Breaking Down the 107th Fall Classic

Adam Settle


At the beginning of the season, a Rang­ers/Cardinals World Series would not nec­essarily have been a surprise considering the Cardinals had a front-loaded rotation of Cy Young contenders Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter and a formidable middle of the order led by Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday. The Rangers were not the surest bet to return, considering the Carl Craw­ford and Adrian Gonzalez signings and that no American League team had reached the World Series in back-to-back years since the 2001 Yankees, but still, they featured a quietly deep and potent lineup with the defending American League MVP and a young and budding rotation. The Rangers’ road to the World Series was pretty smooth, while the Cardinals miraculously came from 10.5 games back in the wild card, to one strike away from elimination, to bat­tering their way through the Philadelphia Phillies, to having home field advantage in the Series. Here are some things to look for in this edition of the Fall Classic:

Is Nelson Cruz the new “Señor Octubre”? In case you have spent too much time on midterms and have not noticed, Nelson Cruz just set a postseason record for both home runs (six) and RBIs (13) in a series. For these efforts, Nelson over­took Victor of the New York Giants for the Maroon-News “Cruz of the Week.” Despite taking over the ALCS, Cruz will remain hitting in the seven spot behind the rest of the already dangerous Rangers lineup. But can he continue ripping the ball like he has? His MVP performance followed a 1-for-15 performance in four games against the Tampa Bay Rays in the ALDS and the season in which he batted a pedestri­an .243 against right-handed pitchers. Against a predominantly right-handed rotation, highlighted by the emerging Edwin Jackson and a rested Chris Car­penter, Cruz will definitely be tested before he is officially anointed as the greatest postseason number seven hitter of all-time.

The No-Named Gang: Mark Rzepczynski? Fernando Salas? Mitchell Boggs? Who are these guys? In reality, the Cardinals just knocked out the Brew­ers by accumulating more innings from their bullpen than from their starting rotation. The additions of Octavio Do­tel and Arthur Rhodes have helped pro­vide some stability to a unit that strug­gled all season in front of four different closers. Jason Motte has filled the role admirably, allowing one hit and no runs in the entire postseason. Just don’t tell Tony La Russa, who, between consulting the Oracle at Delphi and experimenting with everything aside from putting Albert Pujols on the mound, refuses to name Motte his closer. Then again, everything La Russa has touched has turned to gold this postseason, so I will take his word for it. Either way, the Rangers lineup is again going to put a lot of pressure on the Car­dinals bullpen, and they will be expected to rise to the occasion.

Paging C.J. Wilson? C.J? C.J. Wilson came into October with a 16-7 record, 206 strikeouts, a 2.94 ERA and the role of “ace” on the young Rangers staff. The playoffs have not treated Wilson well, as he is 0-2 in three starts with a bloated 8.04 ERA this postseason,and has not won a postseason start in his last five outings. This article will go to print after Wilson steps on the mound for Game 1 for a franchise that is looking for its first ever World Series title, against Carpenter. The Rangers need their ace to step up and preserve a bullpen that has been both effective and busy at the same time. True, the entire Texas rotation will have to step up against a hot St. Louis offense, but Wilson needs to set the tone for the other young arms.

Yadier versus any baserunner: Speed thrills in Arlington, as Texas finished fifth in the major leagues in stolen bases with five players accumulating at least ten stolen bases. Despite having a lineup that finished second in the majors in home runs, Ron Washington is not afraid to start his run­ners to push a few extra runs across. The Cardinals do a lot of things right, and run­ning is not one of them, with the team swiping the second-fewest bases.

But what the weapons do have is the baseball run blocking equivalent of Vince Wilfork in Yadier Molina. Molina is the three-time reigning Gold Glove winner behind the dish and a career caught steal­ing percentage of 44 percent – only good for top 12 in the history of baseball. It will be strength versus strength and one of the most intriguing matchups in this series.

Prediction: The Rangers just success­fully knocked out a slow team that was suc­cessful by getting guys on base for the big run producers in the middle of the order and pitchers who throw to contact with an inconsistent fielding unit behind them. Good news Rangers fans, as next up is the Detroit Tigers of the National League. Rangers in six.

Contact Adam Settle at [email protected]