The AL Champion Boston Red Sox will be playing in their third World Series in the last decade.
Winning this one may be the most difficult of the three.They are going against the best team in the National League since the April days of the season.The Cardinals finished with 97 wins and the National League's best record.
The Cardinals have one of the most well-balanced teams in the league.It is fitting for these teams to be matched up for the title; they have been the strongest two teams all year. In order for the Red Sox to win the World Series they will have to play their best ball.
Here are my three keys to victory for the Red Sox:
1. Start Xavier Bogaerts
The 21-year-old rookie came through huge in the ALCS.Bogaerts took over for the slumping Will Middlebrooks and ripped three doubles, and three walks on nine plate appearances.He started in game 5 and it may be the move to put the Sox over the top.Batting against the tough starting pitching of the Tigers, he looked like a seasoned pro. He battled into deep counts, and managed to draw walks in key situations. He may be young, but he is the hot hand.
Boston should continue playing him and hope it helps it take the series.
The entire teams pitching staff has been great but what really stood out to me is their bullpen. They have allowed just three runs in 32.1 innings; they have a stunning 0.84 ERA.
Closer Koji Uehara won the ALCS MVP Award after looking lights out against the Tigers.If he can continue his dominance it will make the game shorter, which benefits the Sox.
A deep bullpen puts teams over the top in the last weeks of the season.Every team would like to see their starting pitchers going 7-8 innings in the playoffs, but easier said than done. When Jake Peavy pitched game 5, Sox manager John Farrell took him out with 2 outs in the 6th.Many thought he could've finished that inning, but why risk an inning getting away from you when your bullpen is dominating.
Having a hot bullpen makes it easier on the entire team.The starting pitchers feel less pressure knowing they have strength behind them that can finish out the victory.It also helps the manager, he can have confidence taking out the starter early, which saves their stamina and arm for other games in the series.Let's not forget what it does for your offense too.If your pitching is only giving up 2-3 runs a game the offense can play "small ball" and scrape together a few runs to win the game. Or, at any time a player can step up and hit a bomb. It takes one pitch in close games.
Look at the ALCS, the Red Sox offense looked terrible besides 2 swings of the bat.
Take Ortiz's and Victorino's grand slams away and I would probably be righting about the Tigers right now instead. So Boston, keep it close.
Boston relievers have already managed heavy load, but still seem like they have gas left in the tank. If the team can squeeze out one more excellent series from them, they will likely have a World Series trophy.
3. Ortiz Needs to Play First
Playing in St. Louis means there is no DH in the lineup.So, do you bench David Ortiz, or play him at first base?
Clearly Ortiz is not your best option playing first but the Red Sox cannot lose his bat in the lineup.He only played six games at first this year, but he has not committed an error since 2009.This will be another decision that will be crucial for Farrell and his team.
I hope this series lives up to its hype.I believe it will go down to the final pitches, and the last moments to declare a winner.Both teams are well-balanced with impressive bullpens.If the Red Sox can control the late innings of the game, like in the ALCS, they will win.