As the Fenway crews hang the final banners, and go through their last round of mowing, watering, and painting the field, the players are going through their daily pregame routines. Many players will tell you that this is just another game. Those players would be lying. Preparing for the World Series the same way as any other game is certainly appropriate, assuming a player’s normal preparation routine works, so perhaps telling others that this is just another game is an attempt to convince themselves to stay grounded.
The truth is, everything is amplified in the Series. The crowd, the nerves, every hit, every error, every pitching change, every stolen base, and even every poor decision to bunt has more value than it did in the games leading up to this moment. Avoiding mistakes is crucial. Each mistake has the potential to ruin a season.
The players don’t need to play at their usual level, they need to be better. Everything is tougher during the series. Not only is the opponent the best team, it’s a team that they most likely haven’t played before. The Red Sox aren’t getting to face the familiar Ivan Nova (nothing against Ivan Nova). Instead, they will face the dominant Adam Wainwright, and the red-hot unknown, Michael Wacha. Studying film can only do so much.
As if that’s not enough working against these teams, the weather is going to be cold and wet. Like I said, every mistake counts. In my opinion, it’s insane that the most important games of a summertime sport are played in a Boston November, but those are confines in which each team must prove its worth.
Tonight, Adam Wainwright will face off against Jon Lester. Wainwright was a Cy Young candidate for the first half of the season, posting a 2.45 ERA at the All-Star Break. Wainwright hit some bumps in July and August, but he really hit his stride in September, finishing the season strong with a 2013 ERA under 3.00. That has carried into October, as he holds a 1.57 ERA and a 0.78 WHIP through three games, each of which he lasted 7 IP or longer.
Lester had some struggles in May and June, but like Wainwright, he was able to figure it out and finish the year on a high note with a 2.57 post All-Star break ERA, and dropping his BB/9 rate from 3.2 before the break, to 2.2 after the break. Through 3 playoff starts, Lester has been very good (
Offensively, Boston’s Ellsbury, Pedroia, Ortiz, and Napoli will be matched by St. Louis’s Carpenter, Beltran, Holliday, and Molina. These are two very evenly matched teams. Perhaps the bottom of Boston’s batting order is a bit stronger than the Cardinals’, but St. Louis can make up for it with a more dominant pitcher on the mound.
I will abstain from predicting a winner, as that will be virtually impossible, but I’ll say this: This game looks like it will come down to a select few mistakes, rather than talent. Whether it’s a few missed pitches, a base-running goof, or an error, the team that can stay closer to perfect will win this game.