Game one of the World Series will be in Boston on Wednesday, but the hometown Red Sox will not emerge from the contest victorious.
There are many reasons why the Cardinals will prevail, and the first is that after being without one of their best hitters all post-season, they will see Allen Craig back in the lineup.
Craig has been nursing an injury that makes it difficult for him to play in field, but with this game in an American League ballpark, the Cardinals will be able to employ the designated hitter. In other words, Craig, who drove in at team-high 97 runs in the regular season brings his potent bat to the plate without hindering the team defensively.
Another upside for the Cardinals: Playing with the DH helps negate one of their broader disadvantages in the series. Boston has a deeper bench with players like David Ross (or Jarrod Saltalamacchia, depending on who is catching), Daniel Nava and Will Middlebrooks at the ready.
The Cardinals bench lacks that fire power. When the two clubs play at Busch Stadium and the pitchers are required to hit it will be a Red Sox advantage with pinch hitting for the pitcher common late in tight games. But until then, the DH – along with having Craig in the lineup – means that offensively the Cardinals are in a strong position when batting.
In terms of pitching, Adam Wainwright gets the start for St. Louis and Jon Lester will be on the pitcher’s mound for Boston. Wainwright has looked consistently sharp in his three 2013 post-season starts. In 23 innings pitched, he conceded a mere 17 hits, one walk and four runs, while striking out 20 batters.
While he has never thrown at Fenway Park before, the handful of Boston batters who have faced Wainwright in the past have terrible track records. Shane Victorino (.227 batting average), Stephen Drew (.105), David Ross (.182) and Jonny Gomes (.200) are all likely to be in the lineup against Wainwright in this contest.
Lester’s success isn’t quite as assured. He has pitched pretty well in this post season (though not quite as well as Wainwright). In 19 1/3 innings he’s given up 16 hits and five runs. Still, what is notable is his control has not been fantastic. He’s allowed seven walks in that stretch, which suggests he isn’t quite on form despite keeping run counts down.
While most of the Cardinals lineup has never faced Lester, three of their biggest stars – Matt Holliday, Carlos Beltran and Yadier Molina have. The sample size is small, but the three combined to go a solid 3 for 10 against the left-hander. Final point: St. Louis earned a reputation for struggling against lefties this season, but after knocking around baseball’s best left-hander, Clayton Kershaw, for seven runs and 10 hits in only four innings in game six of the National League Championship Series, St. Louis batters should be brimming with confidence against Lester.
Best bet: Take the Cardinals, who are on at 2.05, to win.