The 109th World Series gets underway tonight when the Cardinals face off against the Red Sox in Boston. Since the World Series was first played in 1903, St. Louis and Boston have matched up four times, counting 2013, in the Fall Classic.
The last time these two teams met in the World Series was 10 years ago, when the Red Sox swept the Cardinals in four straight. That series ended the Red Sox 86-year curse of not winning a World Series. Before that, St. Louis and Boston met in the 1946 and 1967 World Series. Both times the Cardinals came out on top in a seven-game series.
This year will be the Cardinals' 19th time playing in the World Series and the Redbirds have faced only one team more times than the Red Sox, the New York Yankees (five times). For Boston, the World Series berth is the 11th in franchise history and the Cardinals are the Red Sox' most frequent opponent.
These two storied franchises each return just one active player from its last meeting in the 2004 Fall Classic. The Cardinals return catcher Yadier Molina while the Red Sox retain designated hitter David Ortiz. However, two players from the Cardinals 2004 World Series team are still with the club. Former catcher Mike Matheny is now the team's manager and John Mabry, a first baseman/outfielder, is now the club's hitting coach.
In an MLB Network televised press conference Tuesday afternoon in Boston, Manthey reflected on the 2004 World Series and what needs to be done in the 2013 Fall Classic.
"A few of us have some pretty bad memories of being here in 2004," Matheny said. "We are looking to kind of right that ship. But, the team that we played in '04 was as hot as any team in baseball. They came in and played the kind of baseball that we needed to and we didn't. It is about execution and that is what we are going to get focused on now."
Both of these teams have been in the World Series since that 2004 meeting.
The Cardinals returned to the fall Classis two years later and beat the Tigers in five games. Coincidently, the Cardinals and Tigers have met three times in the World Series. The Cards won two of the three meetings. Following the 2006 series, the Cardinals were back in the championship game in 2011 when St. Louis beat Texas in seven games.
The Red Sox made it back to the World Series in 2007 and swept the Rockies in four games. Boston comes into the 2013 World Series having won the last eight World Series games it has played in. The only recent team with a longer stretch of consecutive World Series games won is the Yankees with 14 straight games won between the 1996, 1998, 1999, and 2000 World Series games.
Of those more recent World Series teams, for the Cardinals and Red Sox, each team brings back several players.
St. Louis has seven players on the roster from 2011: Allen Craig, Matt Holliday, Daniel Descalso, David Freese (2011 World Series MVP), Jon Jay, Lance Lynn, and Molina. Also back but not on the active World Series roster are Jake Westbrook, as well as injured stars Chris Carpenter, Jaime Garcia, Rafael Furcal, and Jason Motte.
Adam Wainwright was injured in 2011, but closed out the Cardinals 2006 World Series victory over the Tigers. In addition to Wainwright, Carpenter and Molina were also on the 2006 roster.
Holliday will actually be playing in his third Fall Classic. Before winning a ring with the Cardinals in 2011, Holliday was a member of the Colorado Rockies. The same Rockies who were swept by the Red Sox in the 2007 World Series. Then there is Cardinals assistant hitting coach Bengie Molina, the brother of Yadier Molina. The Cardinals' coach was a member of the 2002 Angels World Series team as well as a member of the 2010 Rangers team that lost in the World Series. Strangely enough, Bengie Molina also has a 2010 World Series championship ring as he started the season with the Giants before being traded to the Rangers.
For Boston, there are four players returning and all are on the roster: Jacoby Ellsbury, Jon Lester, Dustin Pedroia, and Ortiz.
Boston also has several other members of its roster with World Series experience. Mike Napoli was a member of the Texas Rangers World Series runner up team in 2011 while Shane Victorino won a ring with the Phillies in 2008 and was a runner up in 2009. Even pitcher John Lackey has a World Series ring as a member of the 2002 Angels.
Both teams have solid offenses that match up well against each other.
The Cardinals and Red Sox each have seven players who drove in 60 or more runs over the 2013 season. While St. Louis had four players finish the regular season with a batting average of .300 or better, Boston had three. However, while both teams have six players in double figure home runs, Boston has stolen nearly three times as many bases as the Cardinals have. The Red Sox have swiped 123 bases to the Cardinals 45.
Even the pitching is comparable.
While St. Louis' Wainwright (19-9, 2.94 ERA and 223 K's) is the best on both staffs and rookie Michael Wacha (4-1, 2.78 ERA and 65 K's) gives the Redbirds a nice one-two punch, the Red Sox pitching is nothing to slouch at. Jon Lester (15-8, 2.75 ERA and 177 K's) is Boston's number one starter, but Clay Buchholtz (12-1, 1.74 ERA and 96 K's) is just as good. When looking at a four man rotation, the Red Sox' Lester, Buchholtz, Lackey (10-13, 3.52 ERA, 161 K's), and Jake Peavy (12-5, 4.17 ERA, 121 K's) can stand right up there with the Cardinals' Wainwright, Wacha, Joe Kelly (10-5, 2.69 ERA, 79 K's), and Lance Lynn (15-10, 3.97 ERA, 198 K's).
The bullpens are similar as well. While the Red Sox closer, Koji Uehara has held the job longer, the Cardinals' Trevor Rosenthal can mow down hitters with the best of them.
A lot of talk has been made about the Cardinals committing a season best 75 errors, but the Red Sox weren't far behind, making only 80 errors themselves.
The 2013 World Series is bringing the best teams from each league (win/loss-wise) to the Fall Classic. Both the Cardinals and Red Sox led their respective leagues with a 97-65 record. St. Louis went 54-27 at Busch Stadium and 43-38 on the road while the Red Sox were 53-28 at Fenway Park and 44-37 on the road. The biggest difference is that while the Cardinals were a .500 team in interleague play (10-10), the Red Sox were 14-6 in interleague.
Overall, both teams look to be closely matched and the series should be a very good one.