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How the St. Louis Cardinals Match Up Against the Boston Red Sox, Detroit Tigers

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How the St. Louis Cardinals Match Up Against the Boston Red Sox, Detroit Tigers
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Trevor Rosenthal and Yadier Molina give the Cardinals two big advantages over either potential World Series opponent.

We know the when and half of the who, but we don't yet know the where.

The World Series begins on Wednesday, Oct. 23, and the St. Louis Cardinals have punched their ticket after a dominating 9-0 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series.

The American League representative, however, remains TBD, and as such, so does the site of Games 1 and 2 of the Fall Classic. With the Junior Circuit's 3-0 blanking of the Senior back in July, the AL champ will get home field, but whether that will be in Boston or Detroit depends on how the rest of the weekend plays out.

The Red Sox are leading the Tigers three games to two heading into Saturday's Game 6, and if necessary, a winner-take-all Game 7 will be Sunday. We'll know soon enough which club gets to host the Cardinals, but in the meantime, here's how the three teams stack up based on their lineups, rotations and bullpens, starting in each case with the club that's already advanced.

 

Lineups

Catcher

Cardinals: Yadier Molina and Tony Cruz

Red Sox: Jarrod Saltalamacchia and David Ross

Tigers: Alex Avila and Brayan Pena

Boston has a very strong veteran duo, and Saltalamacchia has beat up right-handers this year (.294/.350/.523), which is the arm all Cardinals starters use to throw. Similarly, the lefty-hitting Avila, whose knee injury puts his status in question, can hold his own against righties (.767 OPS versus .455 against southpaws). Still, Molina is inarguably the best all-around backstop in the sport, so St. Louis has this one won, no matter who they play.

Rank: Cardinals, Red Sox, Tigers

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Yadier Molina

First Base

Cardinals: Matt Adams

Red Sox: Mike Napoli

Tigers: Prince Fielder

Napoli, the lone right-handed hitter of this trio, gets the edge here because he's been the hottest of the three in the postseason (.969 OPS) and is also the best defender. Fielder (.587 OPS) and Adams (.724) both have the potential to do major damage—they just haven't. Especially Fielder, who sports a career average of .199 in the playoffs and hasn't driven in a run since the ALCS...in 2012. Not so crazy to think Adams, a 25-year-old rookie, might be the better option in October.

Rank: Red Sox, Tigers, Cardinals

Mike Napoli

Second Base

Cardinals: Matt Carpenter

Red Sox: Dustin Pedroia

Tigers: Omar Infante

Despite strong seasons from each, none is playing particularly well at the moment, but ol' reliable Pedroia's all-around game—and postseason experience—gives him the top spot over Carpenter, the position's breakout player of the year.

Rank: Red Sox, Cardinals, Tigers

Third Base

Cardinals: David Freese

Red Sox: Will Middlebrooks or Xander Bogaerts

Tigers: Miguel Cabrera

Cabrera has to be the choice here, even with all of the injury issues that are hampering him. Meanwhile, Freese, the Cardinals' postseason hero from 2011, is hitting .189 and battling Middlebrooks (.174) for who can post a lower batting average this month, which is why Boston has turned to 21-year-old rookie Bogaerts, according to Joe McDonald of ESPN Boston.

Rank: Tigers, Cardinals, Red Sox

Shortstop

 

Cardinals: Pete Kozma

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Red Sox: Stephen Drew

Tigers: Jose Iglesias or Jhonny Peralta

More ineptitude here, as all three primary shortstops are hitting .200 or below, with Kozma leading the way at 5-for-25, barely ahead of Iglesias at 4-for-22. Drew, though, has been particularly atrocious, with just three hits in 32 at-bats—and 10 strikeouts. Detroit wins out, mainly because Peralta's production (11-for-30, 1 HR, 6 RBI) has to count somewhere.

Rank: Tigers, Cardinals, Red Sox

 

Outfield

Cardinals: Carlos Beltran, Matt Holliday, Jon Jay

Red Sox: Jacoby Ellsbury, Shane Victorino, Daniel Nava or Jonny Gomes

Tigers: Torii Hunter, Austin Jackson, Jhonny Peralta or Andy Dirks

This is a close call, because St. Louis has those two big-name big-hitting bats in Beltran—a postseason god—and Holliday, but all three (including Jay) struggle on defense. The Red Sox are being driven by Ellsbury's on-base ability (.463 OBP), speed (Red Sox playoff record six steals) and D. The Tigers, on the other hand, lack star power but might have the best third outfielder (at least offensively) when Peralta plays left field.

Rank: Cardinals, Red Sox, Tigers

Justin K. Aller/Getty Images
Carlos Beltran and Matt Holliday

 

Designated Hitter

Cardinals: Allen Craig or Shane Robinson or Daniel Descalso

Red Sox: David Ortiz

Tigers: Victor Martinez

Ortiz and Martinez are closer than you'd think given how hot Martinez is and how much Ortiz is struggling of late. Yes, he hit that game-tying grand slam in Game 2, but he has only one other hit in the ALCS so far. The Cards are a distant third, unless a healthy enough Craig can make it back from a foot injury that's kept him out since Sept. 4. Otherwise, they'll be relying on bench bats that shouldn't be starting a postseason game, let alone as many as four in the World Series. Remember: The AL's home-field advantage puts St. Louis at a severe disadvantage here.

Rank: Red Sox, Tigers, Cardinals

 

Bench

Cardinals: Robinson, Descalso, Adron Chambers, Kolten Wong

Red Sox: Gomes, Nava, Bogaerts, Mike Carp, Quintin Berry

Tigers: Dirks, Don Kelly, Ramon Santiago, Hernan Perez

This one ain't close, as Boston's bench is superb, providing everything from offense to defense to speed. The Cards come up way short here again, especially if Craig can't be at least a pinch-hitter.

Rank: Red Sox, Tigers, Cardinals

 

Rotations

Cardinals: Adam Wainwright (RHP), Michael Wacha (RHP), Lance Lynn (RHP), Joe Kelly (RHP)

Red Sox: Jon Lester (LHP), Clay Buchholz (RHP), John Lackey (RHP), Jake Peavy (RHP)

Tigers: Max Scherzer (RHP), Justin Verlander (RHP), Anibal Sanchez (RHP), Doug Fister (RHP)

Detroit's quality and quantity is unmatched, so the Tigers are a notch above the Cardinals, whose top two have proved to be a dominating duo that the Red Sox just don't quite have. The only edge Boston gets here? Lester is the lone lefty of all of the above, which might make things a bit more challenging for St. Louis' same-sided bats like Adams, Carpenter and Jay.

Rank: Tigers, Cardinals, Red Sox

 

Bullpens

Cardinals: Trevor Rosenthal (RHP), Carlos Martinez (RHP), Kevin Siegrist (LHP), Randy Choate (LHP), John Axford (RHP), Edward Mujica (RHP), Seth Maness (RHP), Shelby Miller (RHP)

Red Sox: Koji Uehara (RHP), Junichi Tazawa (RHP), Craig Breslow (LHP), Brandon Workman (RHP), Felix Doubront (LHP), Franklin Morales (LHP), Ryan Dempster (RHP)

Tigers: Joaquin Benoit (RHP), Jose Veras (RHP), Drew Smyly (LHP), Al Alburquerque (RHP), Jose Alvarez (LHP), Phil Coke (LHP), Rick Porcello (RHP)

While Detroit's relief corps has been exposed at times (lookin' at you, Mr. Benoit), Boston's bullpen has been a revelation this month—Uehara and Tazawa are the only two who have given up a run. Still, it's hard to match what St. Louis brings to the table, as far as a deep 'pen full of dynamic and specialist arms.

Rank: Cardinals, Red Sox, Tigers

 

Head-to-Head Breakdowns

Having run down all three teams, here's a sneak-peek preview of how each matchup would shape up, depending on which American League squad joins the Cardinals in the World Series.

If the Red Sox advance...

The Cardinals would have the biggest advantages at catcher and in the rotation, while also holding slight edges at third base, outfield and in the bullpen. However, they would have to make up for shortcomings against Boston at designated hitter and on the bench.

Who would the Cardinals match up better against?

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The Cardinals probably get a slight overall edge in a head-to-head against the Red Sox, who have shown that elite pitching and power arms—St. Louis has both—can handle their top-notch offense. Craig's availability would be an X-factor here, because it would help the Cards get a bit closer with the sticks, particularly considering the DH would come into play in Games 1 and 2 and, if necessary, 6 and 7.

 

If the Tigers advance...

St. Louis would have the upper hand at catcher, outfield and in the bullpen, while stacking up fairly well at second base, too. But the Cards would be lacking compared to Detroit at third base, designated hitter, on the bench and in the rotation.

This might be the more competitive of the two potential series, given that both teams can throw some of the best arms around on the mound. Again, Craig's availability may wind up being a key to combating Detroit's staff, whereas the injuries to Cabrera and Avila and postseason struggles of Fielder could make St. Louis the favorite.

It's not really worth wondering whether the Cardinals would quote-unquote prefer to face the Red Sox or Tigers, because they'll find out which opponent they'll face soon enough.

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