Typically you would examine starting pitching matchups very carefully when attempting to predict the outcome of a seven-game series like the Fall Classic, but this postseason has been anything but typical for the hurlers of the St. Louis Cardinals and Texas Rangers. During the LCS, the Card’s starters managed just one win in their six games, and posted an atrocious 7.03 ERA, while the Rangers’ starting staff didn’t do much better: zero wins in six games with an ERA of 6.59.
Not a single Rangers starter has managed to make an out in the seventh inning all postseason, and there has never been a World Series Champion that could make that dubious claim. On the other hand, both teams are averaging less than five innings out of their starters per game during these playoffs, and the last team to win the Fall Classic with that distinction was the 1960 Pittsburgh Pirates. Both teams have relied heavily on their bullpens thus far, so it should be interesting to see how the pitching situation shakes out.
Assuming starters can stay in the game for a reasonable length of time, the Rangers have the edge, despite the fact that the National League Cardinals have home-field advantage by virtue of the NL winning this year’s All-Star Game. The Cards were just 20-20 this season against left-handed pitchers, and Texas boasts three southpaws in their playoff rotation. CJ Wilson will start the Series off tonight against Chris Carpenter (RHP). Wilson has turned into a bona fide ace for the Rangers in the last two years, making a seamless transition from his bullpen days. Tomorrow night will see righthander Colby Lewis starting for Texas, with lefty Jaime Garcia taking the mound for the Cards. The Rangers round out their rotation with lefthanders Derek Holland and Matt Harrison on Saturday and Sunday, while the Cards will counter with righties Edwin Jackson and Kyle Lohse.
Star power is provided by the Rangers’ Ian Kinsler (2B), Josh Hamilton – hero of the 2008 Home Run Derby (CF), and Adrian Beltre (3B), while the biggest story on the Cardinals’ side of things is free-agent to be Albert Pujols (1B). The Cards do have other star players (left fielder Matt Holliday, right fielder Lance Berkman), but the big questions revolve around Pujols: will he follow the dollars to greener pastures this offseason, or will he stay in baseball-crazy St. Louis? And either way, will he lead the cards to another Championship?
The last time the Cardinals won the World Series was just fie seasons ago in 2006 – just two years after being swept from the Series by the Boston Red Sox. The Rangers have a similar feel of unfinished business to them, as they return to the Fall Classic after falling to the San Francisco Giants in just five games last October. The consensus in the baseball world seems to be that Texas has a pretty strong edge – even though they will not enjoy home field advantage – but that expecting St. Louis to bow out in four games would be just another fallacy. Texas should take it, but we’ll give them six games to do so, and they’ll win their very first World Series in their fifty year history.