And then there were two.
With 162 regular season games and three playoff rounds officially in the books, we are now set for what should be a thrilling finale to the 2013 Major League Baseball season.
|Photo from: yahoo.com|
Success for the Cardinals came from playing well in all facets of the game. Hitting was the mainstay in St. Louis this season, as the club had a .269 AVG (2nd-NL) and a .332 OBP (1st-NL). Their 745 RBI during the regular season were also the most for any National League team.
As mentioned, a balanced attack is what St. Louis baseball has been all about in 2013. Their pitching staff had a 3.42 ERA (5th-MLB), and only allowed 112 home runs (2nd-MLB). Defensively, they were solid as well, with a fielding percentage of .988 (4th-MLB).
In the NLDS, St. Louis went the distance with their long-time rivals, the Pittsburgh Pirates, but came out on top, taking the series 3 games to 2. In the NLCS, they bested Clayton Kershaw, baseball's best pitcher, in both of his outings en route to a 4-2 series victory and their 19th NL pennant.
The Red Sox are the American League representative following an impressive return to glory. In 2012, the Sox finished 69-93, their worst season since 1965. However, a simple managerial change and the Sox were a brand new beast. Boston finished an AL-best 97-65 under new skipper John Farrell.
Boston was the best hitting team in baseball this year, statistically sitting at or near the top of virtually every major offensive category. Their explosive offense combined for 819 RBI (1st-MLB), a .349 OBP (1st-MLB), and a .283 AVG (2nd-MLB).
The Red Sox won games with their bats, but their pitching was nothing to scoff at either. Their 156 home runs allowed and their opponents .248 AVG were both the 5th-lowest totals in the AL. On defense, the Red Sox had a .987 fielding percentage, good for 8th in all of baseball.
Like their NL counterparts, the Red Sox played a divisional rival in the ALDS, needing only 4 games to knock off the Tampa Bay Rays. They found themselves in what looked to be a tougher matchup in the ALCS, against the Detroit Tigers. Two timely grand slams in the latter innings of games 2 and 6 were catalysts to the Red Sox winning the series, 4-2. The AL pennant was Boston's third in the last decade, and their 13th overall.
This marks the 4th time the two franchises have met in the World Series, and the second since 2004. The first two Fall Classics (1946 and 1967) between the clubs were both won by St. Louis in 7 games. In '04, the Red Sox broke "The Curse of the Bambino," as they swept the Cards for their first World Series title since 1918.
As detailed above, these two clubs are both very deserving of participating in the Fall Classic this year. There may not be the classic underdog story that we all love to see, but what we do have are baseball's two best teams playing on baseball's biggest stage.
It's no easy task to predict the winner of what should be a great series. These teams are basically even in most aspects, at least on paper. Neither club has been idle much longer than the other, neither has any real glaring weaknesses, and both have veteran rosters with playoff experience. Since there is no clear favorite, I'll take the easy way out; Red Sox win in 7 games, primarily because Game 7 will be played at Fenway.
Whatever happens, this is must-see baseball. Two historic franchises in a familiar World Series matchup. Fans couldn't have asked for a better way to end the season.