Things to keep an eye on in World Series opener
A rested Wainwright, Boston's Fenway edge, patience at plate among the key angles
Here are five storylines to follow as the World Series begins Wednesday night on FOX (7:30 ET, first pitch 8:07).
The Cardinals' ability to eliminate the Dodgers in six games in the National League Championship Series was significant. It means that Adam Wainwright, instead of having pitched a Game 7 on Saturday, is rested and ready for Game 1. Wainwright is the current generation's Mr. October of the mound.
Wainwright's 2.10 ERA in the postseason is matched by Matt Cain of the Giants for the second lowest since 1995, the year the Wild Card and Division Series were added, expanding the postseason to three rounds. Yankees closer Mariano Rivera had a 0.70 postseason ERA.
Wainwright is 4-1 in 16 postseason appearances, including seven starts, giving him a winning percentage of .800, tied with Colby Lewis for the fifth-best percentage among Major League pitchers since 1995. The top four winning percentages belong to pitchers who are no longer active: Sterling Hitchcock (4-0, 1.000), Curt Schilling (10-1, .909), Rivera (8-1, .889) and David Cone (6-1, .857).
The Red Sox have home-field advantage. Since the addition of a third round of postseason play -- adding as many as five games to a team's October schedule -- the team with home-field advantage has won 15 of 18 World Series. The Red Sox account for two of those Series victories, in 2004 when they swept the Cards and '07 when they swept the Rockies.
The Cardinals won with home-field advantage in 2011 but also overcame opening the World Series on the road to claim the '06 title. That year, St. Louis won the opener in Detroit and lost Game 2 before sweeping three games at Busch Stadium.
All four of the most recent World Series champions have had the home-field edge (including the Giants in 2010 and '12, and the Yanks in '09).
The Cardinals can insert the bat of Allen Craig into the lineup as the designated hitter in the games at Fenway Park. Craig has been sidelined by a foot injury but is feeling better.
The DH, however, has not been an overwhelming factor in recent years. Since 1986, when the DH began to be used in the AL parks every year (with the pitcher hitting in the NL parks), the AL has won 14 of the 26 World Series. Both leagues have had their streaks. The AL won seven of 10 World Series from 1996-2005, and the NL has won five of the last seven.
In the past 26 years, the NL DH has hit .220 with 36 RBIs, compared with the AL's .238 and 40 RBIs. Only 15 of the 52 teams in the past 26 World Series have seen their DH hit for an average better than .250, and 29 teams have seen the DH provide an average of .200 or lower.
And while the DH in Fenway Park does provide a way for the Cards to get Craig into the lineup, the Red Sox are not complaining. It means they can keep David Ortiz in the lineup but out of the field. Ortiz led the Red Sox in the Triple Crown categories during the regular season, with a .309 average, 30 home runs and 103 RBIs. Ortiz has hit just .200 in 10 postseason games this year, but he leads the Red Sox with three home runs, and his seven RBIs rank second to Shane Victorino's eight.
Don't believe the reputations. Boston, long known for power hitters and base cloggers, has been one of the premier running teams in the Majors this year. The Cardinals, whose history is filled with tales of speedy players, do not force the issue much right now.
Boston ranked fourth in the Majors with 123 stolen bases during the regular season, and it had a big league-best 86.6-percent success rate. Kansas City, which led the Majors with 153 stolen bases, ranked second in success percentage at 82.7. The Red Sox's 123 stolen bases are the second most in a season by Boston since 1916, though they did steal 126 bases in 2009.
The Cards, meanwhile, ranked 29th in the Major Leagues with 45 stolen bases and 67 attempts. Only Detroit was less aggressive, stealing 35 bases in 55 attempts. The 45 stolen bases are the fewest by St. Louis since the Redbirds stole 44 bases in 1958.
Grind it out
Boston makes pitchers work. The Red Sox averaged 4.017 pitches per plate appearance, second most in the Majors behind Minnesota (4.024). There has been talk about St. Louis also having a grind-it-out lineup, but the Cardinals actually ranked 26th among Major League teams with 3.76 pitches per plate appearance.
All six Red Sox hitters who qualified for the AL batting title averaged more pitches per plate appearance than the Cards' average, led by Mike Napoli, who at 4.58 led all Major Leaguers. Matt Carpenter led St. Louis with an average of 4.12.
What will be interesting is that the Cardinals' pitching staff averaged 3.80 pitches per batter during the regular season, sixth fewest in the Majors. Boston, meanwhile, ranked 27th, averaging 3.91 pitches per batter.
Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.