With a systematic thumping of likely NL Cy Young award winner Clayton Kershaw, the St. Louis Cardinals dispatched the Los Angeles Dodgers and cemented half of our 2013 World Series field.
St. Louis got to Kershaw on Friday night, knocking through seven runs in four innings of work en route to an easy 9-0 victory. The Cards will now have nearly an entire week off, during which time they can set their rotation, nurse any ailments and prepare to become the fifth NL World Series champion in the past six years.
The American League's side has yet to be determined. The Boston Red Sox are sitting pretty after their Game 5 victory over the Detroit Tigers, carrying a 3-2 series lead heading back to Fenway Park to close out the best-of-seven series. While Detroit's powerful lineup reserves the right for anything to happen, it's very likely that we'll be seeing two of the game's most storied franchises facing off come next Wednesday.
But let's cast the AL to the side for now. There's no use in combing through hypotheticals when the reality is staring us in the face later this evening. Or the evening after that.
Instead, let's focus on the team we know will be playing in the Fall Classic. The Cardinals' run has included vanquishing the small-market darling Pittsburgh Pirates and deep-pocketed Dodgers—their portfolio is diverse, so to speak. There's a ton of mineable content here while we sit on our hands waiting for the next shoe to drop.
So with that in mind, let's check in on a couple major Cardinals storylines. Oh, and we'll also give the complete World Series schedule since we already have all the dates and such written down on our foreheads. Or something.
World Series Schedule
|Game 1||St. Louis Cardinals @ AL Champion||Wed, Oct. 23||TBD||FOX||Postseason.TV|
|Game 2||St. Louis Cardinals @ AL Champion||Thu, Oct. 24||TBD||FOX||Postseason.TV|
|Game 3||AL Champion @ St. Louis Cardinals||Sat, Oct. 26||TBD||FOX||Postseason.TV|
|Game 4||AL Champion @ St. Louis Cardinals||Sun, Oct. 27||TBD||FOX||Postseason.TV|
|Game 5*||AL Champion @ St. Louis Cardinals||Mon, Oct. 28||TBD||FOX||Postseason.TV|
|Game 6*||St. Louis Cardinals @ AL Champion||Wed, Oct. 30||TBD||FOX||Postseason.TV|
|Game 7*||St. Louis Cardinals @ AL Champion||Thu, Oct. 31||TBD||FOX||Postseason.TV|
Cardinals Storylines to Watch
Can Michael Wacha Be Wainwright 2.0 for Another Series?
There is absolutely no question that Wacha's postseason performance tops that of any other player. The right-hander has won each of his three starts thus far, giving up a lone earned run over 21 innings pitched. Going back to the end of the regular season, that streak stretches to 29.2 innings.
In the postseason, Wacha has struck out better than a batter per inning, offered only three free passes and barely allowed over a baserunner every two innings. He's done so by all by following a similar formula every time out. He relies primarily on his four-seam fastball and changeup to record outs, mixing in an improved curve as an out pitch and completely abandoning the cutter he flashed late in the season.
It's a simple formula yet an effective one because of how well Wacha has located his pitches. According to the wonderful Brooks Baseball, Wacha has thrived by keeping the ball on the lower left side of the plate—inside to righties and outside to lefties. Three of his five highest-usage locations are down and out of the zone, which doesn't necessarily guarantee success but highlights a major theme of success.
Wacha just doesn't miss up in the strike zone. At least not yet. And while he's been pitching so well you almost wonder who is the 1a) and 1b) in his relationship with Adam Wainwright at this point, it's easy to be dubious about whether this is sustainable.
Sure, Wacha came into pro baseball with a huge pedigree. But he also came into pro baseball in 2012. He was Texas A&M's golden right arm before Johnny Manziel came to town. We're talking about someone with 12 major league starts under his belt heading into the World Series—less than a half-season's sample size.
None of this is to say Wacha can't continue performing. The sample we have shows a pitcher with a veteran nerve, great stuff and an acute understanding of his craft. The kind of guy you want tossing in a Game 6 or Game 7.
The problem here is that the Cardinals may need Super Wacha against Boston or Detroit. Lance Lynn and Joe Kelly have a combined one quality start between them. Kelly looked fine in Game 1 against Los Angeles, but no one would accuse him or Lynn of being sharp.
St. Louis can't survive if Wainwright is its only consistent starter. Wacha has fit the bill thus far, but we'll have to see if he can handle the World Series spotlight.
How Many More Millions Can Carlos Beltran Make Himself?
I feel like everyone watching Beltran play this season would give him a grade somewhere in the B to B-minus range. Outside of a few Beltrany moments, it's felt like a rather nondescript postseason for the man who once belted eight playoff home runs in 2004.
And in some ways it has been. Beltran is sporting a .256 batting average thus far, which is 40 points lower than his regular-season number. He's hit two home runs—a fine total, but one that also represents his career postseason-low rate. So...Beltran is terrible and should be benched, right?
Of course not. For all of Beltran's relative "struggles" this postseason, he's still been the Cardinals' most reliable offensive force. The 36-year-old outfielder still boasts a .383 on-base percentage despite his bad luck on batted balls and has knocked in a team-high 12 runs. We all should know by now that runs batted in is a circumstantial stat based on the accomplishments of one's teammates.
It's still worth noting, if only because Beltran's 12 ribbies are more than double that of any other Cardinal. Only two of his teammates are batting above .250 thus far during the postseason. This is something we should take into account when judging Beltran's October as a whole, and it's definitely a fact his agent will bring up this winter.
When Beltran signed his two-year, $26 million deal in St. Louis, he was doing so out of a place of weakness. He missed more than half of his team's games in 2009 and 2010, and despite being mostly healthy in his walk year, was on the wrong side of the aging curve with mounting injury issues.
Two years later, Beltran will walk into this summer in a position of power. His injury issues are seemingly a thing of the past, and he's regained the plate discipline and efficiency that he had at times with the Mets. Andrew Marchand of ESPN New York reported Friday that the Yankees have already put Beltran on their wish list as the club looks to spend upwards of $300 million to rejuvenate its aging and ineffective roster.
Of course, performing on the biggest of stages is an easy way to convince Hal Steinbrenner and every other desperate owner that Beltran is worth the splash.
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