World Series first look: Cardinals vs. Red Sox


Season record: 97-65, National League Central champions.

How they got here: Beat Pittsburgh Pirates in five games in division series; beat Dodgers in six games in Championship Series.

Last World Series: Beat Texas Rangers in seven games in 2011.

World Series championships: 11.

Franchise icon: Stan Musial.


Season record: 97-65, American League East champions.

How they got here: Beat Tampa Bay Rays in four games in division series; beat Detroit Tigers in six games in Championship Series.

Last World Series: Beat Colorado Rockies in four games in 2007.

World Series championships: 7.

Franchise icon: Ted Williams.

STORY LINES: This is a World Series for the purists. This is the way it used to be, before leagues split into divisions and added wild cards. The team with the best record in the National League meets the team with the best record in the American League, the first time that has happened since 1999, with clubs so traditional that Boston won the first World Series, in 1903. The Cardinals' 11 World Series championships are the most of any NL team.

PITCHING: St. Louis held the Dodgers to 13 runs in six games of the NLCS, with most-valuable-player Michael Wacha pitching 132/3 scoreless innings. The Cardinals have a postseason earned-run average of 2.34, the best in this year's playoff field. The World Series could be determined by the effectiveness of the third and fourth starters: Clay Buchholz (5.40 ERA) and Jake Peavy (8.31) for the Red Sox; Joe Kelly (4.41) and Lance Lynn (6.52) for the Cardinals. The bullpens are brilliant on both sides. Boston has a postseason ERA of 0.84, with St. Louis and its parade of fireballers at 1.80.

HITTING: The Red Sox led the majors in runs in the regular season and they lead in the postseason. They drew 100 more walks than the Cardinals in the regular season. The Cardinals won the NLCS despite batting .211 with two home runs. Boston's Mike Napoli hit two home runs in the ALCS, batting .300 with four extra-base hits, but he struck out 11 times in 20 at-bats. St. Louis' Carlos Beltran has driven in a postseason-high 12 runs. The Cardinals hope that cleanup batter Allen Craig, out since Sept. 4 because of a foot injury, can return as their designated hitter for the games in Boston.

X FACTOR: The most compelling battle within the battle: The Red Sox and their merry band of baserunners against baseball's best catcher, Yadier Molina. Boston has 11 stolen bases in the postseason; no other team has more than three. Molina threw out 44% of runners trying to steal this season, second in the majors to the Dodgers' A.J. Ellis.

CURSE OF A CENTURY: The Red Sox supposedly were cursed when they sold Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees. With Ruth, the Red Sox had won three World Series titles in four years. If the Red Sox win this year, they will have won three titles in the subsequent 95 years.

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