ST. LOUIS CARDINALS (104-70) at BOSTON RED SOX (105-68)
Sportsbook.ag Line: Boston -120 & 7 over -120
Coming off a dominating 8-1 victory on Wednesday night, the Red Sox will look to take a 2-0 lead in the World Series against the Cardinals in Thursday’s Game 2.
The Boston bats came alive early and often against St. Louis ace Adam Wainwright, but he wasn’t helped by uncharacteristically poor defense. Only three of the five runs charged to him were earned, as the Cardinals finished the game with three errors. This was the same team that finished the regular season with the fourth-fewest errors in the majors. And when the defense made good plays, there were bad results like when RF Carlos Beltran robbed a home run, but injured his ribs in the process, making him questionable for Thursday’s action. Rookie sensation Michael Wacha (6-1, 2.16 ERA) takes the mound for St. Louis in this one, amid a torrid playoff stretch during which he is 3-0 with an 0.43 ERA and 0.57 WHIP. He’ll face veteran John Lackey (12-13, 3.49 ERA), who doesn’t have Wacha’s stuff, but has some savvy as he showed in his last start, when he shut out the Tigers over 6.2 innings en route to a 1-0 Red Sox victory. And Boston always enjoys playing at home where it now has a 58-29 record (.667) this season, as compared to the Cardinals who are just barely above .500 on the road at 45-4
Wacha (0.97 WHIP) has been incredible since he was called up and only continues to get better with this stretch during the playoffs, during which he has averaged 7.0 innings per start. He has given up only one run the entire postseason while striking out 22 batters and only walking four in his 21 innings. He hasn’t been quite as good on the road this year, but still has fantastic numbers away from home, going 2-0 with a 2.62 ERA and 1.17 WHIP in four starts. Though he has never faced the Red Sox in his short career, the key for him will be getting through the core of the Boston lineup in 3-4-5 hitters Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz and Mike Napoli who combined to go 5-for-11 with 7 RBI and four runs in Game 1. It would be helpful for the Cardinals if Wacha can last deep into this game, with five relievers pitching for St. Louis on Wednesday. But the unit has a respectable 3.36 ERA and 1.21 WHIP this season, including a 2.18 ERA and 0.82 WHIP in the playoffs, and should be dependable if called upon by manager Mike Matheny.
Lackey (1.16 WHIP) is always happy to pitch at Fenway Park where he has a 2.71 ERA and 1.08 WHIP in 2013, garnering a 7-3 record (team 10-4). At home he has 83 strikeouts and 18 walks over 96.1 innings, and all season he has fanned 175 batters and walked 43 in 201.1 frames. His penchant to give up long balls is also improved at home, giving up only eight at Fenway versus 18 on the road. Lackey has also historically been a quality postseason pitcher, with a 5-4 record, 3.10 ERA and 1.31 WHIP in 16 career outings, 14 of which were starts. This includes a 2.58 ERA and 1.21 WHIP in seven starts since 2008. He has never faced St. Louis in his career, though the two current Cardinals who he has been exposed to—OFs Carlos Beltran and Matt Holliday—are a combined 0-for-16 with four strikeouts against him in their careers. Especially given that starter Jon Lester went 7.2 innings on Wednesday, Boston manager John Farrell should have no qualms looking to his relievers early in Game 2. Red Sox relievers have a 3.54 ERA and 1.30 WHIP in 2013, and have been even better during the postseason, going 3-1 with a 1.08 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and five saves.