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Archive for Saturday, October 23, 2004

Red Sox, Cardinals match up comparably

If history can be a guide, St. Louis might win Series in seven games

October 23, 2004

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A position-by-position look at the St. Louis Cardinals and Boston Red Sox going into the World Series, starting tonight at Fenway Park:

First Base

Cardinals: Albert Pujols. Voted MVP of the NLCS, hitting 14-for-28 with four homers and a team-high nine RBIs, and is hitting .442 in postseason with six homers and 14 RBIs, both team highs. He's only third player in major-league history to drive in 500 runs in his first four seasons, joining Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams.

Red Sox: Kevin Millar/David Ortiz. Millar, Boston's quote machine, usually provides extra pop (18 homers, 74 RBIs) in already powerful lineup, but hit just .250 in ALCS with two RBIs. Often replaced by defensive whiz Doug Mientkiewicz in late innings.

Edge: Cardinals.

Second Base

Cardinals: Tony Womack. Resurrected career after a spring-training trade from the Red Sox that netted Boston only a minor-league pitcher and has sparked the top of the lineup.

Red Sox: Mark Bellhorn. A switch-hitter with some power, struck out a franchise-record 177 times, but walked 88 times. Was 1-for-11 with five walks in first-round sweep of Anaheim and 5-for-26 with five RBIs against the Yankees. Slick-fielding Pokey Reese comes in for defense.

Edge: Cardinals.

Shortstop

Cardinals: Edgar Renteria. Had slight drop-off offensively, batting .287 after a .330, 100-RBI year last season and was 2-for-24 (.167) in the NLCS. Good range, strong arm.

Red Sox: Orlando Cabrera. Former Gold Glove winner has helped solidify defense after replacing fan favorite Nomar Garciaparra. He batted .379 in the ALCS with five RBIs.

Edge: Cardinals.

Third Base

Cardinals: Scott Rolen. Likely would have been NL MVP at All-Star break, and cleanup hitter was key to team taking control of Central. Dogged by injuries to left knee, left calf in second half.

Red Sox: Bill Mueller. Last year's AL batting champ was slowed by knee injury this season, but went 4-for-12 in division series.

Edge: Cardinals.

Catcher

Cardinals: Mike Matheny. Among best defensively at his position and prized for his handling of pitching staff. Tied Pujols for team lead with five RBIs in division series, then went 2-for-19 (.105) in the NLCS.

Red Sox: Jason Varitek. Leadership means even more than consistent numbers he puts up. Switch-hitter connected for big homer in Game 2 against Angels and had the tying sacrifice fly in Game 5 of the ALCS against Rivera.

Edge: Red Sox.

Left Field

Cardinals: Reggie Sanders. Average defensively, but took move from right to left after August deal for Larry Walker without grumbling. Fifth time in the playoffs. Hit just 4-for-21 (.190) with no RBIs in NLCS.

Red Sox: Manny Ramirez. MVP candidate led league in HRs (43) and slugging percentage (.613). Batted .385 with one HR and seven RBIs in first round against Angels, then was 9-for-30 against the Yankees, but failed to get any RBIs. An adventure on defense.

Edge: Red Sox.

Center Field

Cardinals: Jim Edmonds. Hit 42 homers, one off franchise record for left-handed hitters set by Johnny Mize in 1940.

Red Sox: Johnny Damon. Speedy leadoff hitter (.380 OBP, 20 HRs, 94 RBIs, 123 runs).

Edge: Cardinals.

Right Field

Cardinals: Larry Walker. Three-time NL batting champion, acquired from Colorado on Aug. 6, was final piece to game's best lineup, thriving in second slot ahead of Pujols.

Red Sox: Trot Nixon. Injuries limited him to 48 games this year, but now he's healthy and plenty dangerous. Averaged 26 HRs and 90 RBIs from 2001-03.

Edge: Cardinals.

Designated Hitter

Cardinals: John Mabry, who had just seven at-bats and one hit in the first two rounds of the postseason, is the most likely candidate.

Red Sox: David Ortiz. Bats behind Ramirez to give Boston fearsome duo in middle of lineup. Hit .301 with 41 HRs and team-leading 139 RBIs.

Edge: Red Sox.

Starting Pitching

Cardinals: RH Woody Williams, RH Jason Marquis, RH Matt Morris, RH Jeff Suppan. The rotation was the reason St. Louis was picked to finish third in the Central behind the Cubs and Astros. Instead, Marquis (15 wins), Suppan (16) and injured Chris Carpenter (15) put together career years. Carpenter is still out with nerve damage in his right biceps and Morris has had up-and-down season, leaving Williams as the de facto ace.

Red Sox: RH Tim Wakefield, RH Curt Schilling, RH Pedro Martinez, RH Derek Lowe. After the knuckleballing Wakefield (12-10, 4.87) starts the opener, Schilling (21-6, 3.26 ERA) starts in Game 2.

Edge: Red Sox.

Relief Pitching

Cardinals: RH Jason Isringhausen, RH Julian Tavarez, LH Ray King, LH Steve Kline, RH Kiko Calero, RH Dan Haren, RH Cal Eldred. St. Louis' bullpen had a 3.01 ERA, best in the NL.

Red Sox: RH Keith Foulke, RH Mike Timlin, LH Alan Embree, RH Derek Lowe, LH Mike Myers, RH Curtis Leskanic.

Edge: Even.

Manager

Cardinals: Tony La Russa. This is his 10th postseason appearance, and it's one of his best managing jobs, as evidenced by the team's major-league-leading 105 victories despite having an unspectacular pitching staff.

Red Sox: Terry Francona. In his first season after replacing Grady Little, he led his team to a surge after Aug. 16, and Boston finished 98-64, winning the AL wild card.

Edge: Cardinals.

Prediction

Cardinals in 7 -- in the end, history will repeat.

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