As Cardinals fans, we are so stinking spoiled. World Series appearances in 2004, 2006, 2011, and now 2013. Championships in 2006 and 2011 and a better than fair shot at a third in 2013.
It’s no wonder other teams and their fans hate us.
This week promises to be one heckuva’ whirlwind of baseball blogging. We’re going to do our best to keep up both here and as a freelance contributor for Yahoo Sports, so please reward our hard work and late nights by reading our humble posts in both places.
Now, let’s get things started with just a few quick hits about the upcoming games:
Allen Craig could reignite this offense. A lot has been said about Craig’s effectiveness after not playing for so long with an injured foot. But let’s take a minute to talk about just what he could mean to a Redbirds’ lineup that is currently “hitting my daughter’s weight” at the plate in the postseason (stole that from John Mozeliak…funny guy, that Mo).
The Redbirds’ offense lived and died by their timely hits with runners in scoring position all season long. While Matt Adams is a capable replacement at first base, his power bat is a bit out of place with the 2013 Cardinals’ offensive configuration. The St. Louis hitters score runs in bunches because they get on base and get hits in bunches. Craig’s .454 batting average with RISP is essential to that effort. If he’s on his game, even mostly on his game — we could see a Cardinals’ lineup that once again lights up pitchers and posts big innings.
Michael Wacha must continue to be Michael Wacha. And that’s entirely unfair to the young right-hander, but there it is. The Cardinals’ rotation was a strong point all season, but with injuries and fatigue decimating the two through five pitchers, the emergence of Wacha in a four-man group in October gives the Redbirds a chance on the mound. If he can keep up his stellar pitching display, the Cardinals could take this thing in five or six games. If not…the entire series becomes a toss-up. Encouraging news: The Red Sox are grinders, but they have a horrendous swing and miss rate on pitches in the zone. That should play right into Wacha’s hands if his amazing fastball-change-up combination is effective early on.
Kevin Siegrist must hold David Ortiz in check. It’s possible that veteran lefty Randy Choate gets more than a few shots at Ortiz in key situations, but Siegrist’s blazing fastball sure is tempting. He didn’t look his usual self in the Pirates series against Pedro Alvarez, and that may have led to a slight reduction in usage in the NLCS later on, but the kid needs to rebound and rebound fast because his most likely shot to impact this series is going to come against the best DH this game has ever seen in the Red Sox clean-up hitter. And likely with runners on and the game on the line.
Matt Carpenter has to relax and work at-bats. The leadoff hitter fell into bad habits at the end of the season in his quest for 200 hits. Those difficulties carried over into the NLDS but seemed to at least subside in the NLCS — especially in Game 6 against Kershaw. If Carpenter can get Game 1 started with a bang for the Cardinals’ lineup, St. Louis could be looking at two straight wins in Boston instead of settling for a split.
The Cardinals’ outfielders have to hold the line. Much has been made about the defensive deficiencies of the Redbirds’ fielders, especially the outfielders playing with the odd dimensions of Fenway and that giant monster in left field. If Matt Holliday can’t adequately play bounces off the wall, or if Jon Jay/Shane Robinson can’t close the gap in right-center, this is going to be a very long trip for the Redbirds. Look for player positioning in the outfield to play a big role in this series.
That’ll do it for now…look for much, MUCH more both here and at Yahoo Sports throughout the series.