Text by Paul Doyle, Hartford Courant; video by Tim Lammers, Fox CT
BOSTON — They are two iconic franchises in rabid baseball cities, two teams built on deep and talented pitching staffs and rosters that include many homegrown players.
The Red Sox and Cardinals had identical records this season (97-65) and both enter the World Series with similar reputations. Both are energetic teams, capable of winning close games in the late innings.
“I think it’s a team that’s very similar to ours,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said Tuesday. “We know this is a scrappy team that’s going to come out, but they have every component they need to win. They’ve shown it all season long.”
John Farrell, in his first season as Red Sox manager, couldn’t have said it better himself.
“There’s a relentless approach to play a complete game every night,” Farrell said. “I think that attitude is what has allowed us to come back from so many deficits this year and never give an at-bat away, and certainly play to the 27th out every night.”
As the Red Sox and Cardinals play Game 1 of the World Series Wednesday night at Fenway Park, their similarities stretch beyond the field. Consider the overall approach of each organization.
The Cardinals, investing in player development, allowed iconic first baseman Albert Pujols to leave for a $240 million contract with the Angels two years ago. Since Pujols has left, the Cardinals reached the National League Championship Series in 2012 and are now in the World Series.
The Red Sox, after pouring resources into their minor league organization, shifted their overall approach by dumping Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford on the Dodgers 14 months ago. The team saved more than $260 million in salary obligations and reinvested in short-term contracts this season, rising from last place to first place in the American League East.
The Cardinals have 18 homegrown players on their roster, most notably Game 2 starter and budding ace Michael Wacha. The Red Sox have 10 players on their roster that were developed in their minor league organization and Farrell has been playing 21-year-old Xander Bogaerts, who was in Double A four months ago.
Farrell, who worked in player development with Cleveland, appreciates the approach of both teams.
“I firmly believe that the players that come through that path, they have maybe a greater sense of ownership because it is their original organization, and that might translate into a difference on the field, with the way they compete, the way they go about it, knowing that they’re playing for what they know as their home in pro baseball,” Farrell said. “And no one does it as well as the Cardinals, given the number of guys that are on their roster right now.”
The Red Sox arrive on the World Series stage from a victory over the Tigers in the ALCS. Detroit had superior starting pitching, but its bullpen faltered and the Red Sox were a fundamentally better team on defense and on the basepaths.
They won’t hold the same advantages in the World Series. The Cardinals will roll two aces out in Games 1 and 2: Adam Wainwright and Wacha. While there is a drop in the St. Louis rotation (Lance Lynn, Joe Kelly), the Cardinals have a much better bullpen than the Tigers. The Red Sox will see hard throwers such as Carlos Martinez and Trevor Rosenthal in the late innings.
The Red Sox also have strength in the late innings with Koji Uehara, Craig Breslow and Junichi Tazawa. Jon Lester will start Game 1 and John Lackey will go in Game 2, but it’s unclear if Clay Buchholz — who missed significant time with a neck injury — will start Game 3. Farrell hasn’t named a starter and Jake Peavy told reporters he did not know if he would start Game 3 or Game 4.
After the Red Sox lineup struggled against the Tigers’ starters, they might have difficulty scoring runs against the Cardinals. If runs are at a premium, the pressure will be immense for the Red Sox.
“It’s going to be a tough series,” Lester said. “It’s a tough lineup. Having the DH for them [at Fenway Park] adds that little X factor for them; they’ve got [Allen] Craig coming back. … But when it comes down to it, just like with the Detroit Tigers, you’ve got to execute pitches. In the postseason you’ve got to stay away from big innings.”
The Cardinals’ overall team defense is better than the Tigers’, although they don’t have great range. They do have the strong-armed Yadier Molina catching, which could limit Boston’s running game.
Jacoby Ellsbury (52 stolen bases) and Shane Victorino (21) have been aggressive on the bases all season. Victorino said that won’t change, even with Molina behind the plate.
“He ain’t changing nothing for me, bro,” Victorino said. “I’m going to go out and be aggressive.”
Victorino won the decisive Game 6 in the ALCS with a grand slam, which came after he produced just two hits in his previous 23 at-bats. His attitude — confident but laid back, no matter the circumstances — plays well in October and is contagious.
Players such as Jonny Gomes and Dustin Pedroia have the same approach.
“It’s funny listening to their interviews, all the way through this. It’s been great baseball to watch for people that just love the game,” Matheny said.
But Matheny said his team has a similar attitude, although his players are less flamboyant. That might be why both teams expect a long series.
“In a seven-game series, every little thing is amplified and magnified in regards to mistakes being made, capitalizing on those or minimizing them,” Victorino said. “Both teams are good. That’s why we’re here. We’re going to go out and have fun.”