How they match up

HOW THEY GOT HERE: Cardinals--Beat Dodgers 3-1 in National League Division Series; beat Astros 4-3 in NL Championship Series. Red Sox--Beat Angels 3-0 in American League Division Series; beat Yankees 4-3 in AL Championship Series.

WHY THE CARDINALS WILL WIN: One through seven, St. Louis' lineup is the best in the majors. 1B Albert Pujols, 3B Scott Rolen and CF Jim Edmonds get most of the publicity, but RF Larry Walker, SS Edgar Renteria and LF Reggie Sanders have delivered key hits, too. The Cardinals' rotation lacks a legitimate ace, but with the offensive support it receives, the starters can allow four runs in six innings and generally be OK. And there is the Cardinals' defense. Gold Gloves dot the field for this team. Unlike the Red Sox, who can be prone to boneheaded plays, you won't find that with the Cardinals.

WHY THE RED SOX WILL WIN: Isn't that how the script goes? The Red Sox finally conquer the Yankees in the most amazing comeback in major-league history and go on to win their first World Series since 1918. DH David Ortiz has three game-winning hits in the playoffs to date, but LF Manny Ramirez has been relatively quiet so far. He hit .300 in the ALCS but did not drive in a run. Ramirez likelq won't be silenced two series in a row. RHPs Curt Schilling and Pedro Martinez are formidable, and the Red Sox have a deeper lineup. There is more bullpen depth there as well, giving Manager Terry Francona more options if the score is close late.

WHY THE CARDINALS WON'T WIN: Their rotation struggles, leaving too many innings for the bullpen, which thrived against the Dodgers but was shaky against the Astros. Closer Jason Isringhausen has been generally reliable but took a loss and blew a save in the last round. He's hardly automatic. If Boston can contain the Pujols-Rolen-Edmonds trifecta, St. Louis is in trouble.

WHY THE RED SOX WON'T WIN: The emotional toll of coming back against the Yankees will take its toll. Schilling was superb pitching on a bum right ankle in Game 6 of the ALCS, but can that continue? Martinez was hardly daunting against the Yankees. The Red Sox need bigger offensive contributions out of 3B Bill Mueller, 1B Kevin Millar and RF Trot Nixon.


PREDICTION: Cardinals in seven.

Stephen Ruiz

The Orlando Sentinel

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