2011 World Series Predictions: 10 Reasons Cardinals Will Win in 6 Games
Most pundits wrote the St. Louis Cardinals off so long ago they forgot the Redbirds are still playing. As if beating the daunted Phillies and then knocking off the Brew Crew to advance to the 2011 World Series wasn't proof enough, the Cardinals' 3-2 victory over the Texas Rangers in Game 1 left no doubt: The St. Louis Cardinals are for real.
Although some may still be skeptical, the following slides point out 10 reasons why the Redbirds will not only make this series interesting, but will take "the whole enchilada" and win their 11th World Series title in six games.
NL Home-Field Advantage
People jumping on the Rangers' bandwagon may have been overlooking one huge factor that favors St. Louis: They have home-field advantage. It was almost a given that the AL representative would be able to use their DH to start the World Series, as the junior circuit played as the home team from 2003-2009.
However, the NL actually won the All-Star game again this past summer, giving World Series home-field advantage to the National League team again. The 2010 San Fransisco Giants also used this to their advantage last season en route to their World Series victory.
Besides forcing the Rangers to only bat eight out of nine hitters, the Cardinals seem to be a more confident club at home. The Redbirds are able to channel the energy provided by the towel-twirling Cardinal Crazies behind them, and this will prove to be a series problem for Texas.
It never hurts to have one of the greatest hitters of all time on the roster, especially one who is among the most clutch postseason players with a lifetime .336 batting average and 15 HRs in 68 postseason games.
After a slow start to 2011, Albert Pujols has found his groove this October and is absolutely locked in. He is hitting .400 this postseason with two HRs and has driven in 10. Add to that his superb defensive play, and "El Hombre" will be a menacing force the Rangers will be unable to account for.
Nelson Cruz Neutralized
After a torrid ALCS where Nelson Cruz hit six home runs and almost single-handedly put the Rangers into the World Series, the Cardinals were able to effectively neutralize him in Game 1. Although he did have one hit, St. Louis pitchers stayed away from Cruz all night and kept him off balance.
If the Cardinals can continue to execute this "bend but don't break" game plan against Cruz, they will avoid the serious damage the Texas right fielder can inflict and force someone else on the Rangers to beat them.
Fresh off his NLCS MVP campaign, David Freese is scorching hot. He entered World Series play hitting over .500 with four home runs and 14 RBI.
He continued to make a difference in Game 1, accounting for one of the three Cardinals' runs en route to their one-run victory. Freese will continue to stay on a roll this series and will be a huge impact player for the Redbirds over the next five games.
St. Louis Bullpen
One reason the Cardinals have been able to reach the World Series in the first place has been the lights out production they've received from their bullpen. Almost regardless of who has been called upon, reliever after reliever has stepped up and shut the door.
In the NLCS, Marc Rzepczynski was especially effective shutting down Prince Fielder, and both he and Arthur Rhodes will be called upon to pull the same trick on Texas' Josh Hamilton.
It's a "next man up" mentality in the Redbirds bullpen, as they used five different pitchers during the final three innings, effectively shutting the door on any Rangers rally attempt.
Speaking of the bullpen, newfound closer Jason Motte is doing his best to channel his inner-Brian Wilson, and that could be a scary proposition for the Rangers.
Not only is Motte in full beard and up to typically zany closer antics, but his performance has been totally dominant since his first save on Aug. 28. In nine innings pitched this postseason, Motte has only allowed one hit, struck out seven and converted five saves.
Couple that with the fact that the fan base has taken an immediate liking to him, and the Rangers will be playing in shortened games from here on out, attempting to win in just eight innings rather than nine.
Cards Will Steal 1 in Texas
The Rangers have proven that they play well at home, and with the added bonus of being able to use their DH, playing in Texas will present certain challenges for the Cardinals.
However, the Redbirds have also proven that they are capable of winning on the road, with an identical home-road record throughout the regular season and postseason. Also, they clinched the NLCS on the road in Milwaukee, so they are accustomed to winning away from Busch Stadium.
Look for the Cards to steal a game in Arlington and bring the series back to St. Louis to win it in six.
Carpenter Goes in Game 6
By the time the series returns to Busch Stadium with the Cards up 3-2, the Rangers will once again have to face Chris Carpenter, and that will bring their season to an end, one series short of a world title for the second consecutive season.
Carpenter stared down the Phillies' Roy Halladay to clinch the NLDS in an epic 1-0 victory that was one for the ages. In Game 1 of the World Series, he easily out-pitched Ranger's ace CJ Wilson, and will do so again in Game 6.
Been There, Done That
As the Old Spice commercial reminds us: Experience is Everything. And the St. Louis Cardinals have it in spades.
Perhaps their secret weapon is the fact that the man orchestrating the game, manager Tony LaRussa, is the third winningest skipper in Major League Baseball, and has won World Series titles not only with the Cardinals, but in both the National and American League.
Texas' Ron Washington is certainly crafty, and his players love him, but ultimately the experience card goes to St. Louis, and there's just no accounting for that.
More than anything else, the St. Louis Cardinals are a team of destiny.
They have been counted out every step of the way. They were counted out of this World Series. They were counted out against Milwaukee. They were certainly counted out in the NLDS against the Phillies. They were counted out in the wild-card race against the Braves, and they were counted out before the season even began when they sustained a season-ending injury to starter Adam Wainwright.
At every junction, they have proven their detractors wrong. The Redbirds have been playing meaningful baseball since August, and they are still in "do-or-die" mode. That mentality will prevail, and the St. Louis Cardinals will go on to defeat Texas in six games and hoist their 11th World Series trophy.