World Series 2013: Struggling Players Who Must Step Up in Cardinals vs. Red Sox

Rob GoldbergFeatured ColumnistOctober 21, 2013

ST LOUIS, MO - OCTOBER 11:  Matt Carpenter #13 of the St. Louis Cardinals reacts to striking out in the fifth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers during Game One of the National League Championship Series at Busch Stadium on October 11, 2013 in St Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

The St. Louis Cardinals and Boston Red Sox have reached the World Series behind great team efforts, but not everyone is living up to his potential.

While players like David Ortiz and Michael Wacha have come through in big moments for their squads thus far, other guys have struggled throughout the postseason. But their teams are expecting a lot from them and need a turnaround in order to be successful in the final round of the playoffs.

Although each team has survived without a strong effort from these players to this point, that must change over the next set of games.

 

Clay Buchholz, SP, Red Sox

BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 19:  Clay Buchholz #11 of the Boston Red Sox throws out to first base after a grounder hit by Austin Jackson #14 of the Detroit Tigers to end the top of the second inning against the Detroit Tigers during Game Six of the American Leag
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

While Jake Peavy provided the worst start of the ALCS, Clay Buchholz has been more disappointing in the postseason based on expectations.

The 29-year-old pitcher had an incredible season when he was healthy, posting a 12-1 record with a major league-best 1.74 ERA among players with at least 100 innings.

While injuries shortened his season, he appeared to be just as good upon returning. Buchholz made four starts in September and had a 1.88 ERA in that time, leading many to believe he was set to dominate the playoffs.

Unfortunately, that has not happened in three starts. He has a 5.40 ERA in this time with three home runs allowed, and he has yet to see the seventh inning.

For the Red Sox to win this series, they will need arguably their most talented pitcher to perform better.

 

Stephen Drew, SS, Red Sox

BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 05:  Stephen Drew #7 of the Boston Red Sox fields a ball in the sixth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays during Game Two of the American League Division Series at Fenway Park on October 5, 2013 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jare
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Although Stephen Drew is not an All-Star at shortstop, he had in impressive bounce-back year after doing little the past two seasons.

The veteran's 13 home runs ranked fourth among American League shortstops, while his 67 RBI were tied for third at the position. It would be nice for Boston if he could provide anywhere close to this level of production in the playoffs.

So far in 10 games, Drew has a total of three hits in 35 at bats, giving him a batting average of .086. Amazingly, he was even worse in the ALCS, as he went only 1-for-20 in six games.

While Xander Bogaerts appears to have taken Will Middlebrooks' spot at third base, the 21-year-old prospect is capable of playing shortstop as well. If Drew does not improve, he could start losing playing time.

Until then, he is simply a black hole in the lineup.

 

Matt Carpenter, 2B, Cardinals

ST LOUIS, MO - OCTOBER 18:  Matt Carpenter #13 of the St. Louis Cardinals reacts after scoring a run in the third inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game Six of the National League Championship Series at Busch Stadium on October 18, 2013 in St Loui
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

The Cardinals are simply a better team when Matt Carpenter gets on base. The leadoff man finished with a major league-leading 126 runs and was a big reason the squad had the best offense and best record in the National League. 

Carpenter has a hit in only six of the 11 games this postseason, but he has scored in all but one, and the team is 5-1 in those contests. Conversely, St. Louis is only 2-3 when the young player is held without a hit.

His inability to get on consistently has been a big problem in the playoffs, as he is only hitting .167 in the two rounds. He appears to have warmed up a bit in recent games, but he is still well below his season average of .318.

St. Louis has plenty of guys in the middle of the order to bring runners home. The lineup simply needs the table-setters like Carpenter to get on base and ignite the offense.

 

Joe Kelly, SP, Cardinals

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 16:  Joe Kelly #58 of the St. Louis Cardinals pitches against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game Five of the National League Championship Series at Dodger Stadium on October 16, 2013 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Stephen Du
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Few would have guessed, but Joe Kelly actually had the lowest ERA on the Cardinals among those who started a game this year. He had a 2.69 mark overall and a 2.28 ERA in 15 starts this season.

That has not continued in the postseason, where he has only one quality start in three chances. In his most recent start against the Dodgers, he allowed four runs in only five innings of work.

While teammates Adam Wainwright and Wacha have picked up the slack with incredible showings, Kelly will still have to make at least one and probably two starts in this series. If he does not improve his performance, he will get rocked by a deep Red Sox lineup.

When every game matters, Kelly has to at least give his team a chance to win when he takes the mound.

 

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