ST. LOUIS -- The 100th World Series is finally set after a second consecutive year of two breathtaking seven-game League Championship Series, and fans can expect plenty of red, plenty of hitting and plenty of talk about history when the Cardinals and Red Sox meet in Game 1 on Saturday night at Fenway Park.
The Fall Classic will feature the first pair of dominant-red teams since the Red Sox played the Reds in the 1975 Series remembered for Carlton Fisk's dramatic home run at Fenway, and it will feature the clubs that led their leagues in hitting. The probable starters for Game 1 charged with containing each explosive lineup will be Woody Williams for St. Louis and Tim Wakefield for Boston.
At the center of attention through this series will be the eternal question of whether the Red Sox finally can end the Curse of the Bambino and win their first World Series since 1918 and the subsequent deal of Babe Ruth to the Yankees. The Cardinals are looking for their first World Series championship since 1982 -- their longest drought since winning their first World Series in 1926. Boston's last World Series appearance was in 1986, and the Cardinals' last one was the following autumn.
Now they meet in a rematch of the 1946 and '67 World Series, both of which were won by the Cardinals in seven games. The teams will gather at Fenway on Friday for a Red Sox workout at 1 p.m. ET and a Cardinals workout at 5. Neither club has much advantage in the way of rest, as both survived grueling series to win their pennants.
"[The Red Sox] showed what they can do, coming back from 3-0," said Albert Pujols' the Most Valuable Player of the NLCS after Thursday's 5-2 victory over Houston. "They never give up, they knew it wasn't over until they lose that fourth game. They're going to have their crowd. You just need to go up there with the momentum and do the same thing you've been doing. They're going to be ready to play. They have guys who can run the bases; [David] Ortiz, Manny [Ramirez]. ... They're going to be ready to go."
This World Series is a red-hot matchup of a Cardinals team that led the Majors in 2004 with 105 regular-season victories against a Red Sox club that made a historic comeback against the rival Yankees and represents the Wild Card trend. It is the fourth time in the last five years that at least one Wild Card has reached the World Series, and Boston will try to become the third Wild Card team in a row to win it all -- following Anaheim in 2002 and Florida in 2003.
Albert Pujols / 1B
Weight: 225 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R
The Cardinals are the first NL Central team in a Fall Classic, achieving that distinction in the 10th year since Major League Baseball expanded to three divisions per league.
"The Cardinals are phenomenal," Red Sox first baseman Kevin Millar said right after learning of his team's opponent. "They're almost like an American League team playing in the National League with that offense."
The Cardinals led the NL in the regular season with a .278 batting average, and in this postseason they have unleashed an often-lethal lineup built around Larry Walker, Pujols, Scott Rolen and Jim Edmonds in the Nos. 2-5 slots.
The Red Sox shared the AL batting lead with Anaheim at .282, and they bring the one-two punch of Ramirez and Ortiz as part of an offense that comes in hot after overwhelming New York in the final four games of the ALCS.
Home-field advantage has been big in this postseason for St. Louis, which is 6-0 at Busch Stadium, but the Red Sox will have that edge. It is the second year for the rule that gives the winning league at the All-Star Game the home-field advantage in the World Series, and this year Boston will try to capitalize on that in a way the Yankees could not in 2003. Game 2 will be Sunday at Fenway, and the series comes to Busch on Tuesday.
"We're a real good road club," Cardinals skipper Tony La Russa said after the Game 7 triumph. "On a day like today, it's impossible to rain on our parade. We're just happy to go to Boston.
Manny Ramirez / LF
Weight: 215 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R
"I admire what [the Red Sox] went through. We played them in Interleague Play last year, so a lot of those [St. Louis] guys played three games in Fenway. We're well familiar with how tough they play."
The Cardinals won two of three in that series from June 10-12, 2003, with the final meeting of the series lasting 13 innings.
La Russa was noncommittal regarding whether Chris Carpenter, his ace for most of this regular season, would be available. The right-hander was removed from a Sept. 18 game against Arizona with soreness in his biceps, and the biceps problem was later diagnosed to have been caused by nerve irritation. Carpenter threw off a mound on Tuesday for the first time in more than a month.
"With Chris, he's making a lot of progress, I don't think we can answer that," La Russa said. "We have to be very careful with that. He's got too much future, too much talent."
It's time to let the fun begin again. Last year marked the first time that two League Championship Series each went seven games, and now it has happened two years in a row. There will be a lot of red. There will be a lot of hitting. There will be a lot of history discussed and perhaps a lot of it made.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor for MLB.com. MLB.com reporter Ian Browne contributed to this story. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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