Boston Red Sox vs. St. Louis Cardinals: Keys to Each Team Winning WS Game 1

Joel ReuterFeatured ColumnistOctober 23, 2013

Boston Red Sox vs. St. Louis Cardinals: Keys to Each Team Winning WS Game 1

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    The 2013 World Series is set to begin on Wednesday night, with the St. Louis Cardinals taking on the Boston Red Sox at 7:30 p.m. ET at Fenway Park.

    Both teams wrapped up their respective League Championship Series in six games, allowing each team to reset their respective pitching staff for the World Series. That means Adam Wainwright will take the mound in Game 1 for the Cardinals, while Jon Lester earns the start for the Red Sox.

    It should be a great series, with neither team seemingly holding a significant advantage in any one category. Getting a win in Game 1 would be big for either side, and what follows is a look at each team's biggest keys to opening the series 1-0.

Boston: Continue to Get Impact ABs from Xander Bogaerts

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    Initially used sparingly this October, Xander Bogaerts first made an impact in the series-clinching Game 4 of the ALDS against the Rays. He entered the game as a pinch-hitter for Stephen Drew and walked twice, coming around to score both times.

    He saw just one at-bat through the first three games of the ALCS, but he doubled and scored after coming off the bench in Game 4. That earned him the start at third base in Game 5 and Game 6, and he went a combined 2-for-4 with three walks and three runs scored over those two contests.

    "It’s hard to put into words the poise he’s shown in these games and at-bats. It’s one thing to go up there and get a mistake, hit a ball hard, but he’s having quality at-bats, seeing pitches, taking tough pitches. It’s pretty remarkable what he’s doing," Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington said, via Alex Speier of WEEI.com.

    With Will Middlebrooks hitting just .174/.269/.261 in 23 at-bats this postseason, Bogaerts has a chance to turn what has been a weak spot in the lineup into a legitimate strength and give the Red Sox offense a boost in the World Series.

Boston: Jon Lester Must Pitch Like an Ace

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    It was a disappointing season for most of the Red Sox roster in 2012, and Jon Lester was no exception. He went 9-14 with a career-worst 4.82 ERA after four-straight seasons with at least 15 wins and an ERA under 3.50.

    The need for him to return to form atop the rotation was among the biggest keys to success for Boston entering the season. And he did just that, going 15-8 with a 3.75 ERA and re-establishing himself as the team's top starter.

    He's 2-1 with a 2.33 ERA in three starts so far this postseason, bringing his career postseason record to 4-4 with a 2.49 ERA in 11 games (nine starts).

    Squaring off against Adam Wainwright will be no easy task, though, and the Red Sox need him to pitch like an ace to start the series off on the right foot.

Boston: Avoid an Offensive Stumble out of the Gates

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    The biggest focus for the Red Sox in Game 1 of this series has to be avoiding another slow start offensively, as they were held to just two hits and no runs through the first 14.2 innings of their ALCS series with the Tigers.

    The Cardinals rotation may not be quite as deep as Detroit's, but they have as formidable of a duo as any team in the league atop their staff in Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha. Both of these players are more than capable of shutting down the Red Sox offense.

    The Red Sox had the highest-scoring offense in the league during the regular season, but they hit just .202/.277/.332 in the ALCS, so getting the offense going early will be a big key for them.

St. Louis: Attempt to Quiet Red Sox Nation by Getting on the Board First

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    The Cardinals offense has sputtered at times this postseason, but it was firing on all cylinders in the Cards' series-clinching Game 6 NLCS victory over the Dodgers. The team put up nine runs and 13 hits, doing the bulk of their damage against Clayton Kershaw.

    Both of the teams in this series have fantastic fanbases, and winning on the road is not going to be easy for either side—getting on the board early and at least attempting to take the fans out of the game is going to be key for the road team.

    Getting Matt Carpenter going atop the lineup would be a nice step toward trying to push across an early run or two, and his 3-for-8 performance over the past two games after a 4-for-34 start to the postseason is promising.

St. Louis: Welcome Allen Craig Back to the Lineup with a Bang

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    Not many teams could have even reached the World Series with a player like Allen Craig on the bench, as he was an absolute RBI-machine this season, hitting .454/.500/.638 with runners in scoring position.

    He drove in a team-high 97 runs this year, despite the fact that he didn't play a game after Sept. 4, as a foot injury sidelined him for the stretch run as well as through the first two rounds of the playoffs.

    According to Mike Axisa of CBS Sports, Craig will be on the team's World Series roster, and he will be in the starting lineup as the designated hitter for Game 1 and Game 2 of the series. Whether he will be slotted at first base when the series shifts to St. Louis remains to be seen.

St. Louis: Set the Tone with a Gem from Adam Wainwright

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    After being forced to use Adam Wainwright in the decisive Game 5 of the NLDSa game in which the workhorse allowed just eight hits and one run in a complete-game victorythe Cardinals ace was limited to just one NLCS start.

    Luckily, Michael Wacha and Joe Kelly were able to combat the Dodgers' duo of Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, and now, the Cardinals can stack their rotation with Wainwright back at the top for the World Series.

    Time and time again, he's turned in a big start when needed. Another gem from him in Game 1 would be the perfect start to the series for the Cardinals, especially with the red-hot Michael Wacha taking the mound in Game 2.