- Jayson Stark, Senior Writer, ESPN.com
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BOSTON -- The St. Louis Cardinals aren't going to lead this World Series in facial hair.
And they're not going to lead this World Series in romantic ballpark history.
But the Cardinals are going to win this World Series. And here are the Top Four Reasons There Will Be a Parade in St. Louis:
1. This isn't the Tigers' bullpen
In the ALCS, 11 of the 19 runs the Red Sox scored came with a member of the Tigers' bullpen in the game. If you think that was a coincidence, I have a lovely package of Calvin Schiraldi memorabilia to sell you.
The Red Sox went into that series with a clear strategy of grinding at-bats, forcing the Tigers' dominating starters out of the game and scoring off the shaky underbelly of the Detroit bullpen. But that's an approach that doesn't figure to work against the Cardinals because there is no shaky sector of a Cardinals bullpen that has a 1.80 postseason ERA, a .177 opponent average and an 0.83 WHIP.
"Realistically, they don't have an underbelly," said one scout. "When they get to the sixth, seventh and eighth innings, they can match up against any lineup as well as any team in baseball."
2. Beware the Cardinals' rotation
After surviving a series against that fearsome Detroit rotation, almost any collection of starting pitchers would look good to the Red Sox. But the Cardinals' rotation is better than advertised, particularly with Adam Wainwright (1.57 career postseason ERA) and Michael Wacha (nine hits allowed to the past 103 hitters he's faced) lined up to pitch four of the first six games.
In fact, one AL exec who picked the Cardinals summed it up this way: "Too much Wainwright and Wacha."
But even Game 3 starter Joe Kelly pumps fastballs that average 94.9 mph. So there might not be a team in either league with more power arms than this one.
"To me, the way you beat Boston is big arms and big stuff," said an NL scout. "And that's what the Cardinals have, from the first inning to the ninth."
3. Molina time
October matchups don't get much more fun than this: The Red Sox had the best stolen-base percentage (84.6) in American League history. The Cardinals allowed the fewest stolen bases (39) in either league. So can Yadier Molina control the Boston running game the way he did the running games of the Pirates and Dodgers (who stole two bases in 11 games)?
Correct answer: Of course he can. What else is new?
"No way they can run the way they did against Tampa and Detroit [11 steals in 13 attempts]," said one scout. "The Red Sox can score a lot of ways. But if the Cardinals keep the ball in the park and the catcher calls a great game, as he always does, and he throws out runners about 50 percent of the time, as he always does, they've got a lot of ways to keep them off the board, too."
4. The return of Allen Craig
The Cardinals have spent the past seven weeks playing without the toughest out in their lineup, Allen Craig, because of a serious foot sprain. But he'll be back in this World Series, as a DH in Boston and (at least) as a pinch-hit weapon in Games 3, 4 and 5 in St. Louis. And that's a series-altering development, even if it's hard to count on him to hit .315/.373/.457 in October, after not playing in anything other than simulated games since Sept. 4.
"He's what I call an anchor bat," said an NL scout. "Meaning you know what you're going to get. Even when he's not 'on,' he always gives you a quality at-bat, particularly with runners on base. And it lengthens their lineup to get him back. It gives them five premier hitters, and Matt Adams is a dangerous hitter. It's not going to be easy to go through their lineup with him back in it."
Nope. It sure isn't. So Cardinals in six. Mark it down.
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