writer. Email her at email@example.com