When the St. Louis Cardinals clawed their way to a Game 2 World Series victory they ensured much more than a Game 5.
Maybe it wasn’t how they wanted to win—in a flurry of defensive blunders—but it’s how they lost on Wednesday. In October, you take wins however you can get them.
From this point on, the Cardinals have the edge for several reasons.
First, it’s time to stop thinking of this World Series as a seven game series where the American League has home field advantage. After Thursday’s win, that’s simply no longer the case.
Now, it’s a five game series and the Cardinals have home field advantage—something that means more in St. Louis than noisy fans and familiar territory.
The real home field advantage for the Cardinals lies with the Boston Red Sox.
When the Red Sox arrive in St. Louis, they will lose one of their two most valuable hitters during the postseason—David Ortiz and Mike Napoli.
Because both are limited to first base and designated hitter, the American League designed lineup will take a major hit in the Gateway City.
This doesn’t take into account the fact that whichever slugger finds himself on the bench will be replaced with a pitcher who averages around three at bats per year. That’s a hit.
The Cardinals, on the other hand, are built for both leagues.
With the return of Allen Craig, the transition to American League team is not only easy, but welcomed by the Cardinals. All season long they have wondered what the lineup would look like if they could have Allen Craig, Carlos Beltran and Matt Adams all in the mix on the same night.
When they return to St. Louis, they will have something they did not have against the Los Angeles Dodgers—a legitimate threat off of the bench. Whether it’s Craig or Adams, their bench has been the Cardinals biggest weakness throughout the postseason.
It’s a much-needed adjustment for the Cardinals.
While they obviously would prefer to keep their pitchers out of the batters box (except for maybe Adam Wainwright), the disadvantage it creates for the Red Sox far outweighs the risk for the Cardinals.
Getting out of the wild atmosphere that is Fenway Park in itself should be enough to give the Cardinals an edge in Game 3. With the local fans coming to life in a park where most of the Boston lineup—aside from Jake Peavy, Shane Victorino and Mike Napoli—has never played, Joe Kelly should be able to keep focus and do what he’s been doing for the Cardinals since early September.
With Lance Lynn in Game 4 and Wainwright on the bump in Game 5, two out of three isn’t an unrealistic expectation for the Cardinals in St. Louis.
I’m standing by my original pick of the Cardinals on top in six games.