Game 1 was a disaster for the St. Louis Cardinals. They struggled to string together any hits and committed three errors in the field, basically handing the Boston Red Sox the World Series opener. St. Louis also watched Carlos Beltran suffer a rib injury.
Beltran, a battle-tested veteran surely savoring the championship chase, will be a game-time decision for Game 2 on Thursday, as reported by Jorge Ortiz of USA Today. While getting him back immediately would be helpful, the Cardinals must focus on the basics, regardless of the outfielder's status.
A major reason St. Louis advanced to the World Series is the team's consistency, especially in the field. After ranking fourth in the majors with just 75 errors during the regular season, the Cardinals had only three in the first two playoff series combined.
In a game between two evenly matched teams where every out is crucial, neither club can afford to give the other side extra chances to score. The Cardinals learned that the hard way in Game 1 and must eliminate those errors moving forward.
St. Louis will send rookie sensation Michael Wacha to the mound for Game 2 to face off with Boston's resurgent right-hander John Lackey. Wacha certainly hasn't backed down from the pressure so far, but pitching in the World Series is a unique situation, especially for a first-year player.
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How Wacha responds in his biggest start to date will obviously have a major impact on the outcome, but the Cardinals have to believe they have an edge on the mound. The rookie has been downright dominant in the postseason, giving up just one run in 21 innings with 22 strikeouts.
Lackey is coming off a strong start of his own. He threw 6.2 scoreless innings in a 1-0 win over the Detroit Tigers during Boston's ALCS triumph. The seasoned starter wasn't as effective in the ALDS, however, giving up four runs to the Tampa Bay Rays. The offense bailed him out, though.
Which team will win Game 2?
The Red Sox hitters have been a force throughout the playoffs. They have scored 53 runs in 11 games—10 more than the Cardinals, which have played an extra game, and 18 more than their ALCS foes from Detroit in the same number of contests.
With Jacoby Ellsbury setting the table for Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz and Mike Napoli, the Red Sox have the type of offensive depth it takes to survive a playoff run. They will pose a difficult test for Wacha on Thursday night.
While Ellsbury has been a key piece of the puzzle for Boston, the Cardinals are still waiting for their leadoff hitter to find his swing. Matt Carpenter was terrific during the regular season, posting an on-base percentage near .400 with more than 70 extra-base hits.
That success hasn't carried over to the postseason, however, and it's limiting the upside of the St. Louis offense. Carpenter's OBP is a lackluster .250 through 12 games, and his production atop the order will become even more important with Beltran out or playing through pain.
The Cardinals have their own fair share of sluggers in the middle of the order, led by Matt Holliday and the returning Allen Craig. That said, if nobody is getting on base ahead of them, it's tough to generate those multi-run innings they need.
They should have a better chance to generate scoring opportunities against Lackey than they did against Boston's Game 1 starter, Jon Lester.
Ultimately, the game's two biggest keys are on the St. Louis side: How Wacha performs under the bright World Series lights and the offense's effort to improve on their one-run outing in the opener.
Expect the Cardinals to rise to the occasion in a far more competitive Game 2.
Prediction: Cardinals 4, Red Sox 3