And just like that, the long, hot, arduous marathon of a baseball season will start its final chapter Wednesday night in Boston. The Fall Classic is upon us, pitting two of baseball’s crown jewel franchises against each other in the 109th World Series. Here are the top three things to watch before the first pitch is thrown at Fenway Park.
3. Which offense wakes up first?
We all know there has been a massive priority placed on pitching and defense in Major League Baseball in the last decade, but both the Cardinals and Red Sox completely abandoned the offensive side of the game in their respective League Championship Series. The Red Sox hit a collective .202 against the Tigers, and the Cardinals a measly .211 against the Dodgers. Both teams finished in the top four in all of baseball in batting average through the season, so the slumps are not the norm for these two lineups. The Cardinals get Allen Craig back into the middle of their lineup after he missed the last six weeks because of a foot injury, so he should provide a nice shot in the arm to a sputtering Cardinals lineup. Whichever offense wakes up first will take a stranglehold on the series.
2. Can the Cardinals’ young pitching staff keep it up?
Adam Wainwright has been his normal ace self at the top of the rotation for the Cardinals, but the rest of the starting staff has a combined three years of starting experience. Michael Wacha is finishing up his rookie year, and Joe Kelly and Lance Lynn are each wrapping up their second seasons as big-league starters. All four of them have been dominant. The Cardinals sported a 2.09 ERA through the National League Championship Series, and if the kids can keep up with the elder statesman Wainwright, the Cardinals may win their second World Series in three years.
1. Who provides the momentum swinging clutch hit?
Look up and down these two lineups and tell me the clutch gene isn’t dripping from more than half of these guys. Carlos Beltran is in the conversation for greatest postseason performer ever with more clutch moments than you can count on one hand. Yadier Molina has made a career out of it. David Freese? Oh, David Freese. We all remember 2011 — no need to recap. How about for the Sox? David Ortiz has already provided one gargantuan hit this October, clubbing a two-out grand slam, down four in the eighth inning of Game 2 against the Tigers. Mike Napoli was almost solely responsible for the Rangers winning their first World Series in 2011, before being shown up at the 11th hour by the aforementioned Freese. Shane Victorino did it with the Phillies and Dustin Pedroia hasn’t even made this list yet. Someone is going to change the history of baseball forever with a huge hit at some point in this series. There is a huge list of likely candidates, and even more who are looking to etch their names in the history books forever. So who is it going to be?