The dust has settled and we have just two teams still playing into the last week of October. The National League representative St. Louis Cardinals visit the American League champion Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park in a rematch of the 2004 World Series. Boston swept away St. Louis in four games to “reverse the curse” and win its first World Series in 86 years. David Ortiz and Yadier Molina are the only two players on this year’s rosters that were also there in ’04. And Mike Matheny is now managing the Cardinals after catching for St. Louis during its 2004 run. Adam Wainwright opens up for the Cardinals against Jon Lester, who has started both Game 1’s for the Red Sox in this year’s playoffs. Boston opens as a -125 favorite with a total of 7.0 runs.
The biggest concern for St. Louis is the arm that Jon Lester throws with. The Cardinals ranked near the bottom of the entire MLB in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage against left-handed pitchers this season. Jon Lester’s style is very similar to that of someone like Francisco Liriano, who posted a 0.75 regular season ERA against St. Louis in 24 innings of work this season as well as winning a playoff game. Lester loves to pitch in to righties with a hard cutter to set up a softer sinker and changeup on the outer edge of the plate. Lester’s effectiveness will correlate strongly with his ability to get the ball in on right-handers Beltran, Holliday, Molina, Freese and Allen Craig who will return from a foot contusion to play in his first game since September 4. The return of the Cardinals’ cleanup hitter at the DH spot should provide a huge lift to the St. Louis lineup that scuffled against the tough pitching of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Red Sox face the tall task of scoring runs against St. Louis ace Adam Wainwright. Wainwright has been pretty much untouchable in the playoffs – giving up just four runs in 23 innings of work that include 20 strikeouts to just one walk. Wainwright mixes a plus fastball with a devastating curveball and nifty sinker and cutter to feature a repertoire that he can use interchangeably because of his superior command. The Red Sox offense has sputtered and really was only able to survive Detroit because of timely hitting and a lackluster Tiger’s bullpen. Wainwright won’t make it easy on the Sox Wednesday night in a game that should be cold and wet at Fenway Park. With so many batters struggling at the plate, Adam Wainwright probably isn’t the best solution to Boston’s problems. Look for the righty to go seven or eight dominant innings and hand the ball to either Martinez, Siegrist and Rosenthal.
There shouldn’t be many runs in this one but I feel a little more confident that it is Boston’s lineup that will be limited. Lester certainly has the ability to shutdown the Birds but the consistency that Wainwright brings to the table makes me inclined to take the Boston team total under.
Free Pick: Boston Team Total Under 3.5 (+105)