MLB Predictions – The Hunt for Red October (World Series Edition)

We’ve come to that time of year.  The Fall Classic.  Our final 4 guaranteed baseball games until Spring Training.

It’s an all red World Series, a rematch of the 2004 series and the fourth time these two have met in the World Series.  The Boston Red Sox will represent the American League after taking out the Detroit Tigers in 6 games in the ALCS.  They will face off against the National League representatives, the St. Louis Cardinals, who also needed 6 games to advance past the Los Angeles Dodgers in their NLCS match-up.

The New York Yankees have the most World Series wins in MLB history with 27, but this is the decade of teams in red.  Why do I say this? Well, the winner of this year’s series will pick up their 3rd World Series Championship of the 21st Century, which would be the most of any franchise.  The Yankees and Giants are the other teams that have each two rings this millennium.  Of the two teams in this years Fall Classic, I think even if St. Louis loses, they’ve established themselves as the franchise of the 21st century.  They’ve appeared in 3 previous World Series since 2000, winning in 2006 and 2011, and of course losing in 4 to Boston in 2004.   This fourth appearance also ties them with the Yankees for most in this time span.  The Cards have been to by far the most League Championship Series’ with 6, and they’ve been to the playoffs more than they haven’t in the first 13 years of this century.  Not to mention their ability to draft and cultivate talent within has been remarkable and unmatched (with the exception of maybe the Tampa Bay Rays) the past 10 years.

Saying this takes absolutely nothing away from what the Boston Red Sox have done both in this decade.  Three World Series appearances and two wins after going 86 years between raising a championship banner.  But the turnaround from 2012 to 2013 is even more impressive than their playoff success.  They hadn’t played in October since 2010, and won just 69 games a year ago.  This was a franchise in turmoil, who instead of regressing, made a historic turnaround in just an off-season.  A lot of thanks for this has to be given to GM Ben Cherrington, who pulled of a miracle trade which dumped big money and big contracts of Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford.  Add the development of youngsters like Xander Boegarts, Will Middlebrooks and Jose Iglesias, and improved years of John Lester and Clay Buchholz, you can see why this team won the AL East.  Iglesias was of course traded, but his production allowed for Boston to acquire a quality arm in Jake Peavy.

Both teams have added pieces, and brought up guys from the minors that gelled quickly, allowing for them to be in the position they are.

This is the first World Series hosted by an American League team since 2009 when the Yankees held home-field advantage.  This because the AL snapped a 3-year All-Star Game losing streak, giving their representative, in this case Boston, home-field.  Both teams won 97 regular season games.

My Key Players in the Series:

St Louis

  • Starting Pitcher Michael Wacha: This isn’t your normal 22-year-old.  The youngster won the NLCS MVP after two huge wins, outdueling last years Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw twice.  If he can do anything close to what he did in the first two rounds, the Cardinals will be thrilled, and the Red Sox should be scared.
  • Carlos Beltran:  He’s in his first World Series after years of just missing.  He has many big hits in his postseason career, but now it’s time to see if he can continue it on the games biggest stage.

Boston

  • Closer Koji Uehara:  Talk about a breakout season.  Uehara was unhittable the last two months of the season, and has carried it into the postseason.
  • Starter John Lackey: If there’s one key starter for Boston, it’s Lackey.  He had a good bounce back year from 2012, but if the Sox want to win this series, they can’t have a performance like he had against Tampa earlier in the postseason.  He gave up 4 runs in less than 6 innings in that start.  Boston needs the guy that shut down the Tigers in the ALCS.

Here is the schedule and pitching matchups

Game 1 (Wednesday @ Fenway Park- First Pitch 7:30PM EST)

  • Adam Wainwright vs John Lester

It’s just what you want in Game 1 of the World Series; a match-up of aces who have been on this postseason.  The Cardinals send Adam Wainwright and his 1.57 postseason ERA to the hill.  Wainwright has 2 rings and knows what it takes close out a series, and get a series started  The Red Sox counter with John Lester, who hasn’t been too shabby this year, allowing just 5 runs in 19.1 innings this October.

Game 2 (Thursday @ Fenway Park- First Pitch 8:07PM EST

  • Michael Wacha vs John Lackey

Based simply on what has happened this postseason, this matchup favors the Cardinals, which is good down 0-1.  Clay Buchholz was the likely game 2 starter for Boston, but he’s suffering from fatigue.  Both are players I tabbed as key to the series, and know here’s their chance to prove me right.  Wacha looks to send his team home tied 1-1, Lackey hopes to make a statement and put the Sox up 2-0.

Game 3 (Saturday @ Busch Stadium- First Pitch 8:07PM EST)

  • Jake Peavy vs Joe Kelly

This is a toss up.  Neither has made a World Series start, though Peavy is a veteran to Kelly’s relative inexperience.  It’s a big game, as it’s the first swing game, with the winner being just 2 games away from a championship.

Game 4 (Sunday @ Busch Stadium- First Pitch 8:00PM EST)

  • Clay Buchholz vs Lance Lynn

I think the match-up favors the Sox, as Buccholz is really a number 2 in this rotation, though he was pushed back because of arm fatigue. Lance Lynn hasn’t been great this postseason, but with a 2-1 series lead, the Cardinals are saving Adam Wainwright for a possible clincher in game 5.

Game 5 (Monday @ Busch Stadium- First Pitch 7:30PM EST)

  • Jon Lester vs Adam Wainwright

With the series tied 2-2, it’s a re-match of game 1.  Lester was brilliant, while Wainwright was tattooed.  I don’t think either will be as good, or as bad as they were in game 1.  This will not be a blowout, but a close game, the way games 2-4 have gone.  The winner will have a chance at closing out the series Wednesday in Boston.

Game 6 (Wednesday @ Fenway Park- First Pitch 7:30PM EST)

  • Michael Wacha vs John Lackey

If Necessary***

Game 7 (Wednesday @ Fenway Park- First Pitch 7:30PM EST) 

So it all starts with game 1, which is important in any series.  It gives one team a quick advantage, and puts them 3 wins from a championship.  Winners of Game 1 have won 20 of the last 24 Fall Classics.  I hope you all enjoy what should be a long, hard-fought series. Both teams have had great runs to get themselves to this point.  From the Red Sox crazy turnaround, to the Cardinals getting big performances from different guys every night.  But I think the Cardinals core gets this done.  I like the Red Sox depth, but I think St. Louis’ depth is better.

CARDINALS IN 6

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Yankees Drop a Heart-breaker in 10

Yankees/Red Sox games are never short on drama, and this one was no different.

Ivan Nova was the AL’s Pitcher of the Month.  But it’s a new month, and Nova didn’t start it off well.

After a quick first inning Nova struggled.  The righty just couldn’t put any of the Red Sox hitters away, causing him to throw 96 pitches in just 4 innings.  For all the base runners and long counts, Nova allowed just 3 runs, but Boston’s starter Jake Peavy was just better.  Peavy entered the game with an 0-4 record against the bombers in his career, but it looked like 6-plus solid innings might change that.

Down 3-2 after 4, Preston Claiborne came in in relief for Nova, and struggled.  The youngster recorded no outs, allowing 4 hits, and 3 runs to break the game open for Boston.  The Sox tacked on another run, and looked good up 7-2 when Peavy left with one on and no outs in the seventh.

But this isn’t the first half Yankees.  And a 5-run deficit is no longer insurmountable. With the bases loaded, no outs and a run already in, Cano drove in his third of the game on a fielders choice.  Then Alfonso Soriano did what he does, singled in another to put the bombers down just 7-5.  Alex Rodriguez struck out, then Curtis Granderson smacked an RBI double, setting up runners on 2nd and 3rd with two out. Lyle Overbay, who had the go-ahead RBI last night, stepped to the plate, and delivered once again with a two run single to put the bombers on top 8-7.

David Robertson rebounded from a bad game on Wednesday to strike out two in a one-two-three 8th, just the shutdown inning the bombers needed.  And for the third straight day, and after a 4-out save Wednesday, Mariano Rivera came in to try and shut the door.  But as it goes in Yankees/Red Sox, nothing is ever easy, and Rivera (after a throwing error by Austin Romine), allowed a two out hit to tie the game.  Rivera has the most blown saves against Boston, and this one tied a career high for blow saves at 6.

So at 4 hours old, the game went to the bottom of the ninth.  Soriano walked with one out, and stole second thanks to a botched pick-ff.  So with one out and a runner in scoring position, Granderson stepped to the plate.  Then Soriano decided trying to steal third would be a good idea, and was picked off easily after a short run-down. Granderson truck out and the game headed to extras.

Joba Chamberlain has had a down year, but Girardi brought him in to start the 10th anyway.  With one out, Jacoby Ellsbury got on, then stole second.  Shane Victorino appeared to go to far with two strikes on a check swing which would’ve been the final out, but crew chief and 1st base up Joe West said he held up.  And on the next pitch lined a go-ahead single to right field.

Koji Uehara got the Yanks 1-2-3 in the 10th to seal the 9-8 win for Boston.

Peavy picks up the no-decision, and remains winless in his career against New York. Nova also gets a no-decision thanks, meaning he still hasn’t lost since late July against Tampa.

the yanks were helped out in their wildcard chase, with both Tampa and Oakland losing, though of course it was a golden opportunity missed, becsuse with a win they’d be just a 1.5 game out.

Looking ahead to Friday’s match-up, it pits two 10-game winners.  Andy Pettitte for New York.  Felix Doubront for Boston.